Bad things happen to good people, they say, but I would amend that to include good restaurants, too. For long-time residents of Santa Clarita, the tale is as old as the city itself: whenever a particularly impressive new eatery makes its home here, adventurous customers proclaim its merits just before the rent goes up and the eatery is forced to leave for cheaper pastures.
This ritual, which is as much ingrained in our regional food culture as the actual food, has left a trail of failure stains across the valley. It seems like every neighborhood features a spot where restaurant after restaurant, chains and family businesses alike, have come and gone with the wind. Residents have become conditioned to see this pattern as part of the local folklore. “Surely no new establishment can survive where so many have collapsed before it,” we reason. “The place is jinxed.”
The troubled history of these locations does not seem to have stymied new restaurants, however, which continue to proliferate in spaces doomed to collapse. Here, The Proclaimer offers a glimpse of some notorious spots — and our critic’s thoughts on how the latest crop of businesses operating there will fare.
Tell us about the restaurants we missed in the comments.
Address: 27598 Sierra Hwy., Santa Clarita, CA 91351
Currently: Las Delicias
Formerly: Lollicup; Phat & Juicy Burgers
When the quietly wonderful boba emporium Lollicup was replaced by the altogether less charming Phat & Juicy Burgers, it left a void for Taiwanese fast-food that SCV was slow to fill. Now, in a welcome change, burgers have been swapped for tacos at the newest of the valley’s Las Delicias franchises. While not yet up to the level of its Sierra Highway counterpart, Las Delicias has quickly established itself as a fearsome competitor to Tacos Los Toritos across the street. For the moment, however, Los Toritos – a bonafide Santa Claritan icon – retains its edge.
Address: 24300 Town Center Dr., Suite #110, Valencia, CA 91355
Currently: EMC Seafood & Raw Bar
Formerly: The Tilted Kilt; Twin Palms
Valencia remains fresh fish-challenged, with an increasingly spotty portfolio of sushi restaurants and the recent demise of the surprisingly skillful Bonefish Grill. The latest challenger for the seafood crown is EMC, the ambitious Koreatown-founded microchain that boasts of unending oysters and a bespoke cocktail list. EMC is a step up from the location’s lascivious former tenants, to be sure. But with its frantically swollen menu, aberrant service quality and multiple managers gone in the three months since its opening, it may turn out to be nothing more than a blip on foodies’ radars.
Address: 19319 Soledad Canyon Rd., Santa Clarita, CA 91351
Currently: Medrano’s Mexican Restaurant
Formerly: Rattler’s Bar B Que; Supermoon Buffet
Perhaps the most notoriously cursed lot in the city, this corner space in Canyon Center has flipped more readily in the last decade than Surya Bonaly. That may change with the 20-year-old, Lancaster-founded, family-owned tenant that opened its fourth location there earlier this year. While its menu skews traditional – another word for “bland” in the food industry – Medrano’s is quickly bolstering its reputation with well-portioned plates and drinks, a hypercompetent bar staff and the most inclusive karaoke night east of Newhall. No one said you had to reinvent the wheel to stay in business.
Address: 23460 Cinema Dr., Suite A, Santa Clarita 91355
Currently: Iconic Eats
Formerly: Fatburger; Pizza del Sardo
In the same city as Bergie’s, Bricks, and Brothers, Fatburger never stood a chance, but at least the quality of its food was predictable. Its successor on Cinema Drive, Iconic Eats, has struggled to find its sea-legs, resulting in wildly different experiences from visit to visit. It excels, for example, in handsome vegan offerings: pleasurably crusty Blistered Brussels Sprouts ($8), and a heart-warmingly pungent Coconut Curry ($14). Yet usually reliable standards – pizza, fries, its tall-yet-tiny burgers – are inexplicably overpriced and often more boring than their decorous menu descriptions. In its effort to co-opt the language of hipster dining, this ambitious gastropub spreads itself too thin to provide meaningful service. Fatburger may yet rise again.
Address: 18729 Via Princessa, Santa Clarita, CA 91387
Currently: It’s Boba Time
Formerly: Mugshot Coffee House; It’s a Grind
As my colleague Brianna Bricker wrote last month, Santa Clarita has become rich with family-owned and operated coffee shops. Still, espresso connoisseurs mourned the recent loss of Mugshot, which provided Canyon Country a brief, beautiful respite from its Starbucks dependency. Last April, the beloved LA-based It’s Boba Time took over, and it has by all appearances flourished. Those still grieving may take solace in knowing that, with several winning taro concoctions and an impeccably balanced Thai tea (capable of giving you as much a buzz as Mugshot’s best brews), It’s Boba Time is hardly a step down.
Address: 18836 Soledad Canyon Rd., Santa Clarita, CA 91351
Formerly: Liansss Macarons; Bake You Happy
It takes a particularly unhealthy business to flounder while selling the valley’s most succulent homemade dessert pastries right next to a movie theater. Alas, it seems that local businesses finally got the message after Liansss Macarons’ sudden demise almost two years ago. Its colorful sign still hangs above the doorway, yet none brave enough to risk being haunted by the specter of the wonderful previous tenant has since emerged. Whoever moves into that lot next is sure to be saddled with widespread skepticism for its survival, regardless of the products offered there. Any takers?