Culver City is a surprise. In recent times, its lackluster blocks have transformed into marvelous canvases by artists, architects, filmmakers, and other creatives persistently pushing boundaries of imagination. A drive through the neighborhood’s more populated through ways yields glances of innovative architecture extending steel appendages in every direction, or masonry walls swathed in street art and super graphics. While much of the area still contains acres of nondescript edifices, the excitement of Culver City comes from happening across unexpected instances of ingenuity. So whether you have a free morning, a long lunch, or an entire day off, enjoy Darling’s guide to LA’s up-and-coming neighborhood.
To start the day, take a short drive down South La Brea Avenue and notice the Baldwin Hills Motor Inn to the east, a beautiful testament to LA’s 1960’s car culture. Then continue with a morning hike up the decrepit stairs of the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. The crumbling steps seem to lead from nowhere to nowhere, but yield a pleasant walk through abundant wildflowers and a fantastic view of the LA basin. To cool down, have a walk around the visitor center, designed by Safdie Rabines, which is a piece of architecture seeming to grow straight out of the ground.
Refuel at Akasha, a bakery, cafe, bar, and restaurant in the heart of Culver City’s commercial district. Have a simple, yet delightful, breakfast of a farm egg on toast or a house made granola with yogurt. Grab a seat on the front porch to enjoy the cool morning air, and be sure to take a seasonal house made jam or pastry for the road.
Continue just down the road to the site of the former Helms Bakery. The building, clad in elements of Art Deco design, once housed the bakery that supplied the official bread for the 1932 Olympics. The building now hosts a mélange of high end furniture retailers, galleries, and restaurants. Start at Arcana Books, which supplies beautiful and obscure tomes on art, then head to H.D. Buttercup to wander about the large showroom, pretending to live in any of the exquisitely curated living rooms and bedrooms. Having worked up an appetite, head to the pedestrian alleyway which hosts the eateries Lukshon and Father’s Office, brainchildren of LA’s premier chef, Sang Yoon. For a casual but elegant Southeast Asian inspired meal, grab a house made soda and bowl of noodles at the bar of Lukshon. If a heartier meal is preferred, grab a craft beer and the ‘Office Burger’ at Father’s Office, touted as one of the best burgers in the city. For something on the go, grab a dog at the Let’s Be Frank truck and find an informal spot in the shade to enjoy your meal.
Head east along Washington Boulevard to enjoy the afternoon in the arts district. First duck into Coolhaus, the brick and mortar shop of the renown food truck of the same name, which serves up customizable ice cream sandwiches wrapped in edible rice paper. All the sandwich names are plays on the names of preeminent architects – a fun detail. Sandwich in hand, continue strolling the boulevard stopping in & Pens Press, Gramercy York, and Cognoscenti Coffee for retail and caffeine fixes. Take in local art at Taylor De Cordoba, Blum & Poe, Mandrake, Smog Shoppe, Samuel Freeman, and LAX Art. For an architour, head east on National Boulevard. Between Schaefer Street and Jefferson Boulevard, you’ll find five blocks of contemporary post modernism. Here, former warehouses have been updated with astounding architectural interventions. Buildings of note are 3535 Hayden, 3555 Hayden,Samitaur, and 5782 West Jefferson, designed primarily by Eric Owen Moss.
A-Frame and Waterloo & City are impeccable dinner options. The former, a converted a-frame building, serves up Korean-inspired American fare. Dishes of note include the Furikake kettle corn, the cracklin’ beer can chicken, and the double cheeseburger. But it’s hard to go wrong. Waterloo & City is a diner transformed into a gastropub. Tin ceilings compliment re-used church pews, creating a dining room with a warm, Americana vibe.
Top the night off with a show at the Kirk Douglas Theater, or head to the Blind Barber for drinks. Head straight through the salon, past patrons receiving haircuts, through the back door to be transported to a dark den hearkening back a time of prohibition.
Image via AER