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Imagine an exciting Los Angeles town that by the 1920’s, was home to three major motion picture studios, famous screen actors and musicians and a thriving nightclub scene. It’s not the Hollywood most people think about, but West LA’s Culver City is where it all began. It’s a pocket town sometimes overwhelmed by LA’s other neighborhoods – flashy Marina del Rey, tony Brentwood, funky Venice and chic West Hollywood. But Culver City has a self-confidence all its own born in a rich and authentic Hollywood past.
If you want a taste of Hollywood in a more compact, convenient location close to LAX, plan to stay-over in Culver City’s Downtown district, take a studio tour at Sony Pictures and walk to some great eateries and bars. The food and drinks scene has really emerged in recent years, making an overnight stay compelling.
The film-making tradition
Culver City has been making films continuously since 1915 and is approaching its centenary year. The two major studios today, Sony Pictures Studios and Culver Studios and their predecessors, are responsible for some of the greatest films ever made. Sony Pictures has been home to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists and today’s Columbia Studios. Culver Studios saw a succession of great films and television under the tenures of DeMille, RKO (King Kong), David O. Selznick (Gone with the Wind) and TV’s Desilu Production. The city’s official motto appropriately is “The Heart of Screenland”, adopted in 1936.
- Ford’s Filling Station – required stop on a “taste of Hollywood tour” because Chef Ben Ford is the son of actor Harrison Ford. But the real reason you must go is because it’s great food on par with the best of its kind in SF or NYC. Highly seasonally, daily-changing menu such as today’s Chicken Stifado braised with shallots, persimmons, cinnomon. Locally-sourced ingredients, house-cured products, nose-to-tail POV. Specialties include pig from crispy pig ears to chops to the Whole Pig ($500) with advance notice. Local POV extends to wine list which features all-California producers. Casual ambiance, with warm, wood-toned decor.
- Father’s Office – Yang Soon’s gastropub located in the 1932 Helms Bakery building. Offers up the classic FO burger – with no substitutions – and seasonal plates ranging from bone marrow to organic beet salad. Great selection of microbrews on tap. Vibrant atmosphere, youthful crowd, packed.
- French and Italian cafes: Fraiche, St. Amour and Ugo line Restaurant Row are all popular restaurants with al fresco dining.
- Rocco’s – pizza and beer, very popular
- City Tavern – elevated pub. Food includes fried chicken, pulled pork and burgers.
- Culver Hotel – elegant lounge in the lobby of the historic hotel. Live music changes every night. The Culver has a second lounge upstairs.
- Bottle Rock – more modern wine bar with international list and small bites.
- 7 Seventy – newest addition to the drinks scene down the alley from Rocco’s and owned by same.
Take a walk
If you love history or architecture, take an historic walking tour of the Downtown Area which includes no less than four National Register historic landmarks.
Where to stay
The Culver Hotel, a National Register landmarked building. At the time it was built in the 1920’s, the six-story buildng was considered a skyscraper. Today, it’s a beautiful boutique hotel with fine architectural detail and period furnishing.
Culver City is West Los Angeles, south of the 10 (Santa Monica Freeway) and east of the 405 (San Diego). It’s a little over five miles to LAX either by hopping on the 405 south or taking Sepulveda Blvd. south as the locals would do from there. Here’s an orientation map.
Sony Pictures Studios is located at 10202 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232