Glendale may be a consumer's paradise with its car lots and big-ticket shopping malls, such as the recently opened Americana at Brand, but a vibrant multicultural community dominated by a big Armenian population gives this area loads of intriguing local color and great cuisine -- especially an array of ethnic bakeries. (Note: It helps to come armed with a sweet tooth!)
Glendale businessman Leslie Coombs Brand was a leading figure in the area and bequeathed his spectacular Moorish and Indian style estate to the Brand Library (1601 W. Mountain St,  548-2051; www.brandlibrary.org), which has a vast music literature collection and hiking trails. A former vaudeville and movie house, the historic Alex Theatre (216 N. Brand Blvd.,  243-2539; www.alextheatre.org) is now a vibrant performing arts center.
The two-decade-old Brand Bookshop (231 N. Brand Blvd.,  507-5943) has one of the largest collections of used books in SoCal, with more than 200,000 titles. Nearby is the renowned Cuban bakery Portos Bakery (315 N. Brand Blvd.,  956-5996; www.portosbakery.com). Potato balls and refugiado (guava and cheese strudel) are hot favorites.
Taste of Armenia
Great Armenian bakeries dot the area, from the large, such as Paradise Pastry & Cafe (1815 W. Glenoaks Blvd.,  545-4000; www.paradisepastry.com), to the small spots tucked into the many strip malls. Sarkis (1111 S. Glendale Ave.,  956-6636; www.sarkispastry.com) has a great selection of baklava, while family-run Sasoun Bakery (625 E. Colorado St.,  502-5059), serves tasty lahmajoun (Armenian pizza) and sweet tahini bread. For great meat kebabs, there's Raffis Place Restaurant (211 E. Broadway,  240-7411).
Glendale is also attracting innovative young chefs. Chef Nadav Bashan helms his intimate and welcoming Bashan Restaurant (3459 N. Verdugo Road,  541-1532; www.bashanrestaurant.com) where seared barramundi with artichokes and braised Asian style pork belly are menu faves. Octavio Becerra's highly rated Palate Food + Wine (933 S. Brand Blvd.,  662-9463; www.palatefoodwine.com) is part wine merchant, cheese cellar and restaurant serving sophisticated Mediterranean-infused cuisine. Sundays are a great time to stop by for afternoon flights of wine and prix fare $35 suppers.