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March 31, 2009|Katherine Tulich

Glendale may be a consumer's paradise with its car lots and big-ticket shopping malls, such as the recently opened Americana at Brand, but a vibrant multicultural community dominated by a big Armenian population gives this area loads of intriguing local color and great cuisine -- especially an array of ethnic bakeries. (Note: It helps to come armed with a sweet tooth!)

Living history

Glendale businessman Leslie Coombs Brand was a leading figure in the area and bequeathed his spectacular Moorish and Indian style estate to the Brand Library (1601 W. Mountain St, [818] 548-2051;, which has a vast music literature collection and hiking trails. A former vaudeville and movie house, the historic Alex Theatre (216 N. Brand Blvd., [818] 243-2539; is now a vibrant performing arts center.

Local hangs

The two-decade-old Brand Bookshop (231 N. Brand Blvd., [818] 507-5943) has one of the largest collections of used books in SoCal, with more than 200,000 titles. Nearby is the renowned Cuban bakery Portos Bakery (315 N. Brand Blvd., [818] 956-5996; Potato balls and refugiado (guava and cheese strudel) are hot favorites.

Taste of Armenia

Great Armenian bakeries dot the area, from the large, such as Paradise Pastry & Cafe (1815 W. Glenoaks Blvd., [818] 545-4000;, to the small spots tucked into the many strip malls. Sarkis (1111 S. Glendale Ave., [818] 956-6636; has a great selection of baklava, while family-run Sasoun Bakery (625 E. Colorado St., [818] 502-5059), serves tasty lahmajoun (Armenian pizza) and sweet tahini bread. For great meat kebabs, there's Raffis Place Restaurant (211 E. Broadway, [818] 240-7411).

Fine dining

Glendale is also attracting innovative young chefs. Chef Nadav Bashan helms his intimate and welcoming Bashan Restaurant (3459 N. Verdugo Road, [818] 541-1532; where seared barramundi with artichokes and braised Asian style pork belly are menu faves. Octavio Becerra's highly rated Palate Food + Wine (933 S. Brand Blvd., [818] 662-9463; is part wine merchant, cheese cellar and restaurant serving sophisticated Mediterranean-infused cuisine. Sundays are a great time to stop by for afternoon flights of wine and prix fare $35 suppers.


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