Culver City

The film industry hub is making new history as a magnet for boutiques, galleries, and restaurants

There was gold in those flatlands east of the Pacific, once developer Harry Culver lured the fledgling film business to set up shop on the former ranchos in the early 1900s. Industry workers flocked to his newly built bungalows, a lively nightlife scene sprang up, and a boomtown was born. By the ’70s, the changing economy had shuttered many of the area’s businesses. But a redevelopment push in the ’90s enticed architects like Eric Owen Moss and drew attention to the many historic gems. The past five years have seen an explosion of shops, restaurants, and galleries. Still, there are drawbacks—only the city’s downtown is walkable, and the streets are a confusing maze because of 42 annexations—but plentiful free parking alleviates the pain.

1 Tokyo 7-7 Coffee Shop
Behind a car park in a back alley off Main Street, this greasy spoon may not be much to look at, but where else can you score a hearty breakfast for less than the price of a latte? The menu is a mash-up of Japanese and American-diner dishes, but regulars come here for the Royale—a potato and egg fry that costs a cool $2.99. Don’t expect to refuel midafternoon; the place closes at 2:45. » 3839 Main St., 310-204-5728.

Ugo: An Italian Café and Wine Bar 
At this bar the swipe of a prepaid card dispenses wines by the ounce (never has modern technology been put to such good use). The selection, which changes monthly, includes bottles priced from less than a dollar per pour to well over twenty. An Italian snacking menu—sampling is gratis during happy hour—staves off light-headedness. » 3865 Cardiff Ave., 310-204-5645.


Photograph by Mindee Choi

H.D. Buttercup 
The streamline moderne Helms complex has served as a landmark since the ’30s, when it housed L.A.’s most successful baking operation. Now it’s the site of more than a dozen home furnishings retailers, including this 100,000-square-foot behemoth. The store, a kind of designers’ showcase, offers hundreds of high-end lines—and a recently added vintage section—under one roof. Shoppers find sustenance at nearby restaurants La Dijonaise and Beacon. » 3225 Helms Ave., 310-558-8900.

4 S&W Country Diner
With its threadbare tablecloths, vintage felt pennants, and slamming wood screen door, this neighborhood joint looks like it stepped out of Route 66 central casting. The families and students who pack the booths cheerfully abide by the cash-only policy and “house rules” (among them: sign in and wait outside to be called, ditch the cell phone while ordering) to dine on standbys like buckwheat pancakes served by waitresses who know them by name. » 9748 W. Washington Blvd., 310-204-5136.

Kirk Douglas Theatre 
The original deco ticket booth and terrazzo remain at this playhouse, which was built in 1947. These days the 317-seat venue stages Center Theatre Group productions. Around the corner, Jack Black and Jeremy Piven are among the actors who have performed at the Ivy Substation—home to Tim Robbins’s Actors’ Gang ensemble. » 9820 W. Washington Blvd., 213-628-2772.


Photograph by Mindee Choi

At this café, shop, and gallery, sculptures by Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara shoulder up against outsize reproductions of Masayuki Yoshinaga’s photos of Tokyo street fashions. It’s a slick take on Japan’s popular “maid cafés,” complete with young female servers dressing the part. Rotating exhibitions in the 10,000-square-foot space feature contemporary artists (the inaugural show includes works by Louise Bourgeois, Cindy Sherman, and John Currin). » 8910 Washington Blvd., 310-559-6300.

In an area not known for its burning nightlife, this bar is an exception, though finding it can be a challenge, since only a diminutive fluorescent sign marks the entrance. Inside, creative types talk shop over domestics in
the wood-paneled room, which also serves as an unofficial clubhouse for local galleristas. A space in the rear hosts regular events (screenings, readings, album releases) in addition to exhibits curated by the artist-owners. The modest back patio is nicely secluded. » 2692 S. La Cienega Blvd., 310-837-3297.

Rolling Greens 
Stone pathways wend through this garden emporium, which carries a vast array of succulents, orchids, and other decorative plants. Container gardening is the specialty: Baskets, pots, and ornaments are organized with precision. Keep an eye out for sales, as prices can be high. » 9528 Jefferson Blvd., 310-559-8656.

Living Green 
Is it just us, or is going green an overwhelming prospect? This sizable home store eliminates some confusion, offering building materials, wood finishes, and furniture that conform to rigorous environmental standards. Monthly educational events are accompanied by free beer and wine (organic, of course). » 10000 Culver Blvd., 310-838-8442.


Photograph by Mindee Choi

10 Surfas 
In its 71-year run, this spot has outfitted countless kitchens—including many in the city’s finest restaurants—with hard-to-find ingredients and culinary tools. From paring knives to paella pans to gourmet peanut butter, the warehouse stocks everything you need to cook and plenty of things you don’t (edible silver petals, anyone?). Regular events offer exposure to new techniques and exotic foods. » 8777 Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232, 310-559-4770.

11  Sony Pictures Studios 
The city’s first studio ground was broken here; the elegant white colonnade dates to 1915, when it fronted Ince/Triangle Studios. Opt for a “Twilight Tour” ($28): The lights come up on “Main Street,” and a surreal atmosphere pervades. » 10202 W. Washington Blvd., 310-244-6926.

Fords Filling Station

Photograph by Mindee Choi

12 Ford’s Filling Station 
At this cozy gastropub, chef Benjamin Ford (son of Harrison) turns out upscale comfort food. (We sense a trend: Down the street, the new bistro Wilson is run by the son of the late Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson.) Locals swear by the blue cheese burger, though we’re content to nurse a pint of Hoegaarden at the bar—ideal for people watching when it’s not mobbed by the dinner rush. » 9531 Culver Blvd., 310-202-1470.

13 Sport Eve 
You won’t find anything by Nike or Adidas at this bright one-and-a-half-year-old shop. Instead, owner D’Lynda Fischer stocks fashionable and functional women’s activewear from smaller athletic brands, many of them local. The store’s buyers spend inordinate amounts of time running, swimming, cycling, and cross-country skiing to ensure that gear will perform equally well in a triathlon or at “Mommy and Me.” » 3849 Main St., 310-838-6588.


Photograph by Mindee Choi

14 Museum of Jurassic Technology 
Is it a postmodern experiment? A giant fi b? Exhibits on decaying dice and pin sculptures—curios from the “Lower Jurassic” period—don’t clear things up.Next door, the Center for Land Use Interpretation sells repro souvenir postcards. » 9341 Venice Blvd., 310-836-6131.

15 Culver Hotel Lobby Bar 
The Munchkins slept in this fl atiron-shaped hotel during the fi lming of The Wizard of Oz; 70 years and a meticulous restoration later, can you still get a good gimlet here? We think so. With its suede banquettes and ivorycolored baby grand, it’s one of the most pleasant places in L.A. to enjoy a drink. » 9400 Culver Blvd., 310-838-7963 or 16 Empiric The scaled-down version of the Beverly Boulevard location feels like a stylish friend’s living room. Open by appointment only, it sells Regency and mid-century home goods from designers like Nelson, Eames, and Vitra and quirky objects like Victorian taxidermy.We’ve seen this mix before, but not at these prices or with this eye for detail. » 6021 Washington Blvd., 310-842-9777.

16 Empiric 
The scaled-down version of the Beverly Boulevard location feels like a stylish friend’s living room. Open by appointment only, it sells Regency and midcentury home goods from designers like Nelson, Eames, and Vitra and quirky objects like Victorian taxidermy. We’ve seen this mix before, but not at these prices or with this eye for detail. » 6021 Washington Blvd., 310-842-9777.