NEIGHBORHOODS / Brand Boulevard
GLENDALE’S main drag, Brand Boulevard, emerged as the town’s epicenter thanks to its proximity to the Pacific Electric railway line that arrived in 1904. Like many things in this foothill city, the thoroughfare is named after Leslie C. Brand, the local tycoon and civic booster who, during the early 1900s, ran full-page ads in Los Angeles newspapers every Sunday posing the question, “Have you been to Glendale?”
That question has been coming up with greater frequency of late, especially since the grand opening of Americana, the boulevard’s spanking-new 15.5-acre shopping complex featuring 75 retail stores, 338 residential units, restaurants, an 18-screen multiplex and a 2-acre public park.
Although the $400-million mall has its share of detractors, who bemoan the attendant traffic snarls and erosion of small-town charm, many residents welcome the injection of excitement and status it’s brought to a neighborhood more commonly associated with the car dealerships to the south. (Speaking of cars and traffic: Glendale’s 15th annual Cruise Night, when Brand is overrun by hundreds of hot rod, classic and antique cars, happens July 19.) Still, city leaders are hopeful Americana will bring new customers to other businesses along the boulevard, such as the neighborhood establishments shown here.
With its more than 100,000 titles in more than 1,400 well-organized sections, it’s virtually impossible to leave Brand Bookshop (231 N. Brand Blvd.,  507-5943) empty-handed. (May we suggest James M. Cain’s gritty noir classic set in Glendale, “Mildred Pierce”?)
ALL THAT JAZZ
Jax Bar & Grill (339 N. Brand Blvd.,  500-1604) serves hearty meat ‘n’ potatoes fare (best bets: baby back ribs, Jack Daniel’s bread pudding) to a grown-up crowd, but the true specialty of this dimly lighted, late-night spot is jazz. Most Thursday nights, trumpeter-singer-raconteur Jack Sheldon -- the distinctive voice behind Schoolhouse Rock’s “Conjunction Junction” and “I’m Just a Bill” -- holds court.
LET THEM EAT CAKE
The lines are long at Porto’s Bakery (315 N. Brand Blvd.,  956-5996), but devotees of the guava-and-cream-cheese refugiados, potato croquetas, media noche and other Cuban-style delicacies swear they’re worth the wait.
FEAST YOUR SENSES
Bedecked with Persian frescoes, scimitars and other antiques, Armenian/Middle Eastern Carousel (304 N. Brand Blvd.,  246-7775) is not your everyday kebabery. Weekends feature multi-course family-style dining, live music and belly dancing.
A registered historic landmark, the Alex Theatre (216 N. Brand Blvd.,  243-2539) began life in 1925 as a vaudeville and silent movie house. Closed after falling into disrepair, the Art Deco palace was lovingly restored to its former glory in 1993 and is a performing arts center.
ON THE WEB
For more about Glendale’s Brand Boulevard and other neighborhoods throughout Southern California, go to theguide.latimes.com/neighborhoods.