The Best New Restaurants In The Santa Clarita Valley
Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the culinary world has managed to produce some pleasant surprises. As we move away (fingers crossed!) from indoor dining restrictions, shutdowns and social distancing, the Santa Clarita Valley has become the epicenter of northeast L.A. County's emerging restaurant scene. Amid the wreckage of the last two years, impressive new restaurants have opened, boasting everything from world-class parmigiana siciliana to hand-pleated xiao long bao to sumptuous dulce de leche churros.
Given Piccola Trattoria's popularity for the last two decades, the Caruso family's charming Sicilian diner in Canyon Country was long overdue for a second location. Piccola Osteria, its first true spin-off, finally opened in May 2021 in Skyline Ranch after a series of construction delays. The Trattoria's cozy deli storefront has been replaced with a polished, marble-laden interior but the signature dishes, including the fluffy-as-a-cloud Sorrentina Gnocchi and one of Los Angeles' best and hottest Diavola pizzas, remain as good as ever.
- 28524 La Madrid Dr., Santa Clarita. 661-367-4204.
Sen Noodle House
When a new restaurant in a half-vacant suburban strip mall promises to "expand your horizons" to foods from "East Asia," we're skeptical. Yet Sen Noodle House, which opened in March 2021, is far better than its generic advertising would suggest. The make-your-own-noodles concept is kicked up a notch by two factors. Each of the five broths — Sen Street Curry, Sen Shoyu, Senyaki, Emperor Wonton and Hot and Zesty — is expertly seasoned and, at $11 a piece, each noodle dish is a worthy investment. The curried noodles, a house favorite, pair well with Sen's signature butterfly pea lemonade, a summery purple concoction that needs no filter to make your friends jealous.
- 18350 Soledad Canyon Rd., Santa Clarita. 661-523-7145.
On July 16, 2021, Santa Clarita residents were despondent when Guanatos Tacos replaced an iconic Foster's Freeze drive-through next to Santa Clarita Lanes. A day later, that chain was merely a memory. Guanatos is still classic fast food, but it's operating on another culinary level. The quesabirria taco rojo, with habanero-infused onions and birria slathered with an addictive salsa, is a winner. The Guanatos Burritos, lumpen monstrosities on the outside with glorious tomatillo and cilantro coating the interior, are also spectacular. Although it's early days, this spot is shaping up to be the best drive-through in the entire SCV.
- 21525 Soledad Canyon Rd., Santa Clarita. 661-888-1345.
Tento's opening week in October 2020 was a calm affair, in large part due to changing COVID protocols and a quarantine that was still in full effect. That changed in early January 2021 after a rush of praise on the SCV Foodies Facebook group sent locals into a frenzy. What was all the hubbub about? Owner Chris Lee's Korean corndogs and gussied-up musubi. The ensuing attention led to out-the-door lines and dishes selling out long before dinnertime. Thankfully, the business has regained its equilibrium and trimmed its menu to only four corndogs. The musubi iteration is gone and the best of the remaining options is the house dish, the aptly-named beef Tento dog with a crisp, homemade cornmeal shell.
- 18519 Soledad Canyon Rd., Canyon Country. 661-360-9398.
Many a restaurant has come and gone in this seemingly cursed location on the eastern edge of SR 126 (RIP Thai B.B.Q., Master Inn, Love Ramen). Aroma Ramen, the tenant since October 2020, is the strongest contender in recent memory. Their tonkotsu (pork broth) and torigara (chicken broth) ramen are straightforward, simple pleasures with a garlicky, slightly bitter and fragrant Tonkotsu Black ($12.55). The Japanese-style eatery also maintains an unusually strong vegetarian section: the Spicy Creamy Vegan Ramen ($12.55), decadent with crisp onion and garlic slivers, is a steal. Unlike its predecessors, Aroma Ramen seems destined to survive. And at ground-level, it's entirely handicap-accessible.
- 27530 Newhall Ranch Rd., Valencia. 661-888-1593.
C & A Cafe and Creamery
In L.A.'s crowded dessert scene, it isn't enough for your handmade ice cream, candies and baked goods to be delectable. Luckily, Munira Aboujadude's concoctions are also colorful and bright. To eat at her C & A Cafe and Creamery is to experience a world straight out of Willy Wonka's imagination. Consider the magnitude of Aboujadude's Santa Clarita Valley Sundae, which for $79.99 can feed 10 people. It features 16 scoops of ice cream (the creamery's flavors include carrot cake and "sour splash"), four sizable cookies and six toppings. There's also the My Husband Lost His Mind Ice Cream Sandwich, which at $7.99 is just as satisfying but more reasonable for one human. C & A is adjacent to Piccola Osteria, so you can make it a complete Mediterranean night with a mug of after-dinner Turkish coffee.
- 19375 Plum Canyon Rd., Ste. C, Santa Clarita. 661-367-4758.
One Bite Dumpling
One Bite Dumpling opened in May 2021 and by August, the Santa Clarita Valley Signal had named it Best New Restaurant of 2021. No surprise given that this acclaimed eatery offers the closest thing you'll find to traditional Cantonese-style dim sum dishes anywhere in the area. One bite of the soft, briny crab meat xiao long bao is indeed all you need to be invited to slurp the delicious seafood broth out of the aluminum tray. And One Bite's sweet dumplings are equally tasty. The creamy egg custard buns are as good as gold (and literally stuffed with it), as are the ones filled with chest-warming taro paste. We recommend a lunchtime visit because the dinner rush typically requires an extended wait.
- 23120 Lyons Ave., Ste 6, Valencia. 661-414-3138.
Patio Tapatio calls its barbacoa tacos "the best you'll ever eat." They make a good case. This diner-style Canyon Country outpost only opened its doors in September 2021 but that hasn't stopped it from assembling a roster of regulars jonesing for more of their soft braised beef. Spiciness is the secret weapon here, with a little more than necessary in every bite (if you request additional salsa on dishes like the burrito a la diabla, you'll be sweating bullets). Unfortunately, lax COVID protocols are still a concern. We get that restaurants hate having to play mask police, but on two visits for this story, several unmasked patrons were served without any pushback from management. If you're worried about coronavirus transmission, consider delivery.
- 18744 Soledad Canyon Rd., Santa Clarita. 661-360-8666.
Ooh La La Panini
Since introducing its array of titular paninis to the public in early September 2021, Ooh La La Panini has been unrelentingly busy — and for good reason. Its signature sandwich, the Ooh La La panini, is a tart, lightly spicy mix of shrimp, housemade tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. Drinks include fresh horchata smoothies with daubs of vanilla ice cream, green grape lemonade and milks made with premium matcha powder or infused with strawberries. The cafe's decor looks like it was copped from a Nancy Meyers movie, complete with faux-inspirational placards. The price point could come down by a few bucks (the burrata salad lunch special feels exorbitant at $18) but this is a good pick for a celebratory lunch or for anyone who has a corporate credit card.
- 27069 1/2 Mcbean Pkwy., Santa Clarita. 661-505-7073.
XRO Fresh Churro Bar
Main Street, the Western-style center of Old Town Newhall, has undergone drastic changes from the days of yore. It's now the SCV's main culinary hub with Daniel Otto's Old Town Junction and the revamped Newhall Refinery leading the charge. The latest challenger for the throne is XRO Fresh Churro Bar, a small but impressive counter-service place. Born out of a popular stand at the Newhall Farmers' Market, XRO's churros blend old school technique with modern experimentation. Case in point, a $5.60 affogato with house-made gelato, vegan mini-churros and fruity pebbles mixed into espresso. Pro-tip for drivers wary of the notoriously poor parking on Main Street: Dip into the new free parking structure behind the bar.
- 24450 Main St., Newhall. 661-200-3069.
Juan & Nita's Bagnet-Silog
Restaurateurs Melvin and Madelaine Blanco have achieved something special with Juan & Nita's Bagnet-Silog, a family-owned restaurant where the customers are enmeshed with the family. Since opening in October 2020, the Blancos have offered traditional Filipino dishes such as bagnet (fried pork belly) and silog (fried rice and egg), giving them free to clergy and public servants during the pandemic. Paying customers with holiday parties may prefer their boodle feasts, massive catered plates of pancit, vegetables and mixed meats served family-style with banana leaves. Whatever the dish, the Blancos' cooking is soulful, satisfying and best enjoyed with Juan & Nita's pistachio boba.
- 27251 Camp Plenty Rd., Santa Clarita. 661-360-7329.