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.