Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Russian Food in The Valley - Sweet Sour Goodness

Just had to let you guys know about a fabulous hidden gem of a deli in The Valley right by Gelson's at Laurel Canyon and Riverside. It's called Grandma's Deli and trust me, I ain't never had a grandma like this.
Yummy, delectable horseradish from the place where horseradish thrives and is appreciated, damnit!
It's not a big place, though it certainly is interesting inside. You might as well be on a little side street in Moscow. Everything's in Russian: the newspapers, the products, the people. It's all got the clunky odd lettering that is just south of Chinese to me (though in reality the truth is opposite. Beijing is Southeast of Moscow).

I love it and frankly, this is my heritage. While growing up, I was rarely made privy to the cuisine and culture of my father's relatives and ancestors but when I tasted some marinated roasted peppers one weekend at Grandma's it all came back. Like Ruskie boots in the hardened snow I felt like I was home... in that sort of way us mutts define home. Now I make a weekly weekend pilgrimage to this out-of-the-way storefront, exploring what I imagine to be the food of "my people."
My people apparently like Black Tea
There's really more food than you know what to do with at Grandma's and the majority is homemade.
Slaw and other Vegetarian Goodness
There are some things that are here all the time yet every now and again, there seems to be something new above and underneath the deli glass. You'll be likely to find Baked Sturgeon (which Anna, the owner, pronounces STOOERgin), Chicken Meatballs - some of my favorite, coated in a delectable sweet and sour red sauce, Beef Stroganoff, Stuffed Cabbage with Chicken, Beef Liver with Onion, and their number 1 seller, Veal with Onion, which even though I'm not a huge veal fan for many reasons, I had to try it. Anna asked me. And a word to the betting man, if I'm thought to lose my moral compass in the future, you'll know where to find me.
Liver and Onions
Chicken Meatballs - oy gevalt!
There are also desserts like small delicious little chocolate cakes with walnuts, blintzes and rugelach with raspberry. And you can also purchase different types of sausage and meats.
Blintz Krieg
Veal, Chicken Weiners, What's Not To Like?
By the way, Anna, the adorable owner (or manager - I'm not sure which!) who's lived in LA less than 7 years, is adorable, funny, warm and smart and seems very proud of the homemade fare that she has to offer. She's proud of what she's offering and works hard but doesn't look it. She treats you like I don't know - like you're special. It's nice to go into a place and be treated like a distant family member. You kind of can't wait for your number to be up. But when you're next in line, you end up listening to that strange language, the "da's" being said back and forth, while Anna's made-up assistant, brings forth trays of fresh made kabobs or breaded tender chicken filets, from inside the kitchen out into the store.

It's kind of awesome. My ancestors who know nothing of my existence would be proud.

So when you get a chance, drop by, grab some stuff to take home (there are no tables at the deli) and enjoy. If you love food and like sampling different cuisines, or if you're Russian and you miss home, you'll wish Anna was your Grandma. Let's face it, it's nice to feel taken care of and like the little babushka you really are, which you really are, deep down inside. You are.
Look at how happy that little babushka is!
Grandma's Deli is at 4818 Laurel Canyon Boulevard, Valley Village, California, 91607 in an outdoor mini mall. The entrance is either off of Riverside or Laurel Canyon, depending where you're coming from. It's open 7 days a week, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m, meaning there's just no excuse not to get your Russian on. Parking in the lot there is free and there is street parking. Also you'll probably get away with parking at Gelson's and crossing the street if there's no parking available - though as of yet, I've never encountered that. 818-762-8980.

(There's also a sister restaurant in West Hollywood on Sunset called Grandma's Deli Babushka. I haven't been, so of course I cannot say what it's like, but I'll report back as soon as I make a visit. The reviews online though look gooooooood. 7300 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90046. 323.851.2312).

*pictured up top, Anna's Special Veal. Check out her assistant, munching something awfully good in the background. I love it!

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