NFT Los Angeles Universal City / Toluca Lake

Universal City / Toluca Lake

Essentials
Though it's hard to exactly pinpoint Toluca Lake's exact borders, you'll know it when things turn quietly posh. This churchmouse-quiet community that sits at the base of the Hills provides easy access to NBC Universal, and the plethora of shows that tape there. Riverside boasts a nice collection of yuppie-ish shops and restaurants. Just south of Toluca Lake, Universal City contains the megapopular, postmodern behemoth known as Universal CityWalk. You have been warned.

Sundries/Entertainment
Though the neon assault and outrageous prices ($14 for parking? I thought we were in the Valley) are certainly a turn-off, there is something strangely alluring about CityWalk's faux urban bonanza. The bars, restaurants, movies, and shows are constantly packed with throngs of humanity. It's become a must-do for tourists, so if you like to get your gawk on and engage in a little people-watching, this is the place to do it.See more.




         



On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Allison Moon
Photo:  Allison Moon

Mulholland Drive is one of those things that can only exist in Los Angeles. The ambling mountain-crest road travels from the center of Hollywood to the beach and is full of switchbacks that reveal stunning city and ocean views. The only requirements for enjoying it are a sunny Sunday afternoon and a car—both in abundance in LA. Pick it up off of Cahuenga Blvd, just next to the 101. Cruise through the hills next to houses you’ll never be able to afford until you hit the PCH at Leo Carillo State Beach—one of the nicest in LA County. Watch the sunset over the ocean, grab a meal in Malibu, and then hit the road for home.



Posted By:  adam c. marshall
Photo:  adam c. marshall

Angelenos sure do love their fast food. With the religion of In & Out, and the constant line outside of Pink’s, you’d think they were handing out back end points on the latest superhero-teen-wizard blockbuster. A summer working at McDonalds when I was 16 was enough to cure me of any such habits—but I do have a yen for fast food Mexican. Whenever I’m in the Studio City area, I always make sure to stop at Poquito Mas. I love their veggie anything. It’s Poquito for me, and a lot of it. (C’mon, it’s funny.) And is it just me, or does Poquito Mas feel a little less white bread than it’s Mexican fast food brethren? Just me? Eh, whatever. They seem pretty serious about their history. They call themselves the original Baja taco stand—since ’84...that’s a twenty-three year legacy people. And there’s the motto: no lard, no MSG, no cans, etc. I’m not sure I want to know what the “etc.” refers to, and I don’t exactly think of Mexican food when it comes to MSG. But still, it’s an honorable code. So when I’m hankering for a veggie burrito—and fast—it’s Poquito for me.



Posted By:  Ellen Flaherty
Photo:  Ellen Flaherty

Smoke House
Although the blazing letters reading “Smoke House” always acted like a beacon to me each time I made the drive to pillage Burbank’s Target and Ikea, I actually went to The Smoke House on the recommendation of my friend’s dad from Iowa, who received his recommendation from an elderly LA ex-pat living in small-town Iowa. The nostalgic restaurant is one of red half-moon booths, piano bar, and aged steaks—the kind of place that used to be synonymous with glamour but now reads more like kitsch. Still, the lovely service (one of its mottos is “Where every diner is treated like a star”), generous portions, and choice cuts of beef let me forget the restaurant’s cheesy elements. Be warned, though: entrancing but scarily large onion rings adorn many entrees—very yummy. The Smoke House’s “World’s Greatest” bread sticks are glazed with a crumbly, garlicy orange paste—sort of like a savory strudel. The restaurant’s website proclaims the eatery as “the largest purveyor of French bread west of the Mississippi.” It’s a dubious and odd proclamation, but I’ll buy it. The steakhouse also lays claim to the honor of being the place where Captain & Tennille were introduced/discovered (back when they were called The Dragons).



Posted By:  Diana Pizzari
Photo:  Diana Pizzari

OK, so Universal is more for tourists than locals, but if you’re a fan of theme parks and you’re planning on visiting Universal, there are a few things you can do to save yourself a couple of bucks. If you think you might visit more than once this year, an annual pass costs the same as a oneday pass, so for $56 you can ride the Mummy rollercoaster and the Jurassic boat as often as you like in 2006 (except for blackout dates). If you’re pretty sure you (or your visitors) will only go once this year, hop online to buy tickets and save $10 per ticket. To save time on busy freeways and the $10 cost of parking, the Metro Red Line stops right at Universal City, with a free shuttle bus to the park and CityWalk every fifteen minutes.



Posted By:  Carolyn Patricia Scott
Photo:  Raul Garcia, Courtesy of Maurice Kitchen

BB King's Blues Club
If comfort food is your desire, the menu at B.B. King’s Blues Club, including its New Orleans-style entrees of barbecued ribs and beef, southern fried chicken, and blackened catfish, will fill the bill. The restaurant is the perfect place to adjourn after a movie or an afternoon on the CityWalk, but B.B. King’s is a destination in itself. Located on the CityWalk, the club also features some of the best blues, rhythm and blues, and jazz. There’s live music every night: there’s a Gospel brunch every Sunday, Battle of the Bands takes place Tuesday nights, and Sunday nights feature Rick Ortiz Rock en Espanol. The club will be launching a weekly reggae night beginning February 23. Dark Legends in Blood is an absolutely fabulous and funny rhythm and blues review with a murder mystery back story. Curtain time is Sundays at 4 pm. Don’t be late! Join the audience and play along with producer Maurice Kitchen’s ingenuous story line that sings, shouts, and dances its characters (and suspects) —legendary song stylists from the ‘40s and ‘50s—through some of the best pop tunes of all time. Actress/singer Cheryl Carter who plays Lena Horne delivers the singers signature song with stunning clarity and passion. Pam Trotter as Etta James does her own take on James’ “At Last.” But it’s Lawrence Hill that brings the house down with an unbelievable performance of “Aint Nobody Here But Us Chickens.” There isn’t a Broadway show that has a better, livelier number; Hill is a show stopper as he belts the lyrics, dances, and prances the length and breadth of the stage. Billy Gamble as the emcee, Lynne Fiddmont as Billie Holliday, Bobby McGee, Les Lannom, and a tight trio of musicians round out the Kitchen’s pitch-perfect casting.




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Restaurants (16)
Nightlife (5)
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