In the early 1900s, Glendale was dubbed Jewel City because it “sparkled like a jewel in the sun” against the backdrop of Verdugo Hills, according to booster Edward U. Emery, then president of the city’s Chamber of Commerce.
About this series
Every month, we scout out eateries, stomach-filling burrito joints, and hidden gems so you can eat without breaking the bank or sacrificing your palette. We focus on dishes that are $10 or less, but, hey, inflation’s a thing, so it’s probably best to check the prices yourself before you head out. Also, if you have an area you’d like us to try, drop us a line at the bottom of the story.
For me, today, it still has a gravitational pull. Is it the charming downtown with the brutalist architecture of its civic buildings? Or perhaps the picturesque homes featured in countless films such as Mildred Pierce, Better Off Dead, and Superbad ? Or its positioning as a shopping mecca with Americana at Brand as one of the last bastions of mall culture?
But don’t worry, we aren’t hitting the food court this time. Instead, we’ve done what we’ve always done here at Cheap Fast Eats — excavating some unique bites for a reasonable price.
Home to one of the largest populations of Armenians in the world, driven here by the genocide of 1915 and the 1980’s collapse of the Soviet Union, there are several dishes that offer great flavor as well as unusual pairings. And with other communities and their foods close by, including Georgian, Greek, and Korean, there’s always something new to try.
Front Yard Burger
We live in a post-smash burger era, given the Shake Shack-ification of our world writ large. However, while we aren’t ones to ever turn down a perfectly smashed patty with charred edges, melded together by American cheese accompanied with your favorite condiments and soft potato bun, on occasion we crave something beyond the usual everyday burger milieu.
Which begs the question here at Cheap Fast Eats, what else is out there?
Enter Front Yard Burger, located in a small strip mall off Central Avenue between a Mexican and a Thai restaurant, taking things one step beyond by offering what’s known as an Oklahoma Smash. Time for a bit of burger history — the origins of Oklahoma Smash date back to the Great Depression, when onions were cheap and readily available and pressing them into your burger patty allowed you to get a little more bang for your buck.
In many ways, the Oklahoma burger, AKA the onion burger, is O.G. Cheap Fast Eats.
In these present times, Front Yard burger manages to take the smash burger craze and boil it down to its ideal, a burger that simultaneously embraces tradition and modernity. It’s something burger nerds and everyday folk can get down with. It’s not hard to picture the cast of the TV show Reservation Dogs, which takes place in Oklahoma, chowing down on some burgers in an episode.
Of course, we aren’t in the Plains states; we’re in Glendale, baby. So for those looking for something more specific to the region, opt for another burger selection on the menu: the basturma sujukh, which contains equal parts that nod to its Armenian culinary heritage as well as America.
The burger features the usual fixings of meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, spread, and buns, but also basturma, an air-dried aged cured beef with lots of seasonings, almost like jerky, along with long silvers of sujukh also spelled “sujuk,” a spicy and fermented sausage. The earthy flavors provide an added texture and flavor that feels fairly unknown in the smash burger universe, and it’s one we welcome wholeheartedly.
How To Find It
Address: 730 S Central Ave Ste 103, Glendale, CA 91204
Hours: Open every day, 11 AM- 11 PM
Grab a seat on the outdoor patio table at Khinkali House, located down a slick-looking walkway that screams a particular 80s design seemingly specific to these parts of Glendale; this is where you can indulge in a delicious array of Georgian-style dumplings.
Please don’t get it twisted here; we’re not referring to the U.S. state that birthed trap music. Instead, we’re touching down in the former Soviet republic that neighbors Armenia along the Black Sea.
While these are not the same xiao long bao dumplings you’ll find down the street at Din Tai Fung, the Georgian equivalent, khinkali, is also classified as a soup dumpling.
The dumplings begin with a small helping of raw meat enveloped by dough and then cooked, trapping the juices of the contents. It’s customary to bite off a piece of the outside to slurp the broth inside, providing a solid amount of energy points.
You can also opt for the veggie-friendly mushroom dumpling, recommended with a dollop of sour cream, making for a heavenly bite of doughy soft dumpling skin, earthy umami-ness, and the tang of the cream.
Finally, try the fried dumpling filled with cheese — oh yes, you read that correctly — containing a delightful Georgian cheese. For these particular dumplings, it’s customary to grab the top of the dumpling, which acts as a little handle, then bring it up to your mouth to take a bite. It’s equal parts salty and doughy, as the taste of the sharp white cheese seeps through.
How To Find It
Address: 113 Artsakh Ave, Glendale, CA 91206
Hours: Open every day, Monday-Thursday 11:30 AM-10:30 PM,
Friday-Sunday 11:30 AM- 11:30 PM
Elena’s Greek Armenian Kitchen
Elena’s blends Greek and Armenian cuisine, true to its name, but visiting the restaurant, you can’t help but feel something about this place is distinctly Los Angeles.
Perhaps it’s the crowds who come and fill the tables looking for an affordable yet filling lunch, everyone from police officers to priests, painting a modern tableau of what life looks like in the city.
While it’s easy to marvel at the surroundings that feel like you are visiting the comfort of your grandparents’ house, down to the blue and white floral pattern plates that are used for virtually every dish, we are here however to seek sustenance.
Although there are plenty of options to choose from, a hot cup of lentil soup draws our attention when the weather starts to turn on those cold and windy days. For some of us, lentil soup brings us back to afternoons with our families and the simple affection of meals at home. Elena’s feels like an extension of that, exemplified in their food.
Follow it up with some fries, which are thick and long, as if they’ve been cut by hand, adding to the cozy factor. But it doesn’t stop there; each meal comes with an order of pita bread, a delightful amount of creamy and smooth garlic sauce, and a small plate containing an array of magenta-colored pickled vegetables, known as torshi. So tear off a piece of pita, slather on some garlic sauce, add pink pickled cabbage wrapped around your fry, and dip it into your soup. You’ll have a wondrous bite that leaves you happy and satisfied.
How To Find It
Address: 1000 S Glendale Ave, Glendale, CA 91205
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 11:30 AM- 9:30 PM
Da Juice Bar
Breakfast burritos, in their way, transcend their category as a sub-genre of burritos — they almost represent a whole genre themselves. But it’s easy to get stuck in the same flavor combination of protein, potato, cheese, and tortilla. And while there’s nothing wrong with that line of eating, it’s sometimes necessary to challenge ourselves in terms of what a breakfast burrito can be.
Three words. Kimchi breakfast burrito.
What, you might ask?
Fair. This burrito contains an unfussy amount of soft-scrambled egg mixed with cheese, an almost equal amount of kimchi, mashed potatoes, and if you’re like me, some avocado. (I acknowledge that might be going overboard texture or tastewise for some but who’s going to stop me?)
The kimchi serves a bright spicy tang, mixed with the softness of mashed potatoes, making for a velvet-like textured bite. Add a couple of drops of their electric-looking green salsa, and it’s a mouthful that will feel like a warm blanket you can wrap yourself in whenever the need strikes.
And if anyone asks where they can find you during this period, a straightforward answer will suffice, Da Juice Bar.
How To Find It
Address: 305 1/2 N Brand Blvd, Glendale, CA 91203
Hours: Monday-Friday 7 AM-7 PM, Saturday 8 AM-6 PM, Closed Sunday
There’s something to be said about a place named after the only dish they serve. A certain confidence: there’s just one thing on the menu, and we do it well.
Inside, you’ll find something that resembles a Starbucks, which probably isn’t a mistake given the assorted tea beverages available, typically shared between two people at one of the many small tables found throughout the cafe space.
It’s not uncommon to see women of a certain age meeting up and speaking in their native language, no doubt catching each other up on their respective lives. The vibe is nothing short of convivial, as often is the case on this small strip in downtown Glendale.
However, while the mood is excellent, we are here to eat. The Zhengyalov Hatz, (pronounced zhing·guh·luhv hats) is a flatbread, made to order from fresh dough, stuffed with a variety of fresh green herbs and vegetables that includes dill, green onion, spinach, cilantro, chard, parsley, and a couple of secret Armenian herbs, all mixed with olive oil and seasoning.
The dough is folded, almost like making a quesadilla, stretched over a wide circumference, then cooked on a flat top grill directly behind the counter, creating several tiny pebbled grill marks, making for an especially unique texture. It might seem like you need more from a simple flatbread, but I urge you to try a flavorful and herbaceous bite.
The dish is vegan and is an excellent example of using what you have, which feels like a cornerstone of Cheap Fast Eats. Sustenance is critical, and Zhengyalov Hatz is quite familiar with that concept.
How To Find It
Address: 318 E Broadway, Glendale, CA 91205
Hours: Open every day, 10 AM-8 PM
Do you have a question about food in LA — or something you want to tell us about?
Gab Chabrán reports and edits stories about food and its place in LA’s diverse cultures and communities. Curious about a specific regional cuisine or have a recommendation for a hole-in-the-wall you love? Are you looking for the best place to take your kid for lunch? We’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line.