Burbank is not a fine-dining destination. White tablecloths and precious plates are a scarcity here; instead, clusters of sandwich shops and retro diners make up a good portion of the city's restaurant options. That's not a bad thing, though. When you're craving a perfect bowl of chili or a filling empanada, these Burbank restaurants will hit the spot. And for dessert? A cone of frozen yogurt at IKEA Burbank is perfectly acceptable.
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One visit to this Cuban family-owned bakery, which started as a modest cake business in Echo Park in the 1980s, and you'll be making excuses week after week to come back for fresh-out-of-the-oven cheese rolls, decadent fruit tortes and pies, authentic Cuban sandwiches and flaky chicken empanadas. Other locations include Glendale and Downey; check their website for details.
In distinctly Southern California fashion, this Burbank standby built in 1949—it’s the oldest surviving Bob’s Big Boy location—is all about the automobile. Its colossal neon sign and familiar, rotund Big Boy recall a time when roadside restaurants screamed at drivers for their attention. Inside, a lengthy concave countertop cuts through the comfortable coppertone diner. Breakfast is available all day at Big Boy’s—just be sure to ask for the special breakfast menu if it’s not already on your table—and the burger, which comes dressed with just the right amount of ketchup, relish and mayo, is a standout lunch option. The real kicker is Bob’s shakes—particularly the chocolate, which comes with a supplemental tin of extra-blended ice cream that makes one order enough for two sweet-toothed diners.
Sure, Bea Chanchaisri sells sandwiches, salads and burgers at Bea Bea’s in a Burbank shopping center, but as she says, "Breakfast is everything." People flood her retro dining room, which sports a '70s color scheme of brown, orange and yellow. Pancakes come in outlandish flavors like Thai tea, S'mores and Super Pumpkin, but the best move is to embrace the Green Tea Monster. These three fluffy pancakes, which are folded with matcha powder and white chocolate, come topped with green tea mascarpone and a generous dollop of whipped cream. Yes, there’s maple syrup for good measure.
There's a certain sense of nostalgia that permeates your experience at Chili John's, whether this is your first time here or the millionth time you've ordered a bowl of chili from one of the amicable servers behind the bar. Red bar stools, neon fixtures and plaques touting the restaurant's achievements (and yes, that episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives) give this place an old-school vibe, but it also opened in 1946, so it's pretty old-school anyway. When ordering, choose your chili type—beef, chicken or vegetarian—then a style, which includes chili served over beans and rice, spaghetti or simply spooned into a bowl. There are also chili dogs, sandwiches and homemade tamales, but first-timers would be wise to order a bowl of the good stuff—and top with a heavy dosing of cheese and sour cream, of course.
Tony's Italian Deli is a neighborhood spot that's delivered fantastic sandwiches to the Burbank community since 1979. Meats and cheese are sliced to order, vegetables are prepared each morning and the deli section carries a massive selection of Italian saladas, pastas and veggie dishes. We recommend Tony's Special—a classic Italian sub just like your nonna used to make.
Olive & Thyme seems like it would fit right in on the East Coast. The cozy cafe straddling Burbank and Toluca Lake is part gourmet market, part eatery, where you can start the day off with pastries and breakfast sandwiches and some of the best oatmeal in the city. Coffee comes courtesy of Intelligentsia, and as you make your way into the lunch and dinner hour, diners start ordering braised short rib sandwiches and fattoush salad, pork dumplings and steak frites. A handful of communal tables give the space a welcoming vibe, and there is outdoor seating for sunny mornings when you want to people watch while you eat.
As one of the more upscale restaurants in Burbank, Commonwealth's evening-only hours are prime for making this a great date night spot. The sexy, dimly lit interior casts a glow onto small plates, like albacore scoops, oysters, shrimp dumplings and seared hangar steak. The star dish, though, is the raved-about butterscotch pudding, a creamy dessert topped with crispy prosciutto for a sweet-meets-salty spoonful. Pair your meal with a glass of vino from Commonwealth's hefty wine list, and you're in for a good night.
When you wake up with a hankering for empanadas, you go here: World Empanadas, a small operation that churns out mouth-watering sweet and savory options for a mere $2.95 a piece. Choose from up to 15 different varieties: Santa Fe chicken, beef and potatoes, creamy corn, egg and cheese, nutella and banana, and more. There are a few scattered tables and chairs, but for the most part, you're grabbing a couple to go.
Ask an Angeleno where they can find the best breakfast burrito in LA, and a good number will enthusiastically point you toward Corner Cottage. The small, canary-yellow burrito stand on the corner of Victory Blvd and Verdugo Ave in Burbank draws impressive lines every morning, and though the sign outside lists hamburger specials and teriyaki bowls, everyone is here for the breakfast burritos. The standard version comes with egg, potatoes and cheese, but you can build from there—bacon, ham, sausage and plenty of salsa. Tables and chairs outside are your best bet for enjoying the behemoth burrito—props if you actually finish the entire thing. Cash only.
Red checkered table cloths, plates of pasta for under $10, family-owned since the '60s—this place ticks off every box for when you're looking for Italian comfort food in a low-key setting. Pasta options (including a gluten-free pick) range from cheese ravioli to baked ziti, and pizza comes topped with artichokes, mushroom, bell peppers and anything else you're looking for. Stop by for lunch and snag a meatball sandwich, or step into the deli section where you can pick up cold cuts, cheese and Italian delicacies to create your own feast at home.