One of the best ways to experience LA's melting pot of cultures is by going out to eat in Glendale. The city is as well known for its Armenian bakeries and kebab houses as it is for dim sum spots and Italian delis. And while some may never go beyond the restaurants that surround the Americana, there's plenty to explore throughout Glendale's vast and complex neighborhoods. Check out our guide to the best Glendale restaurants for your next culinary adventure.
RECOMMENDED: A guide to Glendale
Visit these Glendale restaurants
If the San Gabriel Valley is, mentally or geographically, far from you, but xiao long bao—Chinese soup dumplings filled with hot broth and usually pork—are more your speed, then head to the Glendale iteration of Din Tai Fung. The Americana at Brand location is stylish, sleek and modern; it looks like it belongs in the sort of mall that offers valet parking. Unlike the Arcadia spot, this outpost includes a full bar and a special menu item: Soup dumplings with a slice of truffle layered on top of minced pork. If you're in the mood for something more traditional, the restaurant’s signature juicy pork dumplings are lovely, thin-skinned pouches filled with savory pork and hot broth, eaten with a dab of soy sauce, vinegar and ginger.
The Tcholakian family opened Carousel in the back corner of east Hollywood’s Hye Plaza in 1983, serving Lebanese-Armenian cuisine, and have since gone on to run a more elaborate branch in downtown Glendale. It’s the Khash-Khash Kebab that you’ll want here—juicy, well-spiced, hand-molded skewers of ground beef lula arrive on a bed of cracked pita, doused with yogurt, garlic and pine nuts. Carousel also has delectable chicken lula. Either way, your meal comes with buttery bulgur and garbanzo beans; grilled pita brushed with tomato sauce; roasted tomatoes and jalapenos; onion and parsley salad dusted with sumac; and a tangy cabbage slaw tossed with tomatoes, herbs and olive oil vinaigrette. Stick around for live entertainment (there will definitely be dancing) on Friday and Saturday nights.
Frequented by homesick Persians, large parties (a private banquet hall is available), or just anyone with a hankering for a plate full of beef kabob and lavash, the traditional Persian cuisine at this husband-and-wife-owned eatery can be enjoyed outside in the courtyard or in the main dining room. Located in Glendale, the Persians here are mainly Armenian Persians who are usually seated in large groups enjoying dinner at this massive indoor-outdoor restaurant. Enter from the back, through the alley where valet parking is located, and be transported to what you would imagine a restaurant in Iran would look like. The menu boasts meats (chicken, lamb and beef) and what Rafi's is known for is their gigantic serving sizes. Come hungry and be prepared to share! Once you've fully chowed down on your large skewers of ground beef kabob and filet mignon kabob, known as barg, paired with a variety of rice dishes (we recommend trying the sour cherry rice, albaloo polo), sip on the fragrant hot tea (add mint to help with digestion)—a must-try at this Glendale hotspot.
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. Perhaps what they're best known for, though, is the potato balls—stuffed mashed potatoes filled with ground beef and fried to a beautiful golden brown. If you're in the market for a birthday cake, Porto's has exceptional deals on cakes as well (the tres leches is tops). Can't make it to the Glendale spot? Other locations include Burbank and Downey.
This Glendale mom-and-pop joint has been serving some of the best comfort food in Los Angeles, namely its flame-licked kebabs, since the ’70s. The wood grill imparts a glorious, smoky quality to any meat, from lamb chops to lule (ground meat kebab). Each meal is under $15, but the best value is undoubtedly the quail. California’s state bird, which normally commands a premium at trendier restaurants, costs only $8.25 for a pair at Elena’s. The juicy whole birds come with toasted pita and garlic butter, a heaping pile of rice, grilled pepper and tomato, pickled vegetables and a bowl of hearty lentil soup or house salad.
Located at the Americana at Brand, Bourbon Steak is chef Michael Mina’s signature steakhouse, a classy establishment where you can splurge on American angus, wagyu and holstein along with Japanese and Australian wagyu in various cuts. If you're not in the mood for steak (why are you here, then?), opt for the crispy tai snapper or Maine lobster with a side of whipped potato purée. Attached to the restaurant is Bourbon Steak's bar and lounge, where you can also splurge on steak in addition to cheese plates, a candy cart, cocktails and LAMILL coffee.
Mario's is a one-stop-shop for all of your deli cravings—fat Italian subs, spaghetti and meatballs, imported olive oils, pizza by the slice, homemade tiramisu and just about everything else your Italian grandmother used to make. Take, for example, the Bad Boy Sub: your choice of the day's protein (pastrami, turkey, ham, BBQ chicken), toasted and spread with mustard, mayo or avocado, then piled high with lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese and spicy cherry peppers. Want to recreate it at home? Order your cheeses and meats from the deli, grab a bottle of wine and practice your own sub-making skills at home. Mario's will always be here if you fail.
Some would shudder at the prospect of having a slice of American cheese in their taco, but Taqueria el Tapatio has made a name for themselves by doing just that: laying the equivalent of a Kraft single between two tortillas and building from there. This cash-only joint is small but with a decent amount of outdoor seating—order at the window before pouncing on the next free seat. If you come for breakfast, the chorizo and egg burrito is a heavy, messy thing of beauty; any other time of day, opt for the tacos—and don't forget that American cheese.
Yes, you may leave Joon Shabu Shabu smelling like your food, but trust us—it's totally worth it. The shabu shabu house offers a number of ways to enjoy the traditional Japanese feast, ranging from Miracle (Angus beef served over a bed of steaming vegetables) to Sukiyaki (a more old-school shabu shabu experience, featuring beef, udon noodles, veggies and tofu cooked in a savory broth). There are vegetarian options as well, and each dish allows you to choose from one of Joon's many homemade sauces—beware of the Sizzler sauce, which uses fiery Indian chilies for a hearty kick. Cool off with some mochi to finish your meal.
The next time a sushi craving hits, head straight to Sushi Sasabune. The growing empire already has restaurants in West LA and Beverly Hills, with Glendale popping up as its latest location. Chef Nobi Kusuhara hand selects his fish each morning, changing the menu on a daily basis to reflect the day's best catch. The result? Rich eel, clean halibut, tender salmon and creamy sea urchin. A nice sake selection keeps the meal going well past your last bite of tamago.