Surprising shops and innovative arts programs round out a Valley hood

Photograph by Mindee Choi

Compared with its neighbors, North Hollywood had long lacked an identity. It was neither as trendy as Studio City nor as sleepy as Burbank. Then in 1992, the City of Los Angeles christened a square-mile swath the NoHo Arts District. It is now home to nearly two dozen theaters, the requisite Starbucks, funky independent shops, and new lofts. J.H. Snyder, the developer behind Santa Monica’s Water Garden, plans to unveil the retail portion of its approximately 1-million-square-foot mixed-use development, NoHo Commons, in the spring. Despite the infusion of dollars, NoHo remains slightly boho, and locals like it that way.

1. Pitfire Pizza Company
Individual-size pizza pies are topped with wild mushrooms and garlic shrimp and cooked in a ceramic oven made from the same material used for the Space Shuttle’s heat shields. The crispy crusts have them lining up at lunch. Score a seat on the expansive patio, where you’ll also find a coffee stand should your engine need revving. » 5211 Lankershim Blvd., 818-980-2949.

2. Practical Props
What was formerly a prop rental business is now an eclectic lighting store. On a recent visit we admired a few vintage tabletop fans, too. The stock is a mixture of new, used, and custom designs. Whether you’re in the market for a shiny sconce for your powder room or a pair of swanky ‘50s numbers for your bedside tables, they’ve got it. » 11100 Magnolia Blvd., 818-980-3198.

3. Mani-Kir Royale This chic “beauty lounge” opened in November and sports burgundy walls, mod lighting , and a curvy glass bar. Girlfriends and modern guys can pop in for a late-night mani or pedi—the salon is open until 11 most evenings—and gab. The signature pedicure includes a raspberry puree scrub and a foot massage with raspberry lotion. » 11008 Magnolia Blvd., 818-985-6264.

4. Deaf West Theater
An innovative sign language theater that puts on about three productions a year, Deaf West was founded in 1991. Classics, adaptations, and original work cater to a deaf and hard-of-hearing audience, though all performances are signed and spoken concurrently. Its heralded production of Big River went to Broadway a few years back. » 5112 Lankershim Blvd., 818-762-2998.

5. Lankershim Arts Center
This gorgeous 1939 building (check out the wall mosaics), a former DWP office, now houses an art gallery and a theater company. A full slate of kids’ classes in the visual and performing arts is also offered. Got an aspiring Spielberg at home? Sign up for “The Brass Tacks of Directing.” » 5108 Lankershim Blvd., 818-752-7568.


Photograph by Mindee Choi

6. Badia Design
If you’re opening a Moroccan restaurant or just have a thing for Marrakech, this stocked-to-the-gills warehouse is not to be missed. Many of the home furnishings—from mosaic tables to colorful platters embellished with silver to striking light fixtures—look antique, but they’re all reproductions. Find embroidered slippers and pillows here, too. » 5440 Vineland Ave., 818-762-0130.

7. Kathy’s E Boutique
Owners Kathy Hill and Ernestine Richardson have no airs and put everyone at ease at their small but bountiful vintage clothing boutique. Need a French beret or cowboy boots, a Bakelite bracelet or a mother-of-pearl clutch? They’ve got a terrific selection of well-priced party dresses, gloves, purses, and jewelry and a smattering of goods for the guys. » 11114 Magnolia Blvd., 818-505-0035.

8. The M:Gray Music Academy
Soulstress Macy Gray owns this gem of a music academy, where students ages 6 to 60 can get instruction in piano or percussion, singing or songwriting. Gray herself regularly drops into the intimate place, and her own DJ, Kiilu Grand, teaches kids how to turn tables . » 4716 Vineland Ave., 818-508-8733.

9. Ned’s
Here’s a neighborhood diner with no fancy aspirations, but don’t tell that to the regulars who line up on weekends for eggs, bur gers, and Ned’s zucchini “shredders”: thin, crispy, griddle-fried veggie latkes. » 11108 Magnolia Blvd., 818-760-4787.