There Is Life After Midnight in Valley--If You Look for It

Times Staff Writer

Ever crave sushi after midnight? Need a will copied at 3 a.m.? Feel like pumping iron at dawn?

Sooner or later, most people are struck by urgent needs at impractical hours. Valleyites who have experienced this late-night angst may feel that only doughnut shops and 7-Elevens are open after midnight. North of Ventura Boulevard, the sidewalks seem pretty well rolled up for the night.

Yet things are seldom what they seem. Long after the sun goes down and the moon comes up, a number of San Fernando Valley emporiums go quietly about their business, disturbed by only the intermittent buzz of neon or the occasional rowdiness of a drunk.

Variety of Businesses

They range from gas stations to bowling alleys, gyms to trendy eateries and down-home diners. Some are tucked in sleepy mini-malls. Others sit squarely at busy intersections. But mostly, they are on main arteries, where they proclaim themselves with bright lights and filled parking lots.

Parameters had to be set here, so the focus was on unusual places and practical services. Restaurants had to serve past 1 a.m., and chains like Denny's were left out because, although there are a number in the Valley, most people know they are open all night.

At aptly named Midnight Rendezvous in Studio City, proprietor Hana Zawa, who also owns Sushi on Sunset and Cafe Sushi near the Beverly Center, serves up Franco-Japanese cuisine until 1:30 a.m., sushi until 2. Open just seven months, the place is trendy, young and loud, the sushi succulent and worth the trip even during more conventional hours.

With its muted pastel, stark design, and dance music that grows louder as the evening gets later, Midnight Rendezvous is at once stimulating and relaxing. Sushi mavens who belly up to the blond wood bar can watch iridescent orange-and-blue fish swim in an aquarium. Dinner patrons sink deep into couches and dine at low tables. There is a full bar, and Sunday through Thursday, a $12.95 eat-yourself-silly sushi special.

Late at night, the customers are mostly young nightclubbers, especially from nearby Sasch discotheque, says a 22-year-old waiter who wants to be an actor. Before 10 p.m. the clientele is older, and the music leans toward jazz.

Midnight Rendezvous, 11271 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. 760-2822.

Restaurateur John Makhani thought the Valley needed a "hip, trendy place for people who feel like a late dinner." So he hired a Northern Italian chef, decorated a restaurant in chrome, neon and granite, and dubbed it Prezzo.

From 11 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., the restaurant serves a light dinner, offering appetizers of oysters, minestrone and scampi (at $15.95, the most expensive late-dinner menu item), pastas, pizzas and salads. Patrons can choose outdoor dining on Ventura Boulevard, patio dining inside, or eat at the octagonal bar.

Prezzo, 13625 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. 905-8400.

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, once said, "Man does not live by bread alone, but it sure helps." Six years ago, a Denny's coffee-shop manager named Forrest E. Clemens bought his restaurant from the chain, put that saying on the menu and reopened as Twain's.

Word about his 24-hour coffee shop spread, and Twain's has thrived. At 3 a.m. on a weekend morning, customers may have a few minutes' wait for a seat. When they get there, they eat bacon and eggs, burgers, salads and sandwiches.

Says manager Idamae Becker, a 15-year veteran at the site: "It's kind of comforting to drive down the street at night and see the lights on, to know there's a place open."

Twain's, 12905 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. 760-9577.

It's 3 a.m., and the needle's on empty, same as it has been for the past 10 miles. Lucky for you, the Valley has no dearth of 24-hour gas stations. Arco has 35, Unocal 25, Chevron 11 and Mobil, Shell and others all want to put a tiger in your tank. Many also have convenience stores.

All-night gas stations can be found, among other corners, at Reseda Boulevard and Oxnard Street in Reseda, White Oak Avenue and Burbank Boulevard in Encino and Devonshire Street and Woodman Avenue in Mission Hills.

Visit the Sherman Oaks Newsstand most nights between midnight and 6 a.m., and you're likely to meet Gary Jochimsen bundled up against the cold, reading a book. Jochimsen, who resembles a young Clint Eastwood, wears a button that says "Unemployed Actor" and hands out resumes in hopes of a break.

He sells mainly sex magazines at night. "That's why they're closest to the counter," Jochimsen jokes, surrounded by lurid covers. He prefers novels--and estimates that he has read about 275 in one year on the job.

An institution since 1948, the newsstand is one of two in the Valley open all night. The other is Victory Boulevard Newsstand, which sprawls along Victory and Van Nuys boulevards.

Gary Skybyrg, who sometimes works the late-night shift at the Victory stand, says the graveyard shift can be tough. "At night, we get some derelicts who just want hang out and read."

Both sell local and out-of-town papers, foreign newspapers, paperbacks and magazines.

Sherman Oaks Newsstand, 14500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. 995-0632.

Victory Boulevard Newsstand, 14501 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys. 782-2446.

At three 24-hour fitness centers, it is possible to converse with an attractive member of the opposite sex, sway to a thumping disco beat and get in shape--all at the same time. Welcome to Nautilus Aerobics Plus, the next best thing to an all-night nightclub the Valley has to offer. The spa turns into a pumpkin at 2 a.m., though, so after that, you're left to your own devices and to the equipment, which runs all night.

Nautilus Aerobics Plus, 17212 Ventura Blvd., Encino, 8948 Corbin Ave., Northridge and 11301 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. 760-7800.

If you can't find your leotard and wouldn't be caught dead in a spa, how about knocking down some pins at Canoga Park Bowl, the Valley's only 24-hour bowling establishment? Situated next to a motel, Canoga Park Bowl on Vanowen and Winnetka also has a pool room, video arcades, a coffee shop and a bar-lounge. Late-night bowlers must look elsewhere for victuals, however, because the coffee shop closes about midnight.

Are there a lot of insomniac bowlers out there? At least 10 or more on a usual night, says a graveyard-shift worker named Scott. And, on Wednesdays at 1 a.m., swing-shift workers from a nearby defense company invade the alley for league practices.

Canoga Park Bowl, 20122 Vanowen St., Canoga Park. 340-5190.

Several other Valley bowling alleys offer "rock 'n' bowl" specials until 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights. Among them are Woodlake Bowl in Woodland Hills, (348-7181), Brunswick Bowlerland Lanes in Northridge, (989-1610) and Brunswick Granada Lanes in Granada Hills, (363-9521).

What does a real man do between midnight and 6 a.m.? If he can't sleep, he might head over to Gold's Gym in Reseda to pump some iron. Despite the loud music, Gold's is an old-fashioned, no-nonsense place where groans of exertion and the clang of metal against metal are heard 24 hours a day. Men outnumber the women here about two to one--perhaps because the men's room has a shower and the women's doesn't.

"There's always someone in here," said Joe Bozich, who works the swing shift until midnight. But, on a recent Sunday at 5 a.m., the sign said "open," yet Gold's was dark, so you might want to call first.

Gold's Gym, 18323 Sherman Way, Reseda. 705-7774.

When the weightlifters finish working out at Gold's, they sometimes head over to Bud Raymond's across the street. Bud no longer owns the place, but proprietor Mike Naim carries on the restaurant's 30-year tradition of inexpensive, homemade food, including steak, red snapper and a $3.75 meat loaf like Mother used to make. Open all night Thursday through Sunday, Bud Raymond's offers a 10% discount between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m.

Bud Raymond's, 18300 Sherman Way, Reseda. 996-0778.

One act in the Valley that can't be copied is Kinko's. Attracting businessmen, students and musicians, Kinko's is the only 24-hour photocopying shop in the Valley.

On a slow night, more than an hour can go by between customers. But around finals week at nearby Los Angeles Valley College, red-eyed students feed a steady stream of nickels into the whirring machines.

Kinko's, 13322 Burbank Boulevard, Van Nuys. 787-7271.

East Valley residents who suffer a sudden attack of the munchies find relief at Sitton's in North Hollywood. Situated on Magnolia Boulevard, a stone's throw from North Hollywood Park, Sitton's has been feeding movie folk for years and has autographed pictures to prove it. Eat breakfast with Bing, Clark and Elvis. Sit in red vinyl seats and watch the sun come up while you talk to Jessie or Martha, two waitresses who have been there for more than 20 years.

Service is quick and cheerful, the portions ample and cheap. A Greek owner who bought out the local Sitton family in 1973 has spiced up the coffee shop menu with Greek salads and beef kebabs.

Sitton's, 11329 Magnolia Boulevard, North Hollywood. 761-3341.

Gourmands who are desperately seeking saffron at 3 a.m. can find it along with toothpaste, T-bones and taco shells at a number of around-the-clock grocery stores scattered throughout the Valley. Among them are Boys Market, 2040 Glenoaks Blvd, San Fernando, and 10 Hughes markets, including ones at 12842 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, and 16940 Devonshire Blvd., Granada Hills.

It may cause indigestion after a hard night on the town, but there are times when nothing but a double-chili cheeseburger and a large order of chili fries will do. There are too many to list here, but we've included several all-night burger havens, including Fatburger ("the last great hamburger stand") and the Original Tommy's ("world famous hamburgers.")

Fatburger is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Look for the signs in living color--mustard yellow, catsup red, relish green--at 5577 Reseda Blvd., Tarzana; 8263 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Sepulveda; 14568 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; and 6162 1/8 Sepulveda Blvd., Van Nuys.

Like Fatburger, Tommy's serves tamales, chili and breakfast specials. Try Tommy's at 14601 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys; 1310 San Fernando Blvd., Burbank; 15745 Roscoe Blvd., Sepulveda; or 7606 Foothill Blvd., Tujunga.

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