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$50 TO BURN IN SHERMAN OAKS

It's a musical venture on Ventura Boulevard

September 09, 2004|Jeff Miller | Special to The Times

Can two people who bonded over music find happiness in Sherman Oaks on a Monday night? On a budget?

No need to sing a sad song -- you can hear the blues, browse for musical bargains and have your shawarma too, all on one stretch of Ventura Boulevard.

And all for less than parking and concert tickets would set you back on a typical night on the Sunset Strip.

Pitas of plenty

Start at Pita Kitchen, a modest Mediterranean-and-Greek shack at Van Nuys Boulevard that's a favorite of Guns 'N Roses/Velvet Revolver guitarist Slash. My date, Kristi, has spicy, chunky chicken shawarma, with sides of hummus, crisp cucumber salad and eggplant salad. I have the same, with kafta (a spiced ground chicken mixture) in place of the shawarma.

The portions are huge, and so is the menu; Pita Kitchen's kebabs and hummus dishes make decisions difficult.

Spin through a bin

A leisurely stroll west on Ventura gives us time to chat, and it becomes apparent that I don't watch the reality TV shows Kristi works on and she doesn't read the magazines I write for.

That's OK. Music sparked our initial discussion, and the walk has brought us to Second Spin, an industrial-feeling used-CD store that's liable to get your credit-card finger twitching.

But hit the bargain bin -- a candy store for kids with broad musical tastes -- and you can leave the plastic in your pocket. And at $4 for five CDs, you can afford to take some chances.

For Kristi, a copy of Escape Club's "Wild Wild West" in honor of her recent move to California. For me, an irony-thick copy of a little-known disc by God's Favorite Band. The debut album from Jeremy Jordan, best known for a cameo on "Beverly Hills 90210"? A no-brainer. Snap's "Madman's Return," with the spinning-class staple "Rhythm Is a Dancer"? Sure. Jerry Garcia's bluegrass side project, "Old and in the Way"? Score. We hit the counter with 10 discs -- and get a ridiculous discount.

Cozying to the blues

A mile east of Second Spin is Cozy's, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it bar that on Monday nights is the Valley's musical hot spot, with a no-cover-charge blues jam more fit for Chicago than L.A. There's a reason they call them bluesmen: Other than a woman tuning a sax, the only females in the bar look like uneasy dates.

Not Kristi, who sits down and immediately strikes up a conversation with one of the players. I fetch some drinks, and we watch makeshift blues bands spin through B.B. King classics, Stevie Ray Vaughan licks and near-Hendrix roars. When the band bursts into a soulful "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay," Kristi and I mouth the words to each other.

On the way home you can detour to Mulholland Drive to check out the absolutely free Valley-lights view, not half bad with a little bluegrass on the stereo.

And even if your date doesn't end with a kiss, you can take comfort that you've left her with a souvenir that lasts longer: a mint-condition copy of Jeremy Jordan's "Try My Love."

*

The tab

Dinner $16.00

Where: Pita Kitchen, 14570 Ventura Blvd.; (818) 990-7006

What: Greek combination plates for two

Shopping $6.72

Where: Second Spin, 14564 Ventura Blvd.; (818) 986-6866

What: 10 spontaneous CD selections from the bargain bin, with discount

Music/drinks $24.00

Where: Cozy's, 14058 Ventura Blvd.; (818) 986-6000

What: Monday night blues jam (no cover charge); refreshments from the bar, plus tips

Total $46.72

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