Have you driven down Ventura Blvd. in Studio City lately? There are good bars and kitschy retro diners, and there’s some of the best sushi in the city (read: world). Oh, and more mediocre neighborhood taverns than have ever existed in one place in history. We’re not one to look down on an easy place to grab a beer and a solid burger and stare at some exposed brick for a few hours, but Studio City, you deserve better. You deserve The Bellwether.
At first glance, this casual comfort food spot doesn’t look all that much different than any other place along Ventura. Its black-and-white beamed exterior will vaguely remind you of some nauseating trinket shop in the Bavarian wine nightmare that is Solvang, CA, but otherwise there’s a good chance you’ll drive past it a few times before noticing it. And frankly, the inside isn’t that much more exciting. But for whatever The Bellwether lacks in overall aesthetic, it makes up for in energy. Come any night of the week and this place will be filled. And it’s filled with people who are enjoying themselves because they’re eating some very solid food.
You’re definitely going to recognize everything on the menu, but if you came to Studio City looking for adventurous eating, you were given wrong advice in the first place. There’s tempura cauliflower, and there are meatballs, and there’s only one sign you’re actually still in Los Angeles: charred octopus. The patty melt also makes an appearance (and it’s a must-order). Nothing is going to change how you look at the world or yourself, but everything’s accessible and very much on a higher level than local competition.
Maybe the real reason this place is so successful is that the people running it clearly know this is Studio City, and no one eating here is in the mood for fussy restaurants. The Bellwether is casual, but not so casual that you wouldn’t bring your boss or wide-eyed parents here - unlike a lot of Studio City spots, there won’t be a Lakers game blaring in the background. The Bellwether has simply found that elusive middle ground. Now go Google Solvang.
This baby doesn’t have any weird toppings or cheeses or organic aiolis on it, it’s just a classic patty melt and it’s damn delicious. It’s also big enough that sharing between a few people won’t deteriorate into a war of the worlds.
It’s hard to mess up deep-fried vegetables and The Bellwether definitely does not. The cauliflower is cooked so that its needed crunch survives the deep-fryer. Also, you can tell your mom you had vegetables today?
The octopus itself is good, but it’s the greek yogurt bath at the bottom that makes this dish a must-order.
Not the best meatballs we’ve ever had, but these guys will be gone before they hit the table. Proving once again that ricotta solves all the world’s problems.
Good fries are harder to come by than you’d think. And these are definitely good fries.
This is really the only complete miss for us. The whole thing was very runny and felt like it needed to be left in the oven a little longer. Feel free to skip.