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a day in SHERMAN OAKS

June 10, 2007|Jessica Gelt

Hidden Gem

Coda, 5248 Van Nuys Blvd., 818 783-7518

Coda has been called a little bit of Hollywood in the Valley--if Hollywood is defined by tucked-away, sign-less hot spots. It's right next to a sushi restaurant and across from an auto dealership, and once you find the back entrance you emerge into a world of muted, orange light and stiff drinks. The low ceiling is lacquered, the long bar is scuffed, and there's a tiny side lounge where customers vie for bottle service. Coda opens at 9 p.m. and things don't crank up until after 10 on weekends, at which point the little room, aided by DJs spinning catchy remixes and hip-hop tunes, literally explodes into a frenzy of dance and hopeful pick-up lines. As Hollywood as that might sound, Coda still manages to keep it real in the neighborhood. Take it from repeat customer Ace Harrison: "It's just a good local bar, and you always know what you're going to get."

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ONE THING TO DO

Can't Beat This Heat

Casa Vega is so dark that when you step inside your pupils swiftly dilate to the size of enchilada plates. The 50-year-old family-owned Mexican restaurant is housed in a small tan building with a crazily asymmetrical floor plan that makes each section feel like its own private planet. Tucked-away red booths and a classic margarita-serving bar with weathered stools and flickering candles complete the scene. Day and night (the place closes at 2 a.m. seven days a week) devotees feast on no-nonsense combination platters, so-creamy-it's-cloud-like guacamole, tender carne asada and old-timey L.A. kitsch. 13301 Ventura Blvd., (818) 788-4868.

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IT'S, LIKE, HISTORICAL

The purported birthplace of the "Valley Girl," Sherman Oaks is considered the gateway to the San Fernando Valley. It was one of the first Valley communities to be intensely developed, thanks, in part, to Gen. Moses Hazeltine Sherman, who bought 1,000 acres for himself. Today the area's population is about 53,000.

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ART & ARCHITECTURE

Picture a Polynesian paradise. Then rough that image up a bit (OK, a lot) and drop it smack in the middle of the Valley to get an idea of what the Horace Heidt Magnolia Estate Apartments look like. Built by the big band leader in the 1950s, the complex features grazing ceramic deer, a mini-golf course, waterfalls and signs pointing the way to Kauai Surf and Coral Reef.

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MY FIND

Freakbeat Records specializes in new, used and collectible vinyl, though it also carries CDs. Among its rarities are Love's first album, the music of the '70s-era L.A. Latino punk band the Plugz and the soundtrack from the 1972 blaxploitation flick "Across 110th Street." 13616 Ventura Blvd., (818) 995-7603.

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