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This must be Topanga Canyon

There’s still magic in Topanga Canyon.

The fabled mountain community famed for its bohemian sentimentality and artistic mythos has, for decades, garnered a reputation as L.A.’s funky, hippie, commune-happy enclave that bridges Woodland Hills and Pacific Coast Highway. The notoriety is well-earned. A restorative drive through the canyon’s roughly 20-mile main road reveals art installations, roadside vendors and sun-dappled oak trees through twists and turns and vistas each more scenic than the last. It’s a drive worth making, especially now.

After a particularly rainy season, multiple mudslides have blocked Topanga Canyon’s entry from PCH for more than a month. Shops, restaurants and other businesses that depend on visitors are struggling, with access more or less limited to Route 27’s northern entrance, in Woodland Hills.

Get to know Los Angeles through the places that bring it to life. From restaurants to shops to outdoor spaces, here’s what to discover now.

It’s a great time to explore the canyon and support its tight-knit community and natural beauty.

According to linguist, author and Native American language specialist William Bright, the Tongva tribe, who originally occupied the land, named the canyon, though he could not provide a translation. Multiple scholars have speculated it could mean “a place above” — fitting for a region that, on overcast days, can feel above the clouds, its mountains peeking out just over them.

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During Hollywood’s Golden Age, some of the world’s most famous stars commissioned homes in the canyon, using Topanga as a weekend getaway. Will Geer and Woody Guthrie created an artists commune that blossomed into a beloved theatrical stage. Neil Young famously recorded “After the Gold Rush” at his home there, and countless other musicians of the 1960s, ’70s and beyond — including Joni Mitchell, Jim Morrison, Marvin Gaye and Colin Hay — have looked to Topanga for inspiration, if not a place to dwell. It’s seen darkness too, including the Manson Family murder of Gary Hinman in 1969. Accusations of healers and spiritualists veering into cult leadership. A collection of burned-out ruins that could have housed a commune of Nazi sympathizers.

Topanga’s juxtaposition of light and dark only adds to the mystique and the mythos of one of L.A.’s most scenic locales. But its intrigue and popularity, as well as its location, could have contributed to making the enclave more inaccessible.

In many ways, like much of Los Angeles, the canyon’s demographics have shifted and metamorphosed in recent history. What was in decades past a mix of homes and ranches accessible for musicians, visual artists, actors and other creatives of varying levels of success and fame has gradually set an increasingly high bar for financial entry. Luxury homes have begun to replace some of its more humble abodes on the cliffsides, and luxury cars line the boulevard.

“Before, people didn’t have fences,” said Patrice Winter, a Topanga resident of more than 50 years and the community fixture behind the Canyon Bakery. “They minded their own business and were neighborly at the same time. In the late ’80s they started building fences, and then the war of how high the fence could be had begun, and that was the change. That’s when I started to notice, ‘You know what? There are people here who think they can move up here into a community and block themselves off because they need peace, and they don’t want to know who their neighbor is.’”

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Still, in many ways, the canyon remains the same, in part due to Winter and other locals keeping the community spirit alive. In spring, locals and visitors flock to the community center’s sprawling annual fundraiser, Topanga Days, where the music of live bands floats through the air. In fall, roughly two dozen films from residents, indie talent, up-and-coming directors and more screen in the canyon during the annual Topanga Film Festival. Shop owners and restaurants often can be found collaborating with one another and hosting independent artists with gallery shows and live music nights.

Earlier this year, a pair of longtime residents revitalized the Topanga Farmers Market to help showcase local vendors and revive the weekly event, which had gone dormant for nearly six years. When it returned in early March, the buzz was palpable; it hosted nearly 40 vendors, many of which sold out of their goods entirely.

Topanga’s neighborly mindset also prompts residents to band together to raise awareness for efforts and fundraisers, and regularly use whatever platforms they possess to spread the word about businesses adversely affected by natural disasters and other misfortunes — especially in the wake of the recent mudslides and road blockages.

Despite its changes, modern-day Topanga Canyon is just as full of whimsy, beauty and neighborly love as it ever was. Here are just a few ways to explore its bakers, artists, yoga studios, restaurants and shop owners — with a few suggestions on how to bring a bit of the Topanga spirit home with you.

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What's included in this guide

Anyone who’s lived in a major metropolis can tell you that neighborhoods are a tricky thing. They’re eternally malleable and evoke sociological questions around how we place our homes, our neighbors and our communities within a wider tapestry. In the name of neighborly generosity, we included gems that may linger outside of technical parameters. Instead of leaning into stark definitions, we hope to celebrate all of the places that make us love where we live.

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A person in a wetsuit holding a surfboard rinses off in an outdoor shower at the beach.
(Silvia Rázgová / For The Times)

Start your day with some swells at Topanga Beach

Topanga Beach
One of L.A.’s most sought-after surf spots can be found at the mouth of Topanga Canyon along PCH, lined with palms and other greenery, and brimming with surfers, yogis, sunbathers and divers. For more than half a century, Topanga Beach has proved one of the region’s best surf locales, due in no small part to its point break and more than a mile of coastline. Start your day with some sunrise swells, and the earlier, the better — especially if you’re trying to avoid crowds.

With so much demand for the long-favorite beach, ocean traffic can lead to unwanted drop-ins and territorial spats. Though Topanga Beach’s famous locals-only vibe has receded somewhat in recent years, it’s best to brush up on surf etiquette and defer to the lifers, especially if you’re a beginner surfer. The waves here are most fitting for the intermediate to advanced crowd, but even if you’re not grabbing a board, this beach is a killer spot to lay out on a blanket and catch the sunrise before heading into the canyon.
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Guests dine on the patio of Topanga Living Cafe, which is tucked into a canyon hillside
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Sip a latte on the mountainside patio of Topanga Living Cafe

Topanga Cafe
One of Topanga’s most popular cafes is nestled against the base of a large rockside, making for a scenic place to sip. Locals and visitors flock to Topanga Living Cafe for its rainbow of fresh smoothies, all-day breakfasts and a rotation of pastries and skillet quiches in the bakery case, though the space also serves as a community center with local art on display as well as a small market for Topanga- and broader-L.A.-made home goods.

Peruse the cookies, cinnamon buns, scones, muffins, tartines and other specials in the glass case, or opt for the likes of falafel pita sandwiches with mint tahini, squash tacos topped with curry-vinaigrette slaw or fluffy-egged breakfast burritos — especially with a smoothie, matcha latte, house-made lemonade or any classic espresso concoction. While awaiting your order, note the art and shop the wares such as sage bundles, bags of coffee beans, locally grown honey, tea blends, seasonal jams and bath bombs, then head to the patio for a tranquil space to enjoy the primarily local, organic fare, which often arrives garnished with edible flowers.
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Portrait of Patrice Winter inside the kitchen of The Canyon Bakery located in Topanga Canyon.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Sample the local flavors of rustic pastries at the Canyon Bakery

Topanga Bakery and desserts
The typical draw at Topanga’s famous amphitheater is live performance, but on Sunday mornings it’s the array of Patrice Winter’s baked goods pulled fresh from her tiny oven. Beginning at 9 a.m. the longtime Topanga resident operates her bakery from a small wooden structure on the grounds of the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, turning out morning buns, tarts, cookies, croissants, loaves of bread, bagels and pies made from heirloom grains, which she mills on-site, and a sourdough starter made from yeast that she cultivated from canyon grapes roughly 50 years ago. Rustic, hearty and filled with local produce, Winter’s pastries are worth the drive into the canyon alone, and every weekend her customers include travelers, locals, families, pets and all other walkers who stop by to catch up with the baker and her husband and business partner, Dave Winter. They order at the window, then head to the theater’s picnic benches to enjoy the treats. Can’t make it to the theater on Sunday mornings? The Canyon Bakery also can be found vending at the recently relaunched Topanga Farmers Market on Fridays, but get there early — these sweets disappear fast.
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A woman stands among racks of clothing at Hidden Treasures.
(Silvia Rázgová / Los Angeles Times)

Score funky vintage finds at Hidden Treasures

Topanga Vintage store
Part Topanga institution, part roadside attraction, Hidden Treasures is a colorful vintage mecca. Step through the entrance — located just under a skeleton pirate manning a wooden ship’s helm on the front balcony — and enter a kaleidoscopic maze of clothing racks, film props, a blacklight room, antique mannequins, disco balls and a large diving suit beneath a shark and an octopus. It’s been this way for decades. Darrell Hazen began his operation as a canyon pop-up stand, which grew to a bricks-and-mortar in the late 1980s. In 1993 it moved to its current location along the edge of the Pine Tree Circle shopping center and became the weird and wonderful destination it is today. Fringe leather jackets mingle with 1960s Hawaiian shirts, while ’30s hats, ’50s dressing robes and ’80s evening gowns provide another way to time travel through styles of yore. All items are hand-picked (some date as far back as the Victorian era), with accessories, knick-knacks and occasional home goods tucked into every crevice imaginable. Plan to spend some time here — there’s a lot to take in, and a lot you’ll probably want to take home.
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Produce on display at the Weiser Family Farms stand at the Topanga Farmers Market.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Shop the canyon’s bounty at the Topanga Farmers Market

Topanga Farmers Market
When the canyon’s farmers market closed its stalls in 2018 due to lack of vendors, the community wasn’t sure it would ever return. In March, after nearly six years away, it finally did under new management and with dozens of new participants. On Fridays, the split levels of the Topanga Community Center parking lot are abuzz with roughly 40 vendors: There are locally made candles, scented oils, clothes and every crystal imaginable, plus produce from local farms, specialty ingredients such as vegan cheese and frozen curry pastes made in the canyon, freshly baked pastries and prepared foods to nosh while you stroll. Look for stands such as Eli’s Bee Co., which sells Topanga-grown honey and pollen, and Aquifer Gardens, which farms fresh herbs, tomatoes, vegetables, citrus and other fruit trees on 8 acres nearby. Also, keep your eyes peeled for holiday pop-ups, a focus on sustainable and regenerative practices, and special programming such as workshops and live demos. At the Topanga Farmers Market, some of the region’s most recognizable farms sidle up alongside up-and-comers and hyper-local sellers for a standout blend of vendors, against the backdrop of the Santa Monica Mountains.
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An outdoor dining space under tall trees at Cafe on 27 in Topanga.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Eat in the trees at Cafe on 27

Topanga Restaurant
There’s almost no patio more picturesque in all of Los Angeles. Spread across multiple levels on a cliffside, under verdant trees, Cafe on 27’s views can’t be beat. This, of course, is far from a secret — especially on weekends, when wait times run long and cars line the boulevard for parking, their drivers hoping for a meal and a few photos. Posing for social media is de rigueur at this American restaurant and cafe, which features almost entirely outdoor seating and dishes such as churro chai pancakes, avocado toasts, vegan club sandwiches, brunchy kofta tagines, steak sandwiches and cauliflower pizza. The best bet is to head to this morning-to-afternoon cafe on a weekday, laptop in tow, and order a meal and any of its specialty coffee drinks, then connect to the Wi-Fi for a treehouse-like remote office with far less mayhem than you’ll find on weekends. A tandem shop, called what else but Shop on 27, sells incense, hats, jewelry and other trinkets should you want a souvenir from the visit.
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CA - October 08: Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum for the 16 Angeleno-approved alternatives to tourist traps. (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Catch an alfresco show at the storied Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum

Topanga Entertainment Venue
There’s something magical about the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum. The amphitheater founded by its namesake actor, musician and social activist has captivated the region for more than half a century and provided a haven for the arts, all hidden among the trees. Shakespeare is a particular focus here, where the grounds are planted with vegetation named in the bard’s works, and multiple Shakespeare plays are included in each repertory season. Original works also are produced, as are live musical and improv performances, and the grounds host family-friendly events such as holiday fairs.

Given its founder and its early days as an artists commune, the Theatricum Botanicum is heavily community-minded, hosting fundraisers, educational workshops, youth classes and the Shakespeare-themed “pay what you Will” nights. The theater also honors its founder’s friendship with and legacy of folk hero Woody Guthrie, who for a time lived on the premises; the team currently is working to build the Shelter, a Guthrie and Geer archive on-site. Geer’s daughter Ellen serves as the artistic director, and his granddaughter Willow participates in acting and directing, keeping the family’s legacy alive and thriving in the canyon.
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A woman on the floor in a yoga pose
(Silvia Rázgová / For The Times)

Find your flow at Ethereal Yoga

Topanga Yoga studio
Given the naturalistic history and hippie notoriety of Topanga, the canyon is unsurprisingly home to a range of yoga practices — some indoor, some outdoor, some private, some public. At Ethereal Yoga, one of the area’s premier studios, the class size is intimate and the mood is relaxed, whether you’re opting for the brisk clip of vinyasa flows or the slower pace of a candlelit yin class. Guests slip out of their shoes as they enter one of the most tranquil storefronts in the Pine Tree Circle shopping center, and they span demographics; that’s part of the design of Ethereal Yoga, which offers classes for all levels and age groups, such as a flow for its older practitioners called “Elder Not Elderly.” For those looking to recenter without yoga, Ethereal hosts meditation tea ceremonies, therapeutic breathwork and sound baths.
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Four black-rimmed white plates with varied food items at Endless Color in Topanga.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Seek out the pizza, natural wines and record shop of Endless Color

Topanga Italian Restaurant
When a new-wave pizzeria and wine bar opened in the former home of Topanga’s generationally beloved Rocco’s, more than a few eyebrows were raised. But it didn’t take long for Endless Color to prove itself a new pizza institution and a destination for those living across L.A., with fermented-dough pizzas, tender meatballs and piles of seasonal salad beckoning from a corner of Topanga Center Plaza.

An overhaul of the space added funky wallpaper, sleek concrete furnishings, splashes of color, wavy light fixtures and rows and rows of vinyl records, which, along with the California-Italian cuisine and whole bottles of natural wine, are also for sale. During the day, guests file in for a pared-down menu of small plates, meatball subs, calzones, chopped salads and 6-inch pizzas, with plenty of children and pups in sight on the patio. In the evening, the bulb lights flip on, the mirror balls glisten and occasional live music sets the scene for a broader menu of larger pizzas featuring seasonal produce and luxe toppings; starters such as roast sunchokes with cashew cream or crab salad lettuce wraps; pastas tossed with canyon ingredients like locally grown chanterelles; and entrées like whole fried branzino in aji verde.
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Three corked test tubes sit in a plant's pot
(Courtney Rawls / Wu?m)

Shop teas, tinctures and vintage at Wüm Essential Elements

Topanga Shop
Pine Tree Circle’s Wüm is a bit like a sunny, modern-day apothecary crossed with a compact vintage boutique. With a collection of teas, herbs, tinctures, candles and other items meant to promote wellness for the self and the home, as well as retro and well-curated glassware, kettles, books and blankets, you’ll want to pore over every shelf. Cubbies of bagged dried herbs and tea blends — some hyper-local, such as canyon-grown nettles and jujubes — line the wall, while glass jars hold dried yarrow, heather and more for bulk orders. The local ethos extends beyond the dried goods, as does a focus on sourcing from women-owned and sustainable-practice purveyors. Owners Coco Rawls and Mina Shahvali also infuse and sell house-made tinctures in flavors such as lemon zest and green tea or hibiscus, elderberry and apple cider vinegar, which can be taken by the dropper or added to tonic or soda water.

“Everything that’s here is a pretty small cluster of what I think are the essential herbs that you would need in a home apothecary,” said Rawls. “There’s hundreds and thousands of different plants, from ayurvedic, traditional Chinese medicine, Latin America, Africa, but these are the ones that I think are central.”
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La Chingona taco truck pops up in the Pine Tree Circle shopping center
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Feast on unique tacos at the La Chingona truck

Topanga Mexican Cuisine
Adriana Lemus does things a little differently. At her taco truck, formerly a roadside stand, the Guatemalan chef-owner believes “food is medicine” — which results in organic and GMO-free tacos, burritos, quesadillas, salad bowls, tostadas and plenty of vegan options, some items using hibiscus as a marinade, some topped with coconut crema.

Her most popular dish is the taco, featuring a freshly made tortilla that’s thick and satisfying, falling somewhere in density between a corn tortilla and an arepa; it folds around steak, chicken, shrimp, fish or vegan fillings such as soy chorizo with potato, nopales, yuca and beyond. Quesadillas, just-blistered on the plancha, can be ordered traditional and filled with vegetables and meats, while the vegan variety stuffs the pliant flour tortillas with potato starch, tapioca and coconut.

The standard menu offers ample items to mix and match, but don’t neglect the chalkboard specials, which might include handmade tamales, elote bowls, loaded fries, watermelon Tajin bowls, vegan horchata, tortas and seasonal aguas frescas. This is refreshing Guatemalan and Mexican food served with care against a scenic mountain range. Find Lemus and La Chingona popping up Tuesday, Friday and Sunday in Pine Tree Circle, and at community events.
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The interior of Kinship Station in Topanga, with wooden shelves and a glass front.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Browse one-of-a-kind home goods — from local to global — at Kinship Station

Topanga Shop
Kinship Station is a stylish treasure trove. The Pine Tree Circle boutique that fills a former auto shop boasts some of Topanga’s most well-curated knick-knacks, home items, jewelries and other curiosities, which owner Hediyeh Nikbakht collects and sources from locales as local as the canyon and as far-flung as Australia, Brazil, London, Papua New Guinea and Guadalajara.

Find a dizzying array of incense bundles, bath soaks, natural soaps, tinctures, candles and body oils meant to calm or energize, while items for the home — such as handmade ceramics, woven baskets, stained-glass trinkets, brass bowls and heavy, glossy wooden cutting boards — are always in view somewhere, beckoning. The racks of artisanal shawls and leather goods are just as enticing as the cases glowing with gold and gem-dotted necklaces, rings, studs and bracelets. Nikbakht keeps sustainable practices and a fair-trade ecosystem in mind and she rotates the wares frequently, so drop by often to browse something new on nearly — if not every — visit.
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Wood shelves hold bottles of liquids and creams at the Well Refill in Topanga.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Tap into the sustainability mindset at the Well Refill

Topanga Refill station
One of the signature tenets of Topanga living is an embrace of nature and the world around you, and one of the canyon’s favorite shops makes it easy to bring that practice home even if you’re heading back through the hills at the end of the day. At the Well Refill, owner Hayley Magrini offers more than 100 products — soaps, body oils, cleaning supplies and lotions — without plastic packaging, meant to be filled and refilled in reusable containers.

Simply bring your own sealable jars — even old, used containers you’re giving new life — or pick one up at the shop and peruse the rows and jugs to choose from. There are mouthwashes, hair detangling sprays, dish soaps, baby shampoos, algae face masks, laundry detergents, Epsom salts and more, most priced by the ounce, and all meant to promote nontoxic and low-waste lifestyles. The Well Refill’s no- to low-waste mission extends to its nonrefillable products too, with home items such as reusable beeswax food wrappers, coconut-husk dish scrubbers, a selection of vintage clothing, reusable straws, reusable cotton coffee filters and tea strainers and reusable fabric dish covers.
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Two women drink from wineglasses at their table on the creekside patio at the Inn of the Seventh Ray.
(Silvia Rázgová / For The Times)

Have a romantic creekside dinner at Inn of the Seventh Ray

Topanga American Restaurant
There are few restaurants more romantic in all of Los Angeles. Trellises, hanging lanterns, a gazebo and twinkling lights set the scene for a meal at Inn of the Seventh Ray, a rustic culinary destination tucked alongside a creek.

Husband-and-wife Ralph and Lucile Yaney opened the restaurant in the early 1970s and still maintain their dietetic bent: Organic goods, whole grains, seasonal produce, line-caught seafood and grass-fed meats are all de rigueur now, but they’ve been the practice for decades at Topanga’s most famous restaurant.

Look for items such as house-made gnocchetti with sunflower pesto; seared scallops with lemongrass emulsion; roasted mushroom tartine with sherry and tarragon cream; and, at brunch, vegan and omnivorous all-you-can-eat buffets plus a la carte items like brown rice breakfast bowls and duck-bacon omelets. Don’t be surprised to see weddings, proposals and other major life events being celebrated on the grounds — it’s a transportive, special place, and a popular one.
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A Shiva statue on a counter, with books on the wall behind, at Spiral Staircase in Topanga.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Dive into spirituality at the Spiral Staircase

Topanga Book Store
While visiting Inn of the Seventh Ray, don’t neglect the restaurant’s ivy-covered companion shop, the Spiral Staircase, where mysticism, health and religion are explored through books, crystals, art pieces, incense, candles, trinkets and scented oils. The New Age bookstore certainly fulfills the stereotype of the woo-woo Topanga shop, vending self-help guides, singing bowls, tarot decks, soul-reflective memoirs, dreamcatchers, windchimes and other items that dive into spiritualism, but the Staircase, with nearly 50 years of history, offers even more. The shop is small but there’s much to see; be sure to take in the jewelry and especially the tandem wine cellar, if you’re looking to bring home a bottle.
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People in a store stocked with groceries and specialty foods
(Silvia Rázgová / For The Times)

Bring home a taste of Topanga from Canyon Gourmet

Topanga Grocery Store
Built as a specialty foods shop for the local community, Canyon Gourmet has become a must-visit store for anyone passing through, stocking some of the best wines, condiments, produce, charcuterie, pastries and cheese from as nearby as Topanga itself to the far reaches of the globe.

Peruse the rows of tinned fish, jars of local honeys, bags of dried pastas, bottles of salsas and marinades and packs of fresh, heirloom-grain tortillas as you wonder what to make for dinner this week. If you still can’t decide, turn your attention to the cold cases filled with pasture-raised meats, charcuterie and cheese, plus ready-made spreads and other items from L.A. icons like Gjusta. In the produce case are small mountains of tomatoes and foraged chanterelles, plus a color wheel of chicories. At the front counter? Freshly baked boules and croissants. Owner Peter Michael Kagan methodically sources his produce and bouquets from local growers and makes multiple trips to the Santa Monica Farmers Market each week, toting his best finds up to the Topanga store. This is the place to find a new favorite local product.
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Rows of bottles of Tiffany's Topanga Scorpion Hot Sauce
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Find shopping scores on the side of the road

Topanga Shop
For all its new stores, restaurants, studios and galleries, a few of Topanga’s most memorable items and experiences can be had on the narrow shoulders and curves of Topanga Canyon Boulevard. The bohemian, homespun ethos is alive and well with Topanga’s roadside vendors, who are keeping a century-old practice alive in the canyon whenever and wherever they set up stalls, clothing racks and tables along Route 27.

Be on the lookout for roadside stands selling fresh fruit, vintage clothes, crystals and homemade items such as Tiffany’s Torcher Hot Sauce, which owner Dale Tiffany sells out of the back of his Kia on Sundays. The all-natural, sugar-free sauces sprouted from necessity, with Tiffany planting hot peppers throughout his Topanga garden to ward off pests. Ever since his first crop from 2009, he’s been turning these peppers into complex, searing and hyper-local hot sauce. What’s more, with every purchase Tiffany donates 10 meals to those in need via the nonprofit Feeding America.
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Pad king sod at Cholada Thai Beach Cuisine
(Silvia Rázgová / For The Times)

Tuck into curries and stir-fries with a view at Cholada Thai Beach Cuisine

Topanga Thai Restaurant
Some of the best curries along the coast can be found just off the entrance to Topanga Canyon. At Cholada Thai Beach Cuisine, chilled Thai beers, papaya salads, and stir-fries fragrant with basil and chiles hit tabletops that overlook PCH and the edge of Topanga Beach. Surfers, tourists and locals from the canyon, Malibu and the Palisades all file in for the view and the bright dishes cooked by husband-and-wife team Nikorn Sriwichailumpan and Sawai Theprian, who first came to the beachy blue shack as cooks, then in 2000 became its owners.

Given Cholada’s proximity to the coast, seafood is a focus here, whether it’s fried whole and under a blanket of herbs, simmered in curry, hand-ground into fishcakes, fried in wonton wrappers or tossed with fresh ginger as a squid salad. Look for decades-long favorites such as the Spicy Seafood Bonanza — which wok-fries crab, squid, shrimp and fish with peppers, onions, broccoli and Thai basil — and daily and seasonal specials, such as pumpkin curry with sole, which are written on the chalkboard. U.S.-ubiquitous Thai dishes are here as well, from pad Thai and other pan-fried noodles to garlic ribs, Thai barbecued chicken, tom kah soup and a rainbow of curries dotted with duck, serrano chiles, vegetables and more.
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A diner digs into lunch in a bowl on a red and white checked tablecloth
(Silvia Rázgová / For The Times)

Customize your fish dinner at the Reel Inn

Topanga Seafood Restaurant
Malibu is no stranger to roadside seafood shacks, but at the mouth of Topanga Canyon you’ll find one that’s especially fun and funky. Colorful Christmas lights drape from the ceiling and a mishmash of marine bric-a-brac adorns the walls at this PCH fixture, a beloved haunt since 1986. The Reel Inn specializes in customizable fish meals, where customers peruse the case, pick their fillets and then decide how they’d like the fish cooked: blackened, grilled or sautéed, and with choice of side. Fried oysters, steamed clams, fish tacos, crab cakes, pitchers of beer — it’s all fresh and on offer, with the catch of the day scrawled on a chalkboard alongside desserts, soju cocktails and whatever’s on draft. Grab some mussels, fish and chips, raw oysters, shrimp pasta, calamari, a crab cake sandwich or any other of the classic seafood offerings and take a seat at any of the red-and-white-checkered tables — ideally the wooden booths near the windows to watch the surfers and the cars go by.
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Two stacked halves of a meatball sub sandwich, gooey with cheese, at Cricca's Italian Deli in Woodland Hills
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Pick up heaped-high sandwiches and cannoli at Cricca’s Italian Deli

Woodland Hills Italian Deli
If you’re leaving Topanga and heading toward the San Fernando Valley — or looking to load up on food before a canyon hike or a day at the beach — there’s almost no better stop than Cricca’s. A Woodland Hills staple since 1969, this Italian deli serves some of the region’s best and biggest subs. Enter the small storefront tucked into a strip mall at the base of the canyon and you’ll come face to face with the sprawling menu of sandwiches: more than 30 classic cold subs, nearly three dozen hot subs and panini, a range of salads and antipasti and, of course, the Cricca’s specialty, the gargantuan “Super Subs.”

Owners Kevin and Marla McHenry do classics right — their Italian sub is one of the best in L.A. — but their spins on stalwarts such as their No. 1 seller, the Godfather, which adds roast beef and turkey to the usual Italian-meat lineup, are worth a detour from the usual deli suspects. Perhaps best of all is their meatball sub, with plump, fresh, soft meatballs the size of lemons made fresh every morning and simmered in a daily-made house red sauce. It’s all ladled into garlic bread and oozing mozzarella. One large sub is ample for two, but don’t skip the deli case of freshly made cannoli, nor the rows and rows of chips, cookies, seltzers and teas — everything you need for a pre- or post-canyon activity.
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A rack of pork ribs and a quarter chicken with mac and cheese, beans and mashed potatoes at Rib Ranch BBQ
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Rediscover an old-school barbecue joint at the edge of the canyon

Woodland Hills Barbecue Restaurant
There are Old West knick-knacks and photos hanging all around Rib Ranch BBQ, a cozy, smoky outpost where the racks of ribs, quartered chickens and steaks have been grilling over mesquite wood for more than 50 years. If you’re entering Topanga from Woodland Hills, Rib Ranch is one of the last stops before you begin the ascent, and a nearly untouched time capsule of an L.A. restaurant — growing ever rarer in the city’s constant rush of new business. This multigenerational restaurant from the Ignelzi family doesn’t serve Texas-style smoked meats or the multicultural blend of influences that have come to define L.A.’s contemporary barbecue scene but rather a nostalgic variety where thick, brown-sugar-sweetened sauce slicks and caramelizes over ribs that fall from the bone and the sides of garlic mashed potatoes and baked beans taste exactly as they have for decades. The brick patio hosts live music on weekends, every order includes gratis cornbread muffins, and the bill always arrives with wet naps — and with sauce so thick, sticky and sweet, you’re gonna need ’em.
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