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COOK'S WALK

Glendale's Street of 13 Cuisines

In two blocks on Brand, there is a mini-United Nations of cooking.

February 21, 2001|BARBARA HANSEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Everybody knows you can sample the world's cuisines in Southern California, but in Glendale you can taste foods from 13 countries in only two blocks.

Walk along Brand Boulevard from Lexington Drive south to Wilson Avenue and you will pass cafes and restaurants that serve Lebanese, Persian, Greek, Italian, French, Argentine, Mexican, Cuban, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Thai and traditional American dishes.

One of each would suffice, but in Glendale, it doesn't stop there. On Brand you'll find two Japanese restaurants, two Thai restaurants, two places that serve Persian dishes and two with Italian food. American restaurants range from an old-fashioned steak house to a bar and grill serving contemporary California cuisine. And this is not counting fast-food, coffee and sandwich outlets or a billiards restaurant and bar.

A leading antiquarian book store, Brand Bookshop, is located in this stretch of Brand and, though it doesn't sell food, it houses an enormous selection of used cookbooks. What you see one day won't be there the next, so grab quickly. Glimpsed recently were "Tastes of Kenya" from Kenway Publications in Nairobi, a Hare Krishna vegetarian cookbook translated into Spanish and published in Mexico City, and two copies of "Bottles and Bins Recipes," collected from the house organ of Charles Krug Winery and published in 1965.

Another landmark business, Porto's Bakery, draws Cubans from all over the Southland along with others who relish gorgeous tarts and cakes topped with fruit and the bakery's wealth of breads, cookies and tempting pastries.

The only requirements for this walk are comfortable shoes, plenty of time to browse in the shops in between the eating places, and an enormous appetite.

1. Jax Bar Grill, 339 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale; (818) 500-1604. This dark, pub-like place offers an eclectic menu that includes fish and chips, blackened chicken with angel hair pasta, spicy chicken spring rolls and a chipotle grilled-cheese sandwich on grilled sourdough.

2. Damon's Steak House, 317 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale; (818) 956-9056. Polynesian inside and out (you may dine under a grass roof or beneath monkeys hanging from an outrigger canoe), Damon's concentrates on steaks, not Polynesian food. However, the mai tais are famous. Daily Llunch specials are mostly beef dishes except for chicken on Wednesdays and fish on Fridays.

3. Porto's Bakery, 315 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale; (818) 956-5996. In business since 1960, Porto's is a coffee shop as well as a bakery. Have a cup of coffee with a Cuban sandwich, empanadas or croquetas and then inspect the bakery counter. There's always a crowd, but lots of salespeople keep the line moving quickly. Meanwhile, you can inspect such Cuban treats as coquitos en almibar (coconut balls in a crackly caramel glaze), borrachos (sponge cakes soaked in brandy-wine syrup and filled with guava), bocados de principe (cakes topped with custard and cinnamon) and guava-cheese strudel. Porto's has a new upstairs shop that deals in party supplies. Check the gallery of wedding cakes in a separate room.

4. Thai in L.A., 3031/2 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale; (818) 548-3539. House specialties include a hot pot of steamed mussels and another with seafood and glass noodles as well as fried catfish with red curry sauce. Pad Thai, barbecued chicken and rice noodles topped with green curry are among the reasonably priced lunch specials.

5. El Morfi, 241 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale; (818) 547-4420. This restaurant offers Italian and Argentine food. Along with entrana (skirt steak), Argentine mixed grill and empanadas with a variety of meat and vegetarian fillings, the menu lists fettuccine Alfredo, cannelloni, ravioli and pizza. This two-sided cuisine reflects the large Italian population of Argentina.

6. Aloha Japanese Restaurant, 239 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale; (818) 247-9789. You can create your own combination lunch here with such dishes as teriyaki, tempura, gyoza, sashimi and California rolls.

7. Brand Village Restaurant, 2331/2 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale; (818) 240-6133. Feel like a cheese sub, tuna salad or pasta carbonara? They're here, along with the restaurant's specialty, Persian barbecue. In addition to barbecue combination plates that include basmati rice (or French fries) and grilled vegetables, there are Persian stews such as veal shanks with yellow split peas in tomato sauce and Persian sandwiches that contain lamb tongue, lamb brain or ground beef.

8. Brand Bookshop, 231 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale; (818) 507-5943. This large bookstore celebrates its 15th anniversary in September. Book lovers can lose track of time here and will like the friendly, literate help from the front counter. The cookbook section is marked off in categories such as American regional, entertaining, Jewish food, quantity cookery international and diet books. Entire shelves are devoted to chocolate and pasta.

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