by Eric Rolnick - 1 Reviews - 31 List
Sometimes Los Angeles can challenge your patience with $15 parking and restaurants that require a second mortgage. Those willing to venture to the other side of the hill will be pleasantly surprised by what awaits them in downtown Burbank. Parking is free and plentiful (over 9,000 spaces!), dining is adventurous and inexpensive, and the pedestrian-friendly main drag of San Fernando Boulevard and adjacent Palm Street Promenade are lined with unique family-owned stores, coffee shops and bars. There's also plenty of ice cream. Ben & Jerry's, Cold Stone Creamery, Haagen Daz, Baskin Robbins, Dairy Queen, Ikea's $1 frozen yogurt stand, Yogurtland, Pinkberry and Yogurtiers are all within a one-block radius of each other. Welcome to downtown Burbank.
Updated: March 26, 2010
The sister restaurant of Silver Lake's Rambutan Thai serves a similar menu of dressed-up Thai favorites. The Siam Pork Chop satisfies most carnivores, while their conservative take on pad thai and panang curry will keep most purists happy.
This nicely appointed Middle-Eastern/Armenian restaurant serves authentic Mediterranean dishes in a pleasant, table-clothed dining room. The menu doesn't offer many surprises with the standard luleh kabobs, lamb skewers, hummus and tabbouleh, but the food is several notches above your average across-the-street-from-a-college-dorm falafel joint.
Italian-California cuisine with a charming interior dining room and covered patio with strung lights and a fountain. The restaurant overlooks the main drag and adjoining promenade, making it perfect for people-watching. Split a thin crust pizza and salad, or fill your plate at the antipasto bar. Sunday morning brunch features a live string quartet.
You'll be blown away by this outpost of the famous local chain, which reigns as the only Zankou your mother would consider eating inside of. Those too terrified to enter the Sunset/Normandie location will find solace here inside the rather lavish, Mediterranean-inspired dining room adorned with hundreds of twinkling lights. Sit amongst the foliage under the towering dome, help yourself to unlimited refills from the soda fountain, and dig into heaping portions of tri-tip shawarma, juicy roast chicken and olive-oil topped hummus.
An excellent mom-and-pop serving traditional Mexican fare, including hard-to-find beef birria. Tortillas are formed from fresh dough, griddled to order, and served piping hot. Each day offers a different daily special consisting of an entree and fountain soda for less than $7.
This old-school pastry shop serves an impressive variety of coffees for those looking for alternatives to the requisite Coffee Bean and Starbucks down the street, Cookies, eclairs, cream puffs, napoleons, and other pastry standards fill the refrigerated case, as well as more exotic Armenian treats. Few bakery items cost more than $2.
Those craving something sweet will swoon over the artisan cupcakes at this funky boutique located directly behind the AMC Burbank 16. Get your chocolate fix with the deadly Triple Chocolate, indulge in their rich red velvet, or sample one of their more exotic cupcakes made with purple sweet potato or green tea.
Battered sci-fi paperbacks are stacked twelve feet high here. The Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and Star Trek universes are equally represented, and I counted perhaps 20 dog-eared copies of the Tripod Trilogy in various editions. Pick up some vintage movie posters, brush the dust from the stacks of ancient Sports Illustrated magazines, and peruse the mountains of classic 80s movies on VHS. Apparently this is where all my stuff went after my mom turned my childhood bedroom into a sewing parlor.
Transport yourself back to the 80s inside this offbeat mall that hasn't updated its decor in years. Sip an Orange Julius from the kitschy, frozen-in-time food court and browse the unusual boutiques including Tokyo Japanese Lifyestyle, a local chain specializing in hip Japanese imports and Hello Kitty merchandise, and World of Products, an unintentionally hilarious store that sells "As-Seen-On-TV" products. Buy a plush domo kun doll, sushi plate set, Snuggie and Ped-Egg all under one roof.
The popular Melrose Avenue vintage clothier opened its third So-Cal location in Burbank. Second-hand and consignment clothing have never been organized so immaculately. Garments are sorted into logical categories, and the friendly staff keeps the showroom in perfect order, with prices putting the neighboring Ross Dress For Less to shame.
Burbank's flagship movie theater with its stadium seating and massive concession stand is a favorite of the nearby studios for test screenings. To keep that kind of business, the management maintains the projection and sound in pristine condition, rivaling the more expensive ArcLight. Skip the huge ticket line and swipe your credit card at the underused self-serve kiosks. And avoid the Imax theater--it's only slightly larger than their biggest screen yet adds a $5 surcharge.
Is your movie sold out? Rush over to this less-opulent and less-frequented venue. While the small six-screen theater is nowhere near as plush as the megaplex around the corner, it does hold one clear advantage: each of the intimately-sized screening rooms are underground, thus cutting off cell phone reception. There's zero chance of a hyperactive teen endlessly texting her BFF or an obnoxious ringtone ruining the climatic scene.
While not technically in downtown Burbank, it is only a five-minute drive to this bowling/ice skating/banquet room/corporate events complex. Bowl a few frames, drink a few cheap bottles of beer, beg the in-house DJ to update his iTunes playlist, then head next door to the adjoining indoor ice skating rink.
They built this billiards parlor like they used to--dark, cavernous, with an adjoining restaurant serving greasy bar food. A private billiards room is available for rental. Check their front entrance for daily specials including free pool time with a lunch purchase.