Take the Expo Line to Culver City for food, shopping and Tuesday farmers market!

A Google Map view of downtown Culver City.

Grab your trendy fabric shopping bag and leave those stilettos behind. It’s time to visit Culver City for great food — in restaurants, shops and at the Tuesday farmers’ market. Metro will soon take you there aboard Expo — the first passenger rail to the Westside in more than 50 years.

The Culver City Station will open to the public on June 20 and, as good luck would have it, that coincides with downtown Culver City’s Third Wednesday “Summer Solstice” Happy Hour, featuring special offers, entertainment, activities and free stuff from more than 25 participating businesses throughout the downtown area. (For details on this and other Third Wednesdays, which run monthly, visit downtownculvercity.com.)

There’s plenty of food at Third Wednesdays but, frankly, there’s plenty of food all over Culver City. Within a 5- to 15-minute stroll of the new Culver City station — with maybe an assist from a Metro bus down Venice Boulevard — Metro can carry you to delicious burgers, crunchy fried chicken, weird and wonderful ice cream, creative salads, hearty Cuban food and yeasty baked bread hot from the oven. And then there are those amazing imported cheeses that just might be worth the price and wait staff dressed as upstairs maids serving spicy milk tea. All of this is within a few blocks of the Culver City Station.

Begin at Royal/T Café. Just a block west of the station on Washington Boulevard, Royal/T is a restaurant, an art gallery, a gift shop. At the same time it’s a Japanese cosplay maid café — an establishment, currently tres hip in Asia where the wait staff dresses in upstairs maid outfits. And yet at Royal/T in Culver City (8910 Washington Blvd. 90232; 310-559-6300; royal-t.org) the dress is more doll-like than suggestive and the food is tasty. On the menu are rice bowls, curries, sandwiches, salads, pastas and pastry and all kinds of teas. Breakfast is served all day.

Within a 5-minute walk west of Royal/T is Dolce Forno Bakery: famed restaurateur Celestino Drago’s hard-to-find bakery outlet (3828 Willat Ave. 90232, dolcefornobakery.com). The breads are lovely but make sure you grab an oatmeal cookie while you’re there. Open weekdays only.

Directly across National Boulevard from the Culver City Station — barely enough distance to burn even a fraction of a calorie — is the foodie favorite grocery, cookware shop and cafe Surfas Restaurant Supply and Imported Foods (8777 Washington Blvd. 90232; 310-559-4770; surfaslosangeles.com). Surfas is imported cheeses and rolling pins and gadgets food lovers think they need. There are imprints of cooking utensils on the entryway floor and endless metal shelves of pans and honeys and chocolates and couscous. There’s also a café but Surfas is more about shopping for ingredients and equipment than it is about grabbing lunch, although if you ask nicely they may just let you sample a really fine cheese.

From Surfas if you head east just a couple of blocks you’ll end up at the Coolhaus Shop (8588 Washington Blvd., Culver City 90232; 310-424-5559; www.eatcoolhaus.com) where an ice cream sandwich filled with beer and pretzel ice cream can be a great substitute for lunch. Just don’t tell Mom. Also on the changing menu of the tiny store front — an extension of the popular food truck — are red velvet ice cream, nutella almond, yogurt and berries, balsamic fig and mascarpone and candied bacon. Remember, we did say weird and wonderful.

Nearby is Father’s Office — serving what some say is the best burger in town — in  the Helms Bakery center of restaurants and design shops (3229 Helms Ave. 90034; 310-736-2224; fathersoffice.com) a block east of the Culver City Station.

Food neighbors in the former bakery include Lukshon (Father’s Office owner Sang Yoon’s Asian restaurant; 3239 Helmes Ave. 90034; 310-202-6808; lukshon.com), La Dijonaise French cafe (8703 Washington Blvd.  90232; 310-287-2770; ladijonaise.com) and the Let’s Be Frank fancy hot dog truck, which rolls in for Wednesday through weekend lunch  (letsbefrankdogs.com).

Are you full yet? If not, either trek or hop on the Metro 33 or 733 bus west to Bagley/Main Street and then walk the short block down Main Street to Culver Boulevard. You will be facing the Culver Hotel where the munchkins were lodged during filming of “The Wizard of Oz” and you will be standing in the middle of a string of restaurants that have opened during the past decade or so.

For good salads, sandwiches and soups go to Tender Greens (9523 Culver Boulevard  90232; 310-842-8300; tendergreensfood.com) or Native Foods (9343 Culver Blvd.  90232; 310-559-3601; nativefoods.com). For rustic Mediterranean, leaning toward French there’s Fraiche (9411 Culver Blvd., 90232; fraicherestaurantla.com). Ford’s Filling Station (accomplished chef Ben Ford is Harrison’s son) is a gastropub with upscale tweaks (9531 Culver Blvd. 90232; 310-202-1470; fordsfillingstation.net).

A few steps west is Honey’s Kettle yummy greasy fried chicken (9537 Culver Blvd. 90232: 310-202-5453; honeyskettle.com). It’s not on the Weight Watcher’s plan — particularly if you order the buttermilk biscuits and honey, fries, coleslaw, potato salad and hushpuppies — but who cares?

Here’s where you will need a reusable/sustainable fabric bag to go with your reusable/sustainable Metro Expo Line and bus. On Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. the Culver City Farmers’ Market sells organic and locally grown fruits and vegetables, as well as a variety of prepared foods. There’s lots of traffic on market day so taking Metro to the Culver City Station, then hopping on the Metro bus 33 or 733 west on Venice Boulevard to Bagley/Main Street can save time, parking and the stresses of driving.

While you’re in the neighborhood, a little further west on Metro Venice Boulevard 33 or 733 bus, is Versailles Cuban restaurant (10319 Venice Blvd. 90034; 310-558-3168; versaillescuban.com). It’s famous around L.A. for great Cuban roast pork and garlic chicken, black beans and rice and Cuban sandwiches.

At a similar latitude — although too far from Expo to walk, unless you’re an athlete — is Jackson Market and Deli (4065 Jackson Ave. 90232; 310-425-8426; jacksonmarketand deli.com). Jackson Market is a one-time butcher shop that became a market that became a deli. Now it’s a lunch shop with good sandwiches (bbq brisket with sautéed onions) wraps and drinks in a tiny establishment tucked into a residential area. Since it’s south of Culver Boulevard that means a long trek from Expo and the Metro local bus along Venice but you might consider hopping on Culver City Transit down Culver City Boulevard to Jackson/La Salle … if only for the brisket.

10 replies

  1. Mospaeda,

    It’s great that you walk to the supermarket. However, the vast majority of Angelinos doesn’t follow your lifestyle either.

    And yes, the vast majority of Angelinos do make economic decisions especially in these tough economic times. If you think financial decisions don’t play a major role for the average American, you are dead wrong. Growing number of people are taking a second look at how their transit decisions affect their wallet and bank accounts. Paychecks aren’t rising, more taxes are being taken away, and gas prices are not going to see $2.00 levels for a long time. What else to do but start making financial decisions to start cutting back?

    And yet, even then, the cold hard reality is that the vast majorities of Angelinos still drive their cars to Ralphs and do not use public transit or very few even opts to walk for 30 minutes to their nearest supermarket just to buy a gallon of milk. That is the cold hard fact that you cannot deny; it’s still easier, cheaper, and faster to go to Ralphs with a car and stash a week full of groceries in the trunk of the car. I know it is hard for you to understand and you hate that fact, but that’s reality – majority of Angelinos still drive to Ralphs. There’s no denying that life is much simpler that way.

    If that is the case, then Metro needs to look what they are doing wrong in why they are failing at persuading more people to take transit to the nearest Ralphs; that of which can be a market that they can tap into to boost their revenue shortfalls. The answer is simple: the bus isn’t worth the price of going to Ralphs.

    The public transit option comes dead last in these short distance needs. Some may walk like you said. Growing number of Angelinos are bicycling to Ralphs. Majority of Angelinos drive their cars for these needs. And growing number of Angelinos are starting to use motorcycles or scooters for these needs as well. But in the end, public transit is way at the bottom of the choice list.

    No one in their right mind will justify being ripped off for $3.00 roundtrip for less than five miles of transit distance to the local Ralphs just to buy a gallon of milk.

    No one in their right mind will justify being ripped off for $3.00 roundtrip for less than five miles of transit distance to the local 7-Eleven or the nearest Taco Bell just for the sake of buying a 99 cent hot dog or a $1.49 Doritos Nachos Locos Taco.

    No one in their right mind will justify being ripped off for $3.00 roundtrip for less than five miles of transit distance to the local post office to buy a book of Forever stamps or to send out a package at a nearby FedEx Kinkos store.

    And no, you are not going to convince the majority Costco, Walmart, BestBuy or Sams Club shoppers to take the bus to these stores. What are you going to do, start allowing people to bring aboard a new 40 inch flat screen TVs or a new foam mattress on board the bus? Make room for shopping cart full of groceries onto the bus? It ain’t gonna happen. Our lifestyle is too adapted to buying stuff for cheap and buying it in bulk and stashing it in the trunk of the car at these stores.

    And the sad fact is, the vast majority of Los Angeles isn’t built or adapted to high density lifestyle with affordable condos. The housing market in LA sucks big time and very few can afford or have the financial means to plunk down $500,000+ condos let alone have save up the initial 20% to get a housing loan due to our ever diminishing pay checks. And I highly doubt that’s going to change in the next ten years either.

  2. I ride my motorcycle these days to Ralphs. It’s cheaper and faster than a car and public transit. You’d be surprised how much groceries you can hold in the side bags of an average Harley Davidson.

  3. I walk to the store all the to shop for groceries from Target or Food 4 less and this is coming someone who lives in Pacoima in the San Fernando Valley not exactly high density living. I do own a car and use it for work only since the time differences between Metro and driving is 30 mins and I have to be at work quite early. But if services were faster I would gladly give up my car since driving stresses me out and I would enjoy having some one else do the driving for me.

    I would really appreciate it if some commentators would stop making sweeping generalizations of how people make transit decisions. How one chooses to get around is individual to each and every person and can be more than just ECONOMIC!

  4. Or it could just be that anything under 10 miles, it’s still cheaper to drive for most of LA. Downtown LA is just a small pocket in the vast size of LA County. What works there doesn’t apply elsewhere in the LA Basin.

    No one’s going to walk to Ralphs or Vons. They’re just going to drive a car and stash up whatever they can for the entire week in the trunk of their car. No one is going to walk or bike to their favorite movie theater or the nearest mall. People are just going to drive. And no party of four is going to take the bus to go to their nearest favorite restaurant or hang out spot; it’s still cheaper to carpool everybody.

    In the end, Metro is losing out on the short distance market because of this and is not capturing any revenue stream from this market. As such, that is why they are continuously broke.

  5. I think its a good thing in some regards that people actually are biking and walking to their Supermarkets. It promotes public health and its good for the environment. I strongly believe that are transportation infastructure should be built to encourage people to walk/bike for trips under 2 miles with accomodations for the elderly and the physically disabled.

    So if the $1.50 that Metro is charging is leading some people to make more environmently friendly and good health decisions by walking and biking for their short trips I am all for it.

  6. Also “I live Downtown LA”

    Good for you that you can afford $500,000+ condos in Downtown LA where $1.50 for a short ride is petty cash for you. Earth to Vince: Not everyone in LA lives the same way as you do. People that live and work in Downtown LA are a small minority compared to the rest of the people who live and commute all over LA.

    For those that live in other parts of LA, we a $1.50 to go down two blocks ain’t worth it. The rest of LA, it’s still cheaper and faster to walk, bike, drive, or scoot shorter distances. Why do you think no one is riding Metro to go shopping at Ralphs in the rest of LA? Because it makes no sense to be ripped off $3.00 for a short round trip to go buy a gallon of milk at your local supermarket!

  7. “Unless you do a really complex distance-based fare model for every origin and destination station”

    Doesn’t seem so complicated with mass hysterical confusion from both locals and tourists alike in Asia cities that use distance based fares now do they?

  8. Re Frank,

    The “one-stop rider” overpayment is not a new issue. Unless you do a really complex distance-based fare model for every origin and destination station, someone’s always going to be screwed. And I think you’d be surprised. I live Downtown LA and often take relatively short bus/Blue/Expo rides (like from 7th to Pico Street) for the same flat fare as the longer ones as it’s most times faster than walking and even possibly faster than driving/biking when you consider the time to park and such.

  9. A person living near La Cienega/Jefferson ends up paying $3.00 roundtrip for short one station ride into Culver City. Most people living near that area will just drive.

    A group of four people heading to Culver City for dinner ends up paying $12. It’s still cheaper to drive.