Encino, CA

Overview

Encino is a wealthy neighborhood in the center of the San Fernando Valley, just west of the 405 freeway. It stretches far up into the hills, up to the top of the Santa Monica Mountains, where lavish homes enjoy stunning views of the Valley and the Santa Susana Mountains beyond. Its location gives residents easy access to the Westside, the West Valley and Burbank. Made famous in the 1980s song "Valley Girl," Encino provides a comfortable lifestyle for its residents, with wide streets, plenty of good restaurants, excellent schools and the recreational and wildlife areas in the Sepulveda Basin. With lower housing prices than L.A.'s Westside and calmer traffic, Encino is a not-so-hidden secret that promises the good life and delivers it.

Restaurants & Nightlife

Most restaurants in Encino stretch out along Ventura Boulevard, the main drag of the neighborhood. While you can choose from many recognizable chain restaurants such as Chili's and Tony Roma's and quick-serve favorites such as Veggie Grill, Panera Bread and The Habit, Encino also provides local diners with many unique places to stop and relax with friends and family. Head to More Than Waffles when you want a great breakfast or brunch. Downstairs in the garden courtyard of Encino Commons, this popular breakfast hangout gets crowded for Sunday brunch, so come early. While the restaurant does indeed serve more than waffles, you won't want to miss the tiramisu pancakes, baconutella waffle or waffle Benedict. Locals also rave about the Mediterranean potato dish. Versailles, despite its name, serves Cuban food that Encino residents relish. The garlic chicken has legendary status, as do the black beans and fried plantains served with it. Don't ignore the other choices on the menu, including the seafood paella, the avocado salad and the ropa vieja, which consists of shredded flank steak in a wine sauce. Wash it all down with the incredibly smooth red sangria. Don't be surprised to see people lined up to get in to Katsu-Ya, one of the top sushi bars in the San Fernando Valley. Locals sing the praises of the spicy tuna on crispy rice, the miso-marinated black cod and the lobster dynamite. Bring your kids so they can enjoy their own special meal of tempura shrimp, teriyaki beef and edamame. Nightlife in Encino tends to be sophisticated and subdued. Drop into the Red Room Food and Wine Bar for a glass of wine before or after your evening, and choose from an extensive wine list and an innovative tapas menu. With live music on some weeknights, you can relax the night away. The Spot stays open later than almost any venue in Encino, until 3:00 a.m., serving premium hookah to neighborhood hipsters and tobacco aficionados. The DJ keeps the tunes coming, the staff make sure the coals are always hot, and you can sit outside under heaters on a chilly night.

History & Culture

Rancho Los Encinos was established in 1810 when a 7-square-mile plot of land was given to local Gabrielino Indians. Once California became a state, the tribe lost the land. Encino soon became a stagecoach stop on the road between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and people started to move to the area in the early 20th century. Development was spurred by the end of the Great Depression, leading to the establishment of Ventura Boulevard as a business district and the eventual growth of the community as a home for the wealthy. The original buildings erected when Encino was a stagecoach stop still exist at Los Encinos State Park, where people visit to learn more about the area. Independent film lovers from all over the San Fernando Valley head to Encino to view specialty films at the Laemmle theaters in Encino Commons or at the nearby ArcLight Cinemas.

Transportation

While most Encino residents own their own cars, you can find bus lines running on major thoroughfares to connect you to the north San Fernando Valley, Sylmar and Universal City, plus the Commuter Express heading directly to downtown Los Angeles. Uber finds many fans in the neighborhood, especially for late-night runs, and taxis are also available. Those who choose to drive find plenty of free parking throughout the neighborhood, with metered spaces along Ventura Boulevard. Highway 101, or the Ventura Freeway, cuts right through the neighborhood to connect you to Ventura or downtown Los Angeles, and Interstate 405 runs up the east side of Encino to provide connections to the Santa Clarita Valley, Westside Los Angeles and Orange County. While the hills of Encino are mostly too steep for walking or cycling, many residents walk to restaurants or shops along Ventura Boulevard, and Balboa Park provides miles of paths for recreational running and bike rides.

Cost

The cost of living in Encino runs higher than in the rest of Los Angeles, by about 17 percent. A one-bedroom apartment in Encino costs about $1,496 per month, and the price of gasoline hovers about 12 percent above the national average. If you choose not to drive, you can hop on a Metro bus for $1.75. If you stop for a beer at a local bar, expect to shell out about $6 to $10.

Shopping

While Encino doesn't house any big shopping malls, all of Ventura Boulevard essentially serves as one long shopping district. For a major shopping mall, head to Westfield Fashion Square in Sherman Oaks or Westfield Topanga in Woodland Hills. However, you can find plenty of great shopping choices when sticking close to home. Stop at Primitive Shoes for fashion with urban grit. This shop carries all the latest releases of sports shoes, and all sneaker heads in the Valley know it well. Be ready to wait in line for new releases because things sell out fast. Mitzvahland Judaica sells a wide range of gifts and religious goods. With shelves filled full of beautiful glassware and gifts, this cozy shop offers a wide range of items to choose from. Shop for holiday gifts and decor as well as children's toys at this community-centered store. Encino locals head to Ralphs, Trader Joe's or Gelson's to do their grocery shopping, with Whole Foods Market available in the neighboring communities of Sherman Oaks and Tarzana. Sabzee Mediterranean Market provides the neighborhood with Persian specialty items, and locals rave about the sangak bread. The Tapia Brothers farm sits, unexpectedly, in the middle of Encino by Balboa Park and sells its fresh, farm-grown corn, cherries and strawberries at the farm's outdoor fruit stand. Come back at Halloween for pumpkin patch fun or at Christmas time to buy your tree. The Encino Farmers Market opens its doors on the north side of Balboa Park every Sunday morning.

Parks

You'll find Encino peppered with small parks, but Balboa Park on its north end outshines them all. Although it's officially called Anthony C. Beilenson Park, residents of Encino are unlikely even to know that name. Locals head to Balboa Park in the Sepulveda Basin for every possible sport, including archery, golf and the usual basketball, volleyball and baseball. They also enjoy the man-made Lake Balboa in the park's midst, where they can fish and feed the ducks. The Japanese garden, with its cherry trees, provides a stunning landscape every spring, and the entire park creates a beautiful, nurturing environment for anyone who wants to stroll. Bring your leashed dog for a walk, or go for a 5-mile run. Kids use the playgrounds when they're not chasing the ducks, and older children love the dedicated area for flying remote control airplanes. When you want something a bit smaller, pop into Los Encinos State Historic Park to visit the old adobe and see a real blacksmith in action. Encino Park features a basketball court and a couple of tennis courts, and is home each year to the free folk music festival put on by the California Traditional Music Society. Take your dog to Libbet Park, a small pocket park where dogs run free.
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