North Hollywood, we barely know you. No one will dare give you a chance when hipper neighborhoods like Melrose and Silver Lake are in existence.

The San Fernando Valley has forever been criticized as being devoid of any culture. Growing up here, it seemed to be a wasteland of crummy mini malls and dubious liquor stores; North Hollywood especially being a shady place, only known for the infamous 1997 bank heist dubbed the “North Hollywood Shootout” (which became a made-for-TV movie), and where Cher Horowitz got mugged and held up at gunpoint in the movie Clueless.

But the area definitely has more to offer than its seeming facade, because at the moment an arts community christened as the NoHo Arts District, an urban village of eclectic theatres, cafes, art galleries and shops, is burgeoning that reflects the art and culture the Valley always had, but is just now revealing.

It’s ironic that I talk about Tokyo Delve’s Sushi Bar while talking about culture, because this place – though a NoHo institution – is devoid of it, but sometimes all you need is unrefined fun. On weekend nights, long lines form outside for the ultimate sake bomb experience.

Waiters chant, “When I say sake, you say bomb!” and whether you like it or not, you will be doing the chicken dance up on your chair. A waiter gave me a lap dance once, so yes, it does get pretty wild here. Sort of like a frat party with sushi. Those looking for a quiet and sophisticated night, be warned.

Across from the bacchanalian is the completely opposite, renowned and respected Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the organization that awards primetime Emmys. Although mostly reserved for the entertainment industry, go to a film screening here if you have the chance. Or just come and see the giant gold Emmy statue in the palm tree-laden courtyard.

As you may have figured out, NoHo is prominent in the entertainment industry. It’s home to many actors studios, recording studios and a large theater district.

The theaters here are extremely active, putting on up to 18 productions nightly. It’s impossible to mention each one, but the most notable include the landmark El Portal Theatre (5269 Lankershim Blvd.) that was home to vaudeville shows and the renovated NoHo Arts Center that presents new plays in an intimate setting.

If catching a matinee show, a couple steps away is EAT (11108 Magnolia Blvd.) where patrons dine alfresco for breakfast or lunch. Walking further down you will find shops like Age of Innocence (11054 Magnolia Blvd.), a whimsical boutique for vintage finds.

Nightlife is alive and well with such spots as the cleverly dubbed NoBAR (10622 Magnolia Blvd.). The dim neighborhood bar offers an impressive jukebox, potent drinks and pool table enjoyment for hipsters and nine-to-fivers looking to unwind.

An exciting new venture is the Bank Heist (5303 Lankershim Blvd.) that was an actual bank in 1926. Now a victim of identity disorder, the venue is actually two places in one: a casual restaurant called the Bank during the day and a sleek club called the Heist at night.

If these places are too conventional for your tastes, check out California Institute of Abnormal Arts (11334 Burbank Blvd.). CIA will probably be the most bizarre place you’ve ever been to. Not only is it a music venue, it’s also a museum of “grotesque” and freak show sensibilities.

Among the collection of disturbing relics is the real mummified corpse of a clown, which makes the surreal atmosphere an interesting place to catch a local band perform. Hey, you gotta give them credit for being unique.

It’s a bit odd that Los Angeles has a subway system, but the North Hollywood Metro Subway Station makes traveling to Hollywood and downtown easy for those rare Angelinos that don’t drive. A visibly appealing structure, it was built in 2000 and is credited as reviving the community.

But wait! No tour of NoHo would be complete without – ah, yes – the notorious Circus Liquor of Clueless fame. It’s a definite must-visit … but you don’t wanna come here at night. As if!