New year, new restaurants and shops in Glendale

As culinary enthusiasts stir up their dining plans for 2012, they’ll find three new restaurants and a soda shop in downtown Glendale striving to satisfy their appetites.

But even with the new businesses, there is still plenty of vacant restaurant space in the downtown area, including the former Don Cuco, Salo-Salo Grill and La Cubana.

Pierre Garden restaurant opened in August on the corner of Wilson and Maryland avenues, the site of the former Chuy’s Mexican restaurant, which had been closed for about two years.

Pierre Garden owner Petros Gumrikyan said he wanted to open a restaurant after helping his father, Sarkas, for several years at his banquet hall in Tujunga.

“I thought, ‘Why not open it in the city I grew up in,’” he said.

The site, which is in the Exchange, was originally one large space, but Gumrikyan had it divided in half, moving the bar to the front portion of the restaurant and constructing a stage for live musicians or a DJ in the back half.

The 194-seat restaurant serves a mix of French and Mediterranean cuisine and offers outdoor seating on a back patio located in the middle of the Exchange.

Gumrikyan said he’s been using the restaurant’s back portion for private parties during the past month.

“That’s been pretty successful,” he said.

Located in the heart of the Exchange, Tacos on Brand opened a few months ago in the former Lunchbox Café site.

Already there are changes coming, though, as the small restaurant soon will merge with Iguanas Ranas, which has a restaurant in the City of Industry, according to Tacos on Brand’s Maurice Lewis.

The partnership will expand the menu and offer unique toppings, such as marlin and tinga — slow-cooked shredded beef mixed with spicy chile chipotle sauce.

After operating a restaurant in the City of Industry for five years, Iguanas Ranas owner Jordi De Riquer wanted to expand, said spokeswoman Monica Weber, and the 800-square-foot Glendale operation seemed like a good match.

Weber said Iguana Ranas prides itself in making everything from scratch.

“We don’t open any cans,” she said. “Everything is created in our kitchen.”

The tinga is the only spicy entrée on the menu, Weber said, but an extra kick can be added to the Iguanas Ranas soup upon request.

Iguana Ranas should begin operating Tacos on Brand in mid-January, Weber said.

Coffee shop Brand Terrace closed a few months ago and is getting ready to reopen in a larger space in the 400 block of Brand Boulevard, just north of its previous location, which had become a popular place during the two years it was open.

Owner Arthur Yanokyan said the business will now be a full-service restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The 5,000-square-foot space can seat about 80 and has outdoor seating, Yanokyan said.

The restaurant is scheduled to open in early February, he added.

Rocket Fizz, which sells 80 varieties of soda and about 925 kinds of candy, opened in November in the 100 block of North Brand in the Exchange.

Among the novel items available are root beer and licorice imported from Australia, said Janice Jafari, who owns the shop with her husband, Hamid.

There is also a wide selection of saltwater taffy along one wall and hand-scooped ice cream served by the check-out-counter, she added.

-- Mark Kellam, Times Community News

Twitter: @LAmarkkellam

Photo: Jack Cross, owner of the then newly opened Rocket Fizz, lines up over 700 kinds of soda on the wall on Thursday, July 23, 2009 at the Burbank store location. Credit: Roger Wilson / Staff Photographer

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