Warner Center. End of the line. The impatient Orange Line bus driver deposited me and my mountain bike in Woodland Hills to start a sweltering day. The gleaming glass and steel buildings turned out to be as modern as the scenery would get as I traversed 29.3 miles of industrial, residential and seedy areas on my route home. Along the way, I ate three lauded sandwiches and reserved just enough stomach space for premium Thai sweets. The June 28 experience cost less than $20 and re-confirmed my belief that the San Fernando Valley features destination ethnic eats.
Sandwich Express, 18575 Sherman Way, Reseda, CA 91335, 818 757 7698
My first stop was at a family-run banh mi shop with a faded sign and a frozen yogurt machine that inexplicably colvulsed every few minutes. The manager recommended a “special” banh mi that included thin-sliced BBQ pork, creamy pork pate and crunchy vegetables – daikon, carrot and fiery jalapeno. The house-baked baguette was pretty good, fairly crusty but not scrape-your-mouth hard.
Fab Hot Dogs, 6747 Tampa Avenue, Reseda, CA 91335, 818 344 4336
My first 18 years were spent in New Jersey, home to a style of hot dog known as the ripper that bursts in the deep-fryer. It inexcusably took a trip to Reseda to try my first ripper. Jersey native Joe Fabrocini translated our state’s specialty to the West Valley, and he’s already been hailed by Jonathan Gold and in an upcoming episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.” The Bald Eagle ($3.10) is a juicy, crisp-skinned ripper loaded with a spicy, utterly addictive spicy mustard relish.
Fabrocini loaded up a cardboard boat with top-flight tater tots ($1.50) that beat the hell out of the version I ate in elementary school. Fab’s tots featured thin, crispy sheathes, soft cores and plenty of salt.