Dining Out: It's worth making a Sunland-Tujunga side trip

Even the residents of Sunland-Tujunga would agree the community is not exactly a foodie mecca. Still there are some good reasons to head over to this historical, artsy section of our valley. Sure, there are plenty of smoke shops, body shops and wrought iron fences but who knows? It could become the next Eagle Rock. Then you can say you knew "S-T" back in the day.

The Back Door Bakery & Cafe (8658 Foothill Blvd.) used to be in Silver Lake but a few years ago they brought their unique brand of daily-made treats to Sunland. The Apple Ugly muffin, for instance, looks like some kind of alien horse apple but the crispy bits of fruit and pastry taste fabulous with one of their huge ceramic cups of rich, hot coffee. They whip up beautiful omelets here with your choice of creative fillings (50 cents each) and the breakfast quesadilla ($8.50) is full of gorgeous veggies, cheese and eggs. Besides the good music, the community hangout feel and the friendly counter service, the best part of the Back Door Bakery is the daily line-up of samples from the made-from-scratch, no-fake-anything bakery. Tiny bites of sea salt brownie, hazelnut cake or strawberry-stuffed croissant anyone?

Now that Al's Italian American Deli has sadly closed in Montrose, consider Corsica's Italian Delicatessen (8111 Foothill Blvd.), a Sunland mainstay for 40 years. As soon as you walk in the door, aromas of pepperoncini, French bread and mortadella hit your nostrils. Shelves of imported pastas and sauces crowd the cozy space as do frozen cases containing big tins of homemade lasagna, stuffed shells and manicotti to take and bake. Sidle up to the counter and order an enormous sub of your own design or better yet, trust the workers'/regulars' eponymous creations like Johnny's, Gina's or Angelo's Special. For the Italian meat lover who finds bread an annoyance, they offer the unique breadless sandwich, a huge rolled carpet of cold cuts, cheeses and fixings, sliced for eating. You've got to love a place that gives you a cup of simple oil and vinegar for their delicious big salads. A little pricey ($10.49 for a Mary's Special) but a lot of tasty.

For some authentic handmade tortillas and slow cooked carnitas, head to Pena's Tacos (8319 Foothill Blvd.). The smiling members of the Pena family help you navigate the menu of meats and seafood (asada, cabeza, birria, suadero, adobada, camarrones, and al pastor to name a few) and where to put them (in tacos, burritos, vanpiros or my favorite, tortas). The giant tortoise shell-sized torta ($6.50) has mustard, mayonnaise, avocado, lime, onion, tomato, shredded lettuce and gooey melted cheese. It's warm and satisfying, day or night, which is great because on Friday and Saturday, Pena's is open until 1:30 a.m.

Top on my list of Sunland-Tujunga restaurants is Tee's on the Green at the Verdugo Hills Golf Course (6433 La Tuna Canyon Road). The course now caters to Frisbee golfers as well as to the woods- and irons-wielding kind. Everybody gets along well on the quirky, fun course and there are lights for night playing, the only lit course for miles around. After 18 holes, get a fresh Angus beef burger and a tall draft beer at Tee's on the Green. Straight out of "Caddyshack," this adorable diner is comfortable and neighborly. Try chef Natalie's new Hot Mama burger with grilled serranos, habanero Sriracha mayo and pepper jack cheese. Her seasoned fries are thick-cut and spicy.

Finally, mention must be made of the signature Papa Cakes at Olde Town's Comfort & Joy Cafe (10024 Commerce Ave.). These potato pancakes come filled with things like bacon, feta, spinach or jalapenos. They warm the cockles of your heart and would be perfect for sharing while enjoying Wednesday night's popular Open Mic night where folk music reigns but poetry and other disciplines are welcome. Every Tuesday during lunch, Kate Friedricks plays old-time tunes on her ukulele, offering free lessons to the adventurous. Comfort & Joy feeds the belly and the soul.


LISA DUPUY reviews restaurants in the Montrose-Glendale-Burbank corridor but occasionally ventures out to parts unknown. She can be reached at LDupuy@aol.com.

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