Eat, Walk, Glendale

Catherine Yesayan

BY CATHERINE YESAYAN

It was a Sunday full of discoveries. My son Erik picked me up at 8 in the morning and we drove to the bank of the LA River in Glendale, to join a walking tour of the river. Yes, a real river runs through Glendale! It’s a river where you can swim and kayak, and I hadn’t even heard about it until recently.

At the Riverwalk, we met a dozen people and we started out on the tour, which had been organized by “Walk, Bike, Glendale.”

Although I’d seen articles about the opening of the new Riverwalk in Glendale, I should admit that I was not prepared to see a large body of water surrounded with lush trees and great scenery. It was just like the Karaj River I remember from my childhood in Tehran.

It took us about 30 minutes to walk the half-mile stretch which the city has turned into a linear park by the river and landscaped with native plants in their raw and natural forms. Along the path, the tour stopped a few times to cover some of the history of the river and details of the park which is now called the Glendale Narrows Riverwalk.

After enjoying our walk along the river’s bank, we exited the park and continued the tour towards the Grand Central Air Terminal, which was a few short blocks away. The historic Terminal was built in 1928 and played a major role in the development of American commercial aviation. In those days, Glendale ruled the skies and its terminal was associated with famous aviators such as Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh.

The watch-tower of the terminal, which still stands today, carries stylized Art Deco-era details. Today the building is owned by the Walt Disney Company and is in urgent need of restoration. Even though I’ve lived in Glendale for 34 years, I had never visited this historic site, and I’m an enthusiast for all things connected to history. Thank you, Walk, Bike, Glendale, for arranging the tour!

After we got back to our car my son suggested we go and have a bite to eat together. Now, where should we eat? Adana Armenian restaurant, close by and recently reviewed in the New York Times – yes, the New York Times! – came to our mind. My son told me that the day after the New York Times review was published, a line formed outside of the restaurant.

Let’s take a look at how in the world a little-known restaurant in Glendale, a “hole in the wall” eatery, can receive a visit and review from Mark Bittman, a leading food critic for the New York Times. It all boils down to location, location, location.

As Bittman put it in his review, “Adana restaurant is on the terminally unhip San Fernando Road, right near the Burbank border.” Yes, an unhip location, but close to all the movie studios.

The story is that one day, when Bittman was visiting a movie studio in Glendale, a friend suggested they eat at Adana restaurant. He liked the food and wrote a review. That simple!

It was around 11 a.m. when we got there.  We were the only customers at the tiny restaurant at that early hour. We sat at a table right in the middle and ordered food.

I had Sunday’s L.A. Times with me, and we started to read the paper while waiting for our food to be served. Then an American couple, husband and wife, stepped in. As the place is so small and we were sitting right in the middle by the door, we said “hello” and started a conversation with them. They said they had read a good review of the restaurant in the morning paper and had decided to drop by and order food to go.

Erik and I looked at each other in dismay, wondering why we hadn’t seen the review in the local paper. Then we checked the stack again, and yes, there it was in the Sunday Glendale News-Press food section.

Next, a woman walked in. She had come all the way from Echo Park, just south of Glendale, and she had ordered food to take home for an afternoon party. Her order was ready when she arrived, so she picked up her order and left. Then another American man came who had also ordered food to go.

We carried on conversations with everyone who came in. It kind of reminded me of a play by William Saroyan, “The Time of Your Life,” which happens in a saloon/restaurant. Throughout the play clients are coming and going, and you learn about their lives.

The man in his 40s who was serving us told us that his dad had started the restaurant 16 years ago. I could tell by his accent that he was Armenian from Armenia, but the food had Persian flavor. So I asked about his background. He said that he was born in Armenia but his parents had repatriated from Iran in the early 1970s.

He went on to say: “My dad was one of the chefs at the Armenian Club in Tehran.”

“Oh, then he must know my uncle, who was the director of the Club,” I said.

I asked him if his dad was at the restaurant and if I could speak with him. Dad came out and I remembered his face from the days when we went to the Armenian Club in Tehran to dine. His name was Samson.

I asked him, “Do you know my uncle Arshik? He said, “Of course! I know Arshik, and all of his buddies, too.” He started naming all of his friends from the Armenian Club and I knew most of them. His stories took me back to the “Golden Years” of Tehran and brought back a lot of memories.

He told us about the celebrities that he had served, from Charles Aznavour to members of the Shah’s family. As we were leaving the restaurant, my son said, “Mom, I should learn more about your life in Iran.” Yes, maybe one day he will.

That concluded a wonderful day spent with my son, with hopes to spend more time together.

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