Isaac Newton was pivotal in making Van Nuys a reality. No, I’m not referring to the English mathematician and father of physics who codified the laws of motion. Isaac Newton Van Nuys was a prominent rancher who founded Van Nuys in 1911 after an aqueduct allowed for his land’s development. In the past century, the neighborhood - which spans nine square miles between Burbank Boulevard to the south and Roscoe Boulevard to the north - has become particularly notable for Middle Eastern and South American cuisines. Start your Van Nuys culinary explorations with these five dishes.
In the fast food era, the idea of a hamburger artisan - a person who personally grills and constructs every burger - is nearly unimaginable. Bill Elwell is a 91-year-old burger legend has made this unlikely dynamic work at Bill’s Burgers. He’s stood over the same well-seasoned flat-top griddle since 1965 making ideal L.A. style burgers amidst auto body shops. At last check, Elwell estimated that he’s made about 4.5 million burgers since he started, and they’re consistently excellent. Thin, beautifully seared patties join sliced tomato, shredded lettuce, pickles, and mayo on soft buns. Melted American cheese and crispy bacon only help matters. So does making each burger a double.
14742 Oxnard St., Van Nuys 91411
Kashcool Kitchen consolidates six decades of Persian food knowledge within the confines of a small restaurant across from Van Nuys Courthouse West. Mahtab Javadian-Saraf carries on her family legacy with husband Farhad Mehrtash at Kashcool Kitchen, which previously operated in Iran, Vancouver, and Woodland Hills. Diners win with every skewer, but start with lamb rack shishlik. Rosy bone-in meat carries a savory marinade and winning sear. Each plate comes with fluffy saffron-stained basmati rice and grilled tomatoes. I suggest upgrading to rice topped with fried onions and sour cherries.
6159 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys 91401
People from Aleppo call themselves Halebi. George Ghadanian and brother Raffy run a Van Nuys restaurant called Kebab Halebi, preparing treasured family recipes for customers in a freeway-friendly strip mall space guarded by a lion statue. Ras nana is one of the stars on a menu chock full of Syrian classics. A juicy ground beef and lamb patty spans 10 inches and forms a sear during the flame-broiling process before taking a bath in a tangy blend of lemon juice, crushed garlic, olive oil, and dried mint.
15333 Sherman Way, Van Nuys 91406
Kobee Factory serves an entirely different slew of Syrian dishes. Homs native Wafa Ghreir opened this restaurant next to her family’s Burbank liquor store in 2014, showcasing her great-grandmother’s recipes. An off-menu special called musadeen packs lamb intestines with well-spiced ground beef and rice. A heap of soft sausage links arrive in a bowl of beef broth flavored with allspice, bay leaf, cinnamon, and onion. Each order comes with a dish of piquant olive oil, lemon juice and garlic designed for dipping.
14110 Oxnard St., Van Nuys 91401
Lima native Elart Coello and sister Sonia are best known for producing wood-fired chicken in their Van Nuys strip mall location. The prominent rotisserie oven renders each chicken’s fat, which melts into the bird, and infuses smoky flavor and a tantalizing pink hue into the meat. Takatis fills three colorful squeeze bottles with pastel-hued, house-made, chicken-friendly sauces. Aji is a green chile sauce flecked with huacatay (black mint). Rocoto is made with a red pepper that resembles a bell, but tastes far spicier. Aji amarillo comes from a mild yellow Peruvian pepper. Each plate comes with a choice of two sides. I’d suggest sliced camote (sweet potato) and creamy, crisp-coated yucca fries.
6470 Van Nuys Blvd., Ste. A, Van Nuys 91401