Movie stars, glamour…Culver City? This LA enclave a bit north of LAX once billed itself as the “Heart of Screenland,” and rightfully so. Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane and King Kong were all filmed here. Today, it’s possible to visit the original Yellow Brick Road on a tour at Sony Pictures Studios.
And at Culver Hotel (which original owner Charlie Chaplin is rumored to have sold to John Wayne for a dollar during a poker game), you can sip a cocktail (or sleep over) in a landmark once occupied by Wayne, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Ronald Reagan and Oz’s rowdy cast of Munchkins.
But the big buzz is about Culver City’s restaurant scene. There’s Fraiche, recently named by the NY Times’ Frank Bruni as one of his top ten new restaurants. Even when I visited – at 5:30 on a Wednesday – the place was packed. I grabbed a seat at the bar and gobbled a quick plate of Rigatoni Bolognese en route to the airport. The intense, long-simmered sauce was rich with lamb and rosemary. And the classic French bistro décor is a nice change-up from LA zen-chic.
Then I dashed down the street (you can actually park your car and walk from spot to spot here) to Akasha. This new restaurant and bakery is the first from Akasha Richmond, a private chef to Barbara Streisand and other celebs, who is dedicated to all things organic and sustainable. No time to eat in, but I snapped some fast photos and picked up a slice of deep-chocolate tarte that nourished me as I waited in the nearly endless LAX security line.
Nearby are also dining spots from the sons of Harrison Ford (Ford’s Filling Station) and Dennis Wilson (Wilson), as well as BottleRock, a wine bar and retailer, where they’ll pop open anything from their 800-label collection if you’ll buy two glasses from the bottle.
Half a mile east of Culver City’s new restaurant row, don’t miss Surfas Restaurant Supply. Chefs have been making pilgrimages to Surfas’ collection of kitchen gear and obscure gourmet ingredients (lavender powder or Emily Ridley’s Fuggle Mustard, anyone?) for over 70 years. More about this culinary wonderland in another post!