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New List: Culver City's What Is Everyone Thinking?

The following restaurants, based on, and this is important, one visit each, are hereby nominated for "why do people care" list for Culver City restaurants. New nominations welcomed so we can all avoid future misery.

Campos Famous Burritos - Terrible; soupy, runny, lousy meat, chewy tortilla.

Johnnie's Pastrami - Tough, gristled meat; boring bread. Fries only ok. Pickles good.

Thai Boom - Very pleasant service; pretty bland food.

George Petrelli's - Hugely overpriced relative to value; false effort to offer old fashioned steakhouse that serves very ordinary cuts of meat, even if the place is in fact old.

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  1. No complaints yet, except I've had tender meat at Johnnie's. I've had gristle too, but tender meat. I love the fries, but I always get them with chile & cheese. My biggest complaint is that Johnnie's serves the driest "dipped" sandwich in human history. Still, the waitresses, the ambiance, the cops....I love that place!

    (I admit I haven't hit Petrelli's)

    1 Reply
    1. re: SaltCod

      Just went to UGO's on Washington in CC. Very good Italian food for reasonable prices. Bisteca was good as well as the Lamb chops ($16). Great deserts. Friendly service.

    2. I have to agree with SaltCod. I like Johnnie's Pastrami - the atmosphere, the waitresses, the customers, etc. Campos is also a favorite of mine, especially the one on Pico. Don't know much about Thai Boom or Petrelli's, except I heard Petrelli's made a good burger.

      1. Tito's Tacos - The only time in recent memory that I threw out my meal into the trash after only a few bites. You can better food a few blocks away at Tacqueria Sanchez.

        Fraiche - It's good food, but not excellent. So not worth the price I paid for it.

        Thai Boom - I agree. It's average westside blandified Thai food. Nothing worth the hype.

        Meltdown - Ok if you love grilled cheese, but their cheeses are pretty ordinary. With a better selection of cheeses I might eat here more.

        2 Replies
        1. re: WBGuy

          I'd have to qualify your Meltdown review by saying that it's not only ordinary, but quite expensive for what you actually get. It's not that hard to make your own grilled cheese, with comparable results, for a third of the price.

          1. re: WBGuy

            i thought i was the only one who threw the tito's food in the trash. good to know that i'm not alone.

          2. Hmmm....I would say Tito's belongs on the ??? list, since we have at least 5 or 10 better places in a 2 mile radius, and I don't get the allure and haven't since high school. So I am with WBGuy here.

            I prefer Cafe Brasil and Brasa to Pampa's, which is now in CC and is doing pretty well by the numbers of people going there. The price by pound at Pampa's adds up pretty quickly, and Brasa is really pretty good.

            That said, there isn't much else in CC that I find hyped yet slacking. There's truly a lot to like here on most fronts. If you're looking for a great burrito with stewed meat and fab flavor, try Gallego's on Venice 1 blk west of Centinela. Search the board for this - I like the all meat version best.

            But I DO suggest you folks with a bland memory of Thai Boom go back for another try and ask for your food "thai spicy" - try it with the spicy eggplant and one of the curries. Repost and let us know how it went. That eggplant is killer - I don't believe you'll find bland.

            2 Replies
            1. re: CulverJack

              Agreed on Thai Boom; if you ask them to do it extra spicy, they're better than the other crap on the ws

              1. re: coreyander

                it's at least average. they don't really make it spicy even when i ask though. but the sticky rice with bananas is amazing.

            2. campos - not sure, but you may have to have grown up on the westside of la to love this place. it's just so delicious and nothing tastes even remotely similar. maybe bad to others - but so good. best bean & cheese burrito ever.

              johnnies - ? i used to love love love this place and over the years the meat has become worse and worse. so, i don't go anymore - but it did really used to be good.

              other overrated places in cc:

              gaby's on venice - ugh. really not so great greek;

              cafe brasil - ok, nothin' special.

              ford's filling station - absurdly overrated, tasteless (maybe they don't mention salt in gastropub U.), (and as a result overpriced). i could care less if the "chef" is the son of someone. . .he can't cook yummy food.

              6 Replies
              1. re: dtud

                i always like johnnies pastrami, even if it is a bit expensive, ia gree titos tacos is really bad, why do people like it so much>?

                1. re: dtud

                  Is Gaby's on Venice even a Greek restaurant?

                  Frankly, there really hasn't been any Thai Boom hype for about a year now, so any notion of it being overrated is an exaggeration. (All the Thai Boom recs died down when Jitlada broke through.)

                  And while I agree with you that Cafe Brasil is just fine, who is rating it so highly that it becomes overrated? I don't see threads popping up saying OMG You gotta go to Cafe Brasil it's so yummo!!!1!

                    1. re: Foodandwine

                      I think it's only closed for renovation. Maybe it won't be a tarp-covered restaurant in a parking lot anymore.

                      1. re: Foodandwine

                        Gaby's has opened up at a new location on Washington Blvd just west of Lincoln, Marina del Rey, with a much better menu, great service, drive thru and the best grape leaves around. No more parking lot location. The Gaby's on Venice is being remodled.

                    2. re: dtud

                      Um, Gaby's is not supposed to be Greek dtud.

                    3. Some of these are are chains or not even Culver City. Try Tender Greens, Meltdown, Wilson, Beacon etc. for a real taste of the city...

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Adsvino

                        I tried Tender Greens once, but I found it to be over-hyped. The prices were high, and the food my wife and I had wasn't that good. It wasn't bad. Perhaps I had too high of expectations.

                        Yet, when I went to FraƮche, I was quite happy. A very good meal, and prices seemed reasonable.

                        1. re: hhewitt

                          i completely concur with you about tender greens and about fraiche.

                          1. re: hhewitt

                            I think Tender Greens is really good. But then I went in thinking Soup Plantation. They use Point Reyes Blue in their Cobb, Sparrow's Lane Vin's ; Chicken is freshly grilled and really tasty. Their Tuna is not the greatest. But all in all It's a good value, not world changing, but when I want to mix in a salad I know I'm getting something tasty with good quality ingredients.

                        2. How to enjoy eating at Campos Famous Burritos:
                          1) Do not go to one near Culver City. Go to the original outlet at Pico and 20th in Santa Monica.
                          2) Order two turkey tacos. Enjoy the interplay of the perfectly fried tortilla, the varied texture of fried bits of turkey, the cool and pleasing bitterness of the iceberg lettuce and orange cheese.
                          3) Top off your order with an avocado burrito -- just cheese, beans and avocado, don't bother with the meats.
                          4) Oh, and grow up in Santa Monica in the 1970s, start eating there when it was called Las Palmas, partake of a Thai stick first, listen to Yes in the car while eating.
                          There, now you've had a good meal at Campos.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Chowpatty

                            I completely agree!
                            1) Only go to the one at Pico and 20th. There are a few others out there but they aren't the same.
                            2) Add guacamole, actually more of a guacamole based sauce, to your tacos, as well as a mixture of the red (sans cilantro) and green salsas.
                            3) Again, don't forget the salsas.
                            4) Ha! I don't know what else to say since my son might read this.

                            1. re: whatsfordinner

                              I'd agree with Campos being on this list. I used to live across the street from both places on Venice. The burritos were just not that good. For my mexican food fixes, I'd head to Tacomiendo on Inglewood, or El Tarasco, the meat market on venice and greenfield(with the coca-cola sign on the front?).

                              I've never been a fan of Tito's.

                              I would also agree with Tender Greens. Small portions (just a few slices of steak on the sandwich?), and the "salads" are just sad. The steak was nice and tender, though. I liked some of the desserts.

                              Ford's Filling Station - I had the fish and chips, which were really greasy, and the service was pretty bad.

                              I like Johnnie's. The waitresses are generally really cool, the meat isn't the best quality, but it's still pretty tasty, and the chili cheese fries are awesome.

                              1. re: brewinphan

                                just wondering if anyone has tried the relatively new Brunello Tratorria (?) on Washington, just East of La Cienega?

                          2. Taro's Sushi & Teri. I wanted sashimi on the real cheap one day, and that's what I got. When I got the to-go order in my car, immediately I could smell the awful fishy smell. Had to throw the whole thing away. Not so cheap after all.

                            1. Surfa's--this is the best LA has to offer???
                              Annapurna--singapore this ain't
                              La Dijonnaise--La Bleh

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: aventinus

                                Went to La Dijonnaise with the family once - they're French, they're food freaks, they loved it. So did I. Guess you just have to know what to order. Brother/sister-in-law both got the merguez sandwich, sharing a passion for that sausage, and pronounced it perfect.

                                Haven't ever had anything bad at Surfas, either, though it's not my first choice for a Culver City lunch. That burger is awfully good.

                              2. i've only been there once, and i know that the place has fans on this board, but for lousy sushi: sushi karen.

                                not to mention that in addition to the lousy sushi, the place had a weird smell about it.

                                1. The thing to understand about Tito's Tacos is that although they employ many folks from Mexico or of Mexican descent, the food is basically Irish stew wrapped in a tortilla. The place is still owned by the Irish family that started it.

                                  That said, I kind of like it.

                                  Restaurants I love in CC:
                                  Paco's Tacos
                                  Fraiche - Great food, service needs tuning.

                                  Places I like
                                  Wilson - if only for the onion soup
                                  Tender Greens
                                  Cafe Brazil (some of these might really be in Palms)
                                  Hu's (definitely in Palms)
                                  Sandwiches at Sorrento Italian Market

                                  George Petrelli's
                                  Cafe Surfas --- with all that good stuff, you would think that they could make something you could chew.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: highermath

                                    Hmm. I've had the buffalo burger and the venison sausage at Surfas and thought both were pretty great.

                                    1. re: highermath

                                      I love Hu's!! My favorite Chinese place is Mao's (in Venice), but Hu's is also good. Sorrento will always be a favorite of mine for sandwiches. The owners are friends with my dad, so even at the age of 27, they sneak me a free Kinder chocolate before I leave.

                                      1. re: jenii

                                        The family of Sorrento's market makes the place. When Alberts mother was alive I would always enjoy her banter. Ursula is a woman of substance and class. It is always a pleasure to have a sandwich there ( actually take out, however I have eaten on the picnic table out back a time or two..) Pastrami and the Italian Cold Cut Combo are my normal go to sandwiches there. I like the sourdough bread as well just ask for it..

                                        Sorrento Italian Market
                                        5518 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230

                                        1. re: Foodandwine

                                          Have to disagree on Sorrento's....

                                          Warning: If you love Bay Cities, or great Italian delis (there are 10 in San Francisco), Sorrento's is not even in the same category. You'll be sorely disappointed.

                                          1. re: ElJeffe

                                            I finally found Sorrento's and tried it out last week. Great family-run place. Yes, the aisles are tiny and the shelves have cans and jars that probably date back decades. But the proprietors are very friendly, they take pride in their pastas and sandwiches, and the value cannot be touched. Their regular subs are $2.95 and the large ones not even twice that, they are fresh-made to order, and they aren't skimpy with the meat. Their hot pastrami was far from the Jewish style and rather thick-sliced, swimming in liquid, but it was tasty and the smaller sandwich made for a satisfying lunch. I'll be back.

                                      2. re: highermath

                                        Just went to Tito's today - food was the same as since I've been going there (since the 70's) - some will say that is good and others bad, but I like the place. Something about the greasy tortillas combined with the meat and simple salsa is addicting. Pacos I find absoultely disgusting. A big mess on the plate that tastes like it looks.

                                        1. re: highermath

                                          Please enlighten me on the Beacon love. I have only been once for lunch, but was really disappointed. It felt like food I would get at someones house while watching Sunday football. Everything was kind of thrown together, as if the kitchen was distracted. I really wanted to like it.

                                          1. re: highermath

                                            Really bad paella at Cafe Brazil this week... it was not crowded on a night when other places had long lines.. there was a reason. Great caipirinha though. Partner's fish dish was mediocre.

                                          2. What aboyut SCRATCH on Washington and Hughes? Really good freash salads and sandwiches on fresh out of the oven La Brea Bakery bread. And fabulous sopus. I had a cup of mushroom brie on Friday and it was exceptional.

                                            I don't get why people love Beacon by the way....

                                            1. Excellent discussion all. I have a new nomination:

                                              Empanada's Place - Why do they all taste nearly exactly the same? Bad texture as well. Certainly reasonably priced, nice enough at the counter, but not worth even one trip.

                                              1. Samosa house on Washington is reasonable and quite tasty.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: anothernotch

                                                  the next time you go to samosa house be sure to ask them to give you a free taste of their terrific mango/banana/pistachio soup.
                                                  on the days they serve it, they keep it behind the counter and they don't post a sign. so, in order to get the soup you need to ASK.

                                                2. I work in Culver City and this is the best it's ever been for restaurant options!

                                                  I totally agree that Tender Greens is overrated. I also don't like Scratch. Their menu is mediocre and I've seen the chef yell at customers.

                                                  I noticed that there is an M Cafe de Chaya opening up soon so I'm excited about another food option in CC!

                                                  1. I'm a big fan of Gloria's on Venice Blvd.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: maudies5

                                                      I too keep recommending them here. Good food (both Mexican and Salvadoran) and nice folks.

                                                      Gloria's Cafe
                                                      10227 Venice Blvd
                                                      Los Angeles, CA 90034
                                                      (310) 838-0963

                                                    2. Johnnie's is okay, but the prices are ridiculous. The Hat is superior and much less expensive.

                                                      1 W Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91801

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: BeenThereAteThat

                                                        Giovanni at Clarrington & Venice...great simple Italian food
                                                        Gaby's - recently re-opened on Venice. Great Mediterranean food (hummus is a must)
                                                        Scratch - exceptional salad dressing on the nicoise salad
                                                        Quite a few special japanese restaurants, sorry I don't know the names but one is next door to Trader Joe's and the one on the same block as Starbuck's has the best Salmon Skin Salad ever....

                                                        1. re: deadre

                                                          K-Zo is the one next to Trader Joe's. Nice place, good bar, good variety of food, including cooked dishes. Suffers mainly by proximity to the far better (and unrelated) Sushi Zo.

                                                      2. Culver City, the good, the bad and the ugly...

                                                        Campos - never understood the appeal of this place. If a flour tortilla wrapped around runny, canned chicken is your thing, then you'll love it. For the rest of us, however...

                                                        Petrelli's - ate there once, it failed to make an impression.

                                                        Tito's - ate there once, to this day I have no idea how the place always looks so busy considering how lousy the food is.

                                                        Ugo - Pretty decent Italian food - three of us went, all of us liked it, prices were reasonable.

                                                        Santa Maria BBQ - My favorite in Culver City. Good sauce-less BBQ. The Santa Maria Bowl with Tri-tip and spicy salsa is to die for, IMHO.

                                                        Tender Greens - The food here is good, particularly the Ahi, though as others have noted its a wee bit over priced for what you get.

                                                        Ford's Filling Station - also ate here once. I recall the food was good, but ridiculously expensive.

                                                        Sorrento Italian Market - they have a lunch counter here that serves really good sandwhiches etc. for decent prices.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. I haven't seen Akasha pop-up on this thread. What's the verdict? Trying to decide if I try Tender Greens or Akasha first, so would love your recommendations.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: ElJeffe

                                                            Totally different beasts. TG is good for lunch, AKasha I was not impressed with, though the space is lovely and they have a nice bar.

                                                            1. re: Adsvino

                                                              the hummos is great at akasha, the pizza too

                                                          2. george petrillis is a rip off. bad food. bad service. just not worth it all.
                                                            titos is just greasy fast food. it is what it is.
                                                            johnnies is perfect after drinking all night.
                                                            gabbys is mediterrian and back open on venice and overland area. place is a lot better..food and ambience.
                                                            go to el nopal if you want some quick tasty mexican..dont waste your time at campos
                                                            fraiche is good but expensive.
                                                            cafe brasil is a hole resturant that charges 15 bucks an entree. please.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: feedthebelly

                                                              Beware that El Nopal was just sold, so new ownership might portend changes soon - good or not so good!

                                                              1. re: carter

                                                                what!!!! i have been going there for 35 years now. that sucks. i will have to get to the bottom of that. maybe that suspicious fire next door was things to come.