Universal Studios Hollywood℠ is more popular than ever, thanks to The Simpsons™, Fast & Furious - Supercharged, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™. Still, people can’t live on Krusty burgers and butter beer alone. Before or after visiting the theme park, swing by one of our favorite restaurants within a two-mile radius. Bonus: this guide also benefits people who live or work in the area.
"Breakfast is everything" at Bea Chanchaisri’s strip mall café in Burbank. She honed her breakfast game at sister CiCi’s restaurant in Tarzana and now presides over this retro restaurant, which features '70s style brown, orange and yellow striped walls, white counter, and patio tables. Bea Bea’s opened in 2010 and is especially popular at breakfast, where pancakes, French toast, waffles and omelets predominate until 4 p.m. Sure you can grab a burger or Caesar salad, but why bother when you can order Thai tea pancakes or green tea pancakes with matcha mascarpone and whipped cream?
Jinya Ramen Bar - Studio City
Jinya is expanding at a rapid clip throughout the United States thanks to aggressive franchising, but this Japanese concept started Stateside in this Studio City strip mall. Wall signs say, “No ramen, no life,” and people seem to be listening, since most tables host ramen bowls. They featured 10 varieties at last check, perhaps none more balanced than premium white tonkotsu crafted with pork and chicken broth, pork chashu, seasoned egg, fried onion and thin noodles. Are you a garlic lover? Cha Cha Cha bombs bowls of rich pork broth with garlic. This variety also includes pork back fat and a savory jolt from fish powder. Yes, Jinya also have chicken and vegetable broths, and if you’re looking to supplement, consider the crispy pork gyoza with juicy fillings.
Joe Mattar is a Tel Aviv native with a Greek mother and Israeli father who’s found flavor-forward success with his L.A. restaurants, first with Pita Pockets near Cal State-Northridge, and now with son Eli at this Middle Eastern restaurant down the hill from Universal. Part of Joe’s success can be traced to his taboon, a stainless steel oven that produces pliable whole wheat laffa bread. Joe’s Falafel of course produces excellent falafel with crisp coats and soft green centers flecked with parsley and cilantro. Shawarma is another winner, with chicken marinated in amba, turmeric and cumin. Grilled meats are also popular, especially kafta, a casing-free beef sauce. Finish with house-made baklava with crushed walnuts, crushed pistachios and pronounced cinnamon.
Lal Mirch Indian Restaurant - Studio City
Considering the name translates from Hindi as “red chile” and serves a dish called “lava,” it should come as small surprise that Lal Mirch can get fiery. Zaman Jaman presides over this Studio City restaurant with a red awning, yellow walls and comfortable booths. If you’re a chile fiend, by all means order the Lamb Lal Mirch Lava that’s blanketed in magma-like sauce crafted with cayenne, Serrano chilies and “secrets.” Be sure to keep tangy raita or a mango lassi handy to extinguish the flames. Of course, not every dish is a test of wills. King prawns are marinated in yogurt and spices and cooked in a tandoor. Biryani, Indian fried rice, is also a hit, featuring your choice of protein stir-fried with raisins, cashews and spices. For dessert, consider rice pudding flavored with cinnamon and bay leaves.
The Yoo family has been delivering "Korean cuisine with a Hawaiian twist" to the Studio Village strip mall since 2005. The space features wood tables, an open kitchen, and signed headshots from mainly unknown actors. Combo plates are the play, with char-grilled chicken, pork or kalbi paired with white rice and sides like macaroni salad. Cold noodle salad is especially satisfying, featuring thin Somen noodles on a bed of lettuce, tossed with avocado, olive oil and Japanese mustard dressing and topped with cucumbers and juicy chicken. For dessert, Ohana serves Hawaiian-style shaved ice in colors that you probably can’t find in nature, but sure are fun.
Olive & Thyme
Melina Davies and husband Christian have grown their Toluca Lake café and market in size and scope over the years. The space now features marble tables, wood chairs, shelves, display cases and pedestals loaded with everything from cheese, macarons, and raw materials to cook at home. Olive & Thyme serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Eggs dominate to start the day, whether in Benedict, breakfast burrito or quiche. For lunch, sandwiches and salads are popular, particularly the grilled cheese and Cobb. At dinner, Olive & Thyme breaks out big guns like grilled hanger steak with potato bacon gratin. No matter the time, it’s always possible to raid the salad case. Friday, it’s Burger Night, and if you’re lucky, they’ll have a turkey burger slathered with green goddess dressing. To drink, they have craft beer, small production wine and a full Intelligentsia coffee bar.
Alex Eusebio's sandwich shop in Toluca Lake dates to 2009 and spawned Cascabel, a stylish Mexican hideaway located down Riverside Drive. The chef’s first space features wood floors, picnic tables out front, and grey walls with framed drawings of vintage utensils. Sandwiches are especially popular, particularly lavender duck confit, braised short rib, or an untraditional but still righteous shrimp po’ boy with shrimp, chimichurri, crumbled potato chips and spicy aioli on ciabatta. Eusebio was smart to have customers order at the counter, since that puts them right in front of a fully loaded pastry case that houses macarons, pastries and cinnamon sugar donuts. Don’t fight it.
This vegetarian café from chef Jerry Yu promises “guilt-free & comfortable food,” which probably seem at odds, but don’t have to be. The space showcases brick walls, exposed wood rafters, and blackboard walls up front with fun cartoons and messaging, including a carrot on an old style bike with one big wheel. Vegetable serves Intelligentsia coffee and change their organic plant-based menu frequently. Vegetable’s soups could include chilled cucumber gazpacho or hot Mediterranean chickpea, depending on the season. Salads are interesting, including roasted cauliflower marinated with turmeric and chipotle, roasted heirloom tomatoes, bitter, crunchy arugula, fresh dill and dill yogurt dressing. Plates revolve around pastas and cheeses both cow and cashew based.