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Culver City
Rin-rin Yu
7/21/2008



City Hall

Culver City has always been regarded, if regarded at all, as the armpit of the 10 and 405, a variable asphalt park that connects beautiful Beverly Hills with equally beautiful beach towns. Really, most people can’t quite identify where Culver City’s borders are, it’s just there¸ this chunk of land people pass by en route to better places. But as real estate prices send buyers considering cities halfway to Las Vegas, Culver doesn’t seem so rancid anymore. In fact, it’s not rancid at all–evident in the sudden influx of a hip and artsy scene with all the amenities enjoyed by the disposable income of a middle class. As one Westsider put it, “A Trader Joe’s in the area puts it in the upper echelon of society.” That pivotal society landmark is situated on the edge of downtown at Washington and Dunn.

A stroll along the downtown streets of Culver Blvd. and Washington uncovers some of the charms that the Culver City residents wish others knew about while secretly hoping they never do. The biggest: its location. Close to two major freeways, a quick 15 minutes away from the beaches in Venice, Santa Monica, and Manhattan Beach, and another 15 to Hollywood, and halfway to downtown. Visitors can tell the local government recently made a huge campaign to revitalize downtown and attract businesses, with its suddenly clean-swept streets, freshly painted art-deco lampposts, clearly printed signs, and restored historical hinges. It was, some might say, a good and successful public relations stint. As a result, a number of new businesses popped up, along with refinished residential neighborhoods. After a few days of research, I’ve picked my favorites of the new Culver City additions.




H.D. Buttercup

To Eat:

There’s nothing like sitting down and tasting Culver City’s new flavors. Beyond the additions of chain places like Trader Joe’s and Coldstone Creamery, Culver is developing its own distinctive style that waivers between healthy-light and hearty-comfort.

Meltdown etc.

Everyone except the lactose intolerant loves melted cheese. And Meltdown is the kind of place that will make vegans wish they had chosen a different cause. With one of the longest grilled cheese menus in Southern California, Meltdown offers breakfast options, lunch, and even dessert. The Classic Three-Cheese is a must, with a combination of sharp cheddar, Muenster, and fontina. There’s also the L.A. Chick–grilled chicken breast with goat cheese, spinach, and tomato–and the must-try Italian deli–salami, peppers and mozzarella. For dessert, the Nutella and banana on egg bread cannot be passed.

Tender Greens

When the organic restaurant makes its debut, we know Culver City-zens have formed a community of their own. Its menu has very fresh-sounding items, ranging from a list of “simple” salads to “big” salads (complicated ones), to grilled meats that were once happy and free-to-roam animals. The restaurant is airy and light, like its food, and customers seem content, leisurely eating their salads and chatting away the afternoon.

La Dijonaise

French food without the fuss. Kind of like Culver City’s aim to become a hip part of L.A. without Paris Hilton. La Dijonaise serves up the traditional French fare as we know it: steak frites and coq au vin (with all the butter and cream!) at half the price with none of the pretension. If you’re around in the mornings, their croissants are a fantastique way to start the day.




Jazz Bakery

To Entertain:

 Sure, every neighborhood has its fair share of nightlife and daylife, but the ones worth mentioning give a fun twist on the classics. What’s better than an evening of jazz and wine, history and art?

Bottlerock

Always wished you knew what the wine tasted like before committing to an entire bottle? Bottlerock creates a solution for this by offering small appetizer plates to go with the samples. In fact, Bottlerock’s solution is a hip night joint and great date place with wines by the glass, artisan cheese and charcuterie platters, olives, smoked salmon and caviar, and chocolates. It’s like being at a brasserie in Paris with all the people watching you can soak in, and none of the smoke. And if you like the wine enough, you can always buy a bottle to take with you.

Jazz Bakery

It’s one of Culver City’s institutions, and the reason people came to Culver City for the past 11 years. The Jazz Bakery features many prominent musicians from around the country and the world, and currently fits in nicely with the up-and-coming surroundings. The non-profit jazz venue is designed to draw local interest in jazz, not for the booze and food associated with it, so there’s no two-drink minimum at this joint.

Culver Hotel

Though the landmark first put Culver City on the map separate from Sony Pictures (like Disneyland and Anaheim), it wasn’t without the help of dozens of munchkins and other Wizard of Oz cast members who lived there during the making of the movie. In fact, the old hotel, now a historic landmark designated by Culver City, pays tribute to its old guests through window displays and antiques in each room. Other famous stars, including Clark Gable, John Wayne, and Joan Crawford, spent many a night there during filming back in the day. (The Lindsay Lohans of yesterday, sans off-screen drama). The building itself is a fairly elegant and classic piece of architecture that is often not found in L.A.




The Lion's Fountain

Fountain

Paying tribute to the landmark hotel and the Wizard of Oz, the Lion’s Fountain sprays 40 pop jets from the ground around the Lion, who frolics with the kids in swimsuits. Benches situated around the water feature lets locals while away an afternoon in Town Plaza, reading the newspaper and watching the water spray in intermittent patterns.

To Shop:

Culver has somewhat turned itself into a furniture district, specifically, the Helms Furniture District. For some reason Culver City hangs on to the history of this once thriving bread business, now turned into furniture row. With baguettes and bread trucks themed throughout the area, surprisingly not-as-expensive-as-believed designer furniture is sold to the now wealthier residents of the city and beyond. It’s another reason outsiders venture to Culver City. There’s even wine tastings offered through LearnAboutWine at H.D. Buttercup, where tasters can sit on furniture displays and sip wine as if in their own living rooms. The “mart” is a self-described “manutailer” which designs and sells its collections. The choices of furniture and home décor range from modern to rustic to tacky. Even if you’re not in the market for a new console, it’s a fun and very large place to browse. The Rug Warehouse sells nothing much more than rugs and rug accessories; the selection is enormous.


Listings associated with this Feature:

BottleRock The Jazz Bakery
Culver Hotel La Dijonaise
H.D. Buttercup


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