One of the best things about the Valley is its strip malls, where boba tea served with giant straws, Armenian delis, Thai massage parlors, nail salons, magic shops, sushi bars, vegan gelato and kosher kebabs all exist in happy harmony. Except for the unrealistically tiny parking spaces, these mini shopping Meccas represent L.A. multiculturalism at its best.
(About that parking– maybe it’s not that the spaces are so small, but that the vehicles are so needlessly large. Am I the only one who gawks in amazement when a lone, 100-pound woman, carrying a 6-ounce cup of nonfat frozen yogurt, climbs back into her Cadillac Escalade? But I digress.)
And no business sign more embodies the wonderful cultural mix of our pod malls than this one at the corner of Moorpark and Vineland Avenue in Toluca Lake, on the cusp of Studio City and North Hollywood—the one that reads “.”
Just imagine a cascade of sweet brown teriyaki sauce, poured over a scoop of ice cream in the variety of your choice, poised atop a warm and delicious beef patty—and then, with wanton abandon, the whole thing tossed into a blender, releasing a tornado of disparate hot-cold flavors. Mmm, mmm, good!
OK – not. The sign exists, but the recipe does not at Twin Castle Drive-In, where you can indeed order hamburgers, teriyaki or a milk shake in such flavors as Oreo, M&M and Butterfinger—but not blended together. Current owner and manager Hugh Chong, who took the place over in 2007, retained the traditional American drive-in fare but updated the menu with teriyaki plates and breakfast burritos. Chong also manages the adjoining donut shop.
Chong also updated the ambience—although Heidi and I have been driving by and giggling at the hamburger-teriyaki-milkshake concept for years (we’re easily amused), we finally decided to stop by when we noticed new tables, umbrellas and palm trees outside, creating a shady, dog-friendly seating area.
Another digression: This restaurant review suggests that the establishment actually serves a “teriyaki milkshake” that is a variation on vanilla. I am assured by the staff that they do not. And, as this Yelp.com business link indicates, Heidi and I are not the only ones who have been tickled by the sign; one commenter calls the idea of a teriyaki milkshake "truly frightening."
We got turkey burgers, fries, lemonade—and a history lesson from Chong. He’s had the donut shop for longer than the restaurant, opened not too long before the Northridge quake. Very early on the fateful morning of Jan. 17, 1994, in the scary wee hours after the 4:30 a.m. quake, shaken residents were out and about, looking for a place to congregate and some comfort food.
“We already had some donuts ready at that time. People remember us for that,” Chong reminisced.
Chong also mentioned that celebrities including Joe Pesci, Kirstie Alley and Adam Sandler have sampled his fare, and he does a brisk take-out business for the studios. He added that the ‘60s-era red tables have been featured in an Eminem music video (not sure which one -- if you know, let us know). Not bad for a little drive-in unfashionably located across the street from a gas station. And despite the entertainment industry's professed obsession with health food, Chong says the donuts are a best-seller: "People want sweet stuff."
We got so busy talking, I forgot to mention that Heidi is an actress—meaning that Twin Castle is now also on the radar of dog celebrities, especially those in search of a hamburger teriyaki milk shake.