Casa Vega restaurant in Sherman Oaks has always meant “pure comfort” to me. Peter and I have been regulars since 1994 (when I moved from San Diego), and for years we ate there at least once a week. That was before the smoking ban came into effect (not that either of us ever smoked), and before hungry patrons were forbidden to drink cocktails outside.
They’ve never taken reservations, and back then we didn’t mind sitting out in the waiting area for an hour or more, because the covered patio felt like an extension of the inside bar. We always had the same drink; Two large “Tres Generaciones” Margaritas on the rocks.
After making our way into the actual bar, we’d wait a bit longer and loved watching the crowd. It was such a wild mix of people: Studio execs (like Peter), families with small kids, single gals and guys on the prowl, and a fair share of San Fernando Valley’s aspiring porn stars.
Our favorite tables were (and are still) one of the wall booths in the back right, larger dining room. If you’ve never been, and like people-watching, they’re well worth waiting for. From there, you can keep an eye out for whoever is coming into the dark room, and over the years we’ve spotted (to name just a few); Jennifer Aniston (several times, pre and post Brad), Mickey Dolenz from the Monkeys, and the one and only (“give-me-another-margarita-so-I’m-brave-enough-to-say hi”) George Clooney.
After settling in our booth, we never had to pick up a menu or actually order our food. The waiter would look at us and say, “One Casa Vega salad, one carnitas combo to share, flour tortillas, and a chile relleno on the side, right?”
Our love for the restaurant extends throughout our family. When my brother Greg visits from Scotland, the first place he wants to go in ALL of Los Angeles (straight from the airport) is Casa Vega. It’s legendary even in far away Bridge of Weir and Glasgow, although like most locals he refers to it as simply, “Vega”.
On the afternoon of 9/11, like everyone, we were glued to our television re-watching the footage and listening to a frightened America shut down. Our good friend and neighbor, Nelson, was with us and we sat around in tears, holding our dogs and feeling helpless.
After awhile I just got angry and didn’t want to sit home and cry anymore. I jumped up and said, “That’s IT… we are NOT going to stay here and be afraid… we’re going to Vega”. Thank goodness they were open. It was early (5pm or so) and there were only a few other people in the bar. Slowly, the restaurant started filling up and although the mood was somber, the camaraderie in the room made it okay to be out getting drunk and socializing on such a horrible, tragic day. Nothing could take away the shock of what happened earlier in the morning, but that meal at Casa Vega was one of the most comforting I’ve ever had.
Admittedly, the food isn’t pretty to look at, but it is ooey gooey delicious. We’ve spent many a crowded Cinco de Mayo there and no matter what the occasion, we never stray from our favorite dishes: One Casa Vega salad (a crisp tortilla with chorizo, spiced beans, lettuce, tomato, beets and parmesan cheese), one Carnitas combo to share (tender pieces of seasoned pork, served on a bed of shredded lettuce with freshly made pico de gallo), flour tortillas, and a chile relleno on the side. And of course at least two “Tres Generaciones”Margaritas on the rocks. Now, that’s pure comfort if you ask me.
13301 Ventura Blvd (at Fulton Ave)
Dining Date: Since 1994