Dining Out in Simi Valley

If you are new to Simi Valley, you have probably just recently realized that there are really only so many good places to dine out around here. Maybe you have lived here for years and, like me, are wondering why with so many new places opening up you still have to wait hours if you want to go out to eat. Well, considering that I eat out almost every single weekend, I now consider myself an expert on finding the perfect option for dining out for any occasion. I’d like to share with you the best options for common situations, highlighting some of my favorite restaurants, some of the most popular restaurants, and some you may not have thought about recently.

IF YOU CAN START YOUR NIGHT EARLY�.
Then you can pretty much go to any restaurant you please. Pretty much all of the good restaurants in Simi do not get really crowded before 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. So if you can plan ahead and start your night early, then your options really are wide open. Take advantage of the times that you can start early to hit some of the places that are always crowded, such as Red’s Barbecue. Considering the fact that Red’s does not accept reservations or call ahead, and is always packed, I highly recommend dining here around 5 or 6 p.m.

IF YOU CAN’T GET OUT UNTIL LATER, OR JUST PREFER TO EAT AROUND 6 OR 7 P.MâÂ?¦..
Consider calling ahead! Many restaurants accept call ahead. This is not quite like reservations, because you cannot call in the afternoon and specify a time that you will be there, but you can call before you leave to go to the restaurant, and they will put you on the list. As previously mentioned, Red’s does not accept call ahead seating, but many of the chain restaurants, such as Chili’s and TGI Friday’s, do. Chili’s is always great about this. If you call ahead at Chili’s, you almost never have to wait at all once you arrive. Friday’s is not as great about this, but it will cut down your wait time, which is almost necessary as you almost always end up waiting 45 minutes to an hour at Friday’s otherwise. Applebee’s does not accept call ahead seating; however, the wait there on weekends is usually not too bad, and they are usually accurate in their estimates, so you can call and ask how long the wait is when making your decision on where to dine. When in doubt, it never hurts to ask, so always at least try calling ahead at any restaurant. At worst, they can usually tell you what the average wait is at that time.

IS THERE ANYWHERE WORTHWHILE IN THIS CITY WHERE THERE IS NOT USUALLY A LONG WAIT?
By all means, yes! You just have to be a little creative in your thinking, and remember some of the more obscure places. If you want Mexican, instead of going to El Torito where you are assured a long wait, think of maybe Don Cuco’s or one of the El Patio restaurants. The food at Don Cuco’s is excellent, and their portions are very generous. My best friend and I often share the fajitas (for one person, not two), and still there is always food to take home.
If you want Italian and you don’t want to wait, forgo the new Johnny Carino’s or the ever-popular Macaroni Grill and head to Palermo, or Giovanni’s, or Paul’s Italian Villa. If you ask me, the food at these independent places is usually so much better. I have seen Paul before, and trust me- he is a genuine Italian! Plus, a lot of these places have great coupons in the local coupon mailers that really save you a lot. Last weekend we used a coupon for $5.00 off our meal at Paul’s. It may be just five bucks, but that will pay the gas to get there these days!
If you are looking for a non-specific cuisine, try Applebee’s, The Elephant Bar, or Hudson’s Grill. All have great food with a wide variety of menu options, and the wait at each of these places is usually fairly short.

THE BEST PLACES FOR LARGE PARTIES
Some places are just great for accommodating large parties, while others just can’t seem to get it right. For instance, Islands is just not good for large parties. They have almost all booths, and if you have more than six people in your party you will most likely have to split into two tables. I think they may have a couple of tables that can seat more, but the wait is often rather long.
Chili’s is great at accommodating large parties, especially if you make reservations or at least call ahead. They will usually assign a number of servers to assist you, so you won’t have to wait forever just to get a refill on your soda. Macaroni Grill, who is owned by the same company as Chili’s, also takes reservations and is great for large parties. (Plus, their bread is delicious!) If the tastes of your group differ greatly, maybe try something like Marie Callender’s. They take reservations and handle large parties very well.
If you don’t know that you will be able to plan ahead with reservations, The Elephant Bar and Hudson’s Grill are great. Both of these restaurants have a pretty big facility and flexible table options, so they can usually get it together for a large party in no time at all. If you have any doubts about taking a large party to a certain restaurant, again I recommend calling ahead. Usually, the hosts or hostesses who answer the phone are fairly honest and will tell you how well they can accommodate your group.

GREAT FOOD, BUT WITH A CASUAL ATMOSPHERE AND CHEAPER PRICE
Sometimes, you just don’t feel like dining upscale. You are okay with having your food served in a basket, but you just want it to taste really good. You don’t want fast food, but you don’t want to pay full price with a 15-20% tip on top of that. There are some great places for this!
There are two Chuy’s locations in Simi Valley, and they are great! The food is excellent, the margaritas are strong and reasonably priced, and the atmosphere is ultra casual. You place your order at the cash register, but then they bring the food to your table. You don’t get served from there on out though, so you don’t have to worry about a big tip. You can have as many refills on tortilla chips and soda as you want, but you have to get up and get them yourself. It is not a super relaxing dining experience, but it saves money and the food is just as good, if not better, than a full serve restaurant. Try the tri-tip and I am sure you will agree!
Also similar to this is Mission Burrito on Tapo Street, or Tico’s Tacos on Los Angeles Avenue. The Mexican food at these places is just as good as their more formal counterparts, but the prices are cheaper and you don’t usually have to wait for a table.
On the slightly more pricey side, but at least allowing you to forgo the big tip, is Hometown Buffet. If you have a big family, this can be a good way to please everyone and not have to deal with all the special orders driving your waitress crazy.
On the slightly cheaper side, there is Chicken Bowl. My husband is a huge fan of chicken bowl. The menu variety isn’t the greatest; they pretty much just have chicken, beef, or vegetable bowls served over rice or noodles, but it’s quick, you can eat it there, and it certainly tastes better than your average fast food.

WHEN YOU WANT GREAT FOOD, BUT YOU’D RATHER GET IT TO GO
If you want to get food to go and eat it at home, you don’t have to get fast food. You really don’t! Many of the yummiest restaurants handle take-out orders quickly and efficiently. They package it well with all the sauces and condiments you’d enjoy at the restaurant, and have it ready in just minutes. This works especially well if you call ahead. For some reason, when we think take-out, we often think of only pizza or Chinese, but you can order from the menu of many of your favorite restaurants of all cuisines. Most of the bigger chains even have their menu online so you can decide what you want in advance.
My favorite place for take-out is Red’s Barbecue. Ordering it to eat at home means not having to wait for a table, but it also means saving money on the drinks and tip that can quickly add up. Plus, they have great value packages for parties of all sizes (including a great value meal for two people), that save you money but still give you plenty of food. Red’s has a separate entrance and waiting area for take-out orders, too! If you are feeling really lazy, Chili’s has carside service, so you don’t even have to get out of you car. It’s drive-thru service with dine-in quality food. Paul’s Italian Villa also has great take-out and, probably because it’s a “pizza place,” they even deliver if the order is big enough. You can get a great pizza, certainly better than the greasy pie you’d get from somewhere like Pizza Hut, but you can also try their eggplant, or one of their delicious chicken dishes, with a side of their yummy pasta.
Just because you want to eat at home, which can often be the best option when you have small children, doesn’t mean you have to eat fast food.

SOME FINAL PARTING TIPS�
I have just a few final thoughts that I would like to add in regards to a bunch of random things. The new Simi Valley Towne Center is great, and so are the restaurants that come with it, but a bit of a warning about one of them. California Pizza Kitchen is usually crowded, and has like no room to sit down and wait for a table. If you don’t feel like standing while you wait for your table, don’t go here. Red Robin, across the walk from CPK, has a decent waiting area, and if you want to stand you can watch the television screens in the floor beneath your feet, which are usually showing sports of some kind.
Try to break out of your routine sometimes and try some place different! Some of my favorite places have been found when I broke out of the ordinary and tried some place I saw in an ad somewhere. Who knows� it could be a terrible experience, or you could have a new favorite restaurant!

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