The first thing that caught my eye was the seemingly-out-of-place “Vegetarian” sign amidst the block of hole-in-the-wall spots at Victory Boulevard and Tujunga Avenue. It was several years ago when I was driving along Victory that I noticed among a group of small businesses in a no-frills area (read: non-gentrified) of North Hollywood, and I added it to my mental list of places to visit.
Standing next to a laundromat, salon and bike shop, the restaurant has been serving healthy Mexican food for more than 30 years at the same location, just about a mile away from the NoHo Arts District’s northernmost boundary line.
I walk in through the rear entrance on a Wednesday night to grab a solo dinner-to-go, and a woman greets me warmly from the front counter. I’m the only customer in sight, but it’s also 15 minutes before closing.
The menu includes pizza, salads, sandwiches, dinner specials and fresh juices, in addition to the Mexican dishes. I order a large Forever-Young Buffalo Bill burrito, which is more like a giant stuffed taco: wheat tortillas with brown rice, beans, avocado, tomatoes, red onions and soy cheese. The Very Veggie juice – carrots, celery, spinach, beets, tomatoes and cucumbers – looks tempting, but I decide to save it for another visit.
I pay for my food and then wander to the dining area to wait – it’s a small place with a capacity of about 50 and it’s painted in a nacho cheese shade of orange, which only makes my hungrier.
The walls boast charming folk art amidst a collection of signed headshots, most of which are in black and white: Linda Blair, Barbra Streisand and the late River Phoenix are among a few celebrities (and fans of Leonor's) from the past three decades whose faces I quickly recognize as I wait for dinner to be ready.
“Okay, señorita!” Is the cue I hear from the counter, signaling that the food is ready. I pick it up from the friendly woman up front and then head home.
The burrito tastes healthy and fresh, and it’s the first time I’ve eaten Mexican food sans the end-of-meal food coma. It’s evident in the flavor that the restaurant has a low-sodium approach to its cooking. While some online reviewers have complained about the seeming lack of salt, I prefer it Leonor’s way and would rather add salt to a plate as needed.
Our own Arts District has only existed for one-third of the time Leonor’s has been serving North Hollywood – if she’s been able to keep her customers’ blood pressure levels down for three decades, she must be doing something right.
is located at 11403 Victory Boulevard in North Hollywood. Business hours are Mondays through Thursdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
About this column: I'll be your adventure guide through the bustling arts district, Toluca Lake and the rest of North Hollywood, surveying theater, film, books, music, politics, places and people for your daily culture intake.