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S&W Country Diner?

I've seen only passing mention of this place, as in "Double Dutch is next door to...", and I'm wondering what it's done or didn't do to deserve such dismissal. My experience is limited, so far, to my lunch yesterday, but the environment, the general attitude of the staff, and most especially the quality of the food has me looking forward to several more trips there.

A sign on the door advises one to sign in on the sheet just inside, and then to wait outside, but as I was by myself and there was plenty of room at the counter I was invited to sit right down. After that, the hard part was to swim through the vast reaches of a truly mouth-watering menu and pick just ONE meal out of the swarm of possibilities. I was strongly tempted to continue my Patty Melt Smackdown research, but decided that a somewhat lesser violation of dietary restraint was called for, so I got breakfast instead: homemade corned-beef hash, two eggs, sourdough toast and sliced tomato. Iced tea to drink. All good, really good, though I found the CB hash to be rather overseasoned and its inclusion of shredded carrot rather strange, though not objectionable (canned hash is offered at a dollar less). The three women doing the serving were busier than I can remember ever being, but remained calm and adequately friendly through it all; the two guys in the kitchen were throwing food out the serving window at a similarly frantic rate while staying similarly nonchalant. Very nice, for a brisk lunch, and I think it'd be just as nice with a companion and a table in the small dining room. My tab came to right at $11, which I found quite reasonable.

The cash-only policy might cause some of us plastic-wielding moderns to declare this place Off My Map, but seeing as how yer Basic ATM Unit of $20 will cover about as much food as any normal human needs at one meal, and there's a BofA ATM (my brand) right across the street, I can't imagine that'll ever be a deterrent for me.

So - anyone else got a story about this joint?

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  1. I think it's great. Working at Sony, when I just want bacon and eggs for lunch, I go over there and get a great meal to take out. I love the old fashioned atmosphere and think the place is a small treasure. to be honest i only read the beginning line of this post but i felt the need to defend it immediately so now i'll read the rest of the post

    1. I only wish S&W was closer to my work. I only went once for lunch and had breakfast: two eggs over easy, home made corned beef hash, a biscuit, and a side of onion rings. Everything was delicious. I've heard their chicken salad sandwich is great, so I might try that next time I go there.

      1. i don't think it's food is any more than mediocre diner food. i've seen some people post that it is better than john o'groats, and i have to wholeheartedly disagree. the service, i agree, is friendly. but i didn't find my food to be very enjoyable. my pancake was not bad - just a pancake that really tasted as if it came from a box mix. my ham was very salty, like a lower quality brand. the biscuit was especially tough on the bottom and very cakey, and the country gravy was bland. it's inexpensive and friendly, but there are definitely better breakfasts out there.

        4 Replies
        1. re: trishyb

          I imagine the pancakes did come from a commercial mix - this is a diner, not some place that does everything from scratch. Gee, they probably buy the bread, too... I have to say I just had a lunch I liked a lot, even though I saw the cook ladle my potato salad out of a Smart & Final First Street carton, so I'm probably more forgiving about these things than you are.

          As for the rest, to each his or her own, but salty ham is usually the mark of a *higher* quality brand, like a genuine country ham (you wanna talk salty?), and a tough-bottomed biscuit is a good indication that these WERE made from scratch; I remember how shocked I was when I ordered biscuits at the Lamplighter one time, only to be told that none had been delivered that morning.

          1. re: Will Owen

            I'd be interested to hear your take on the biscuits when you make it back, Will. I thought they were really terrible, but they're sort of cut from a loaf-like cake and some people must like them considering all the recs I've seen on the board. I'm sure it didn't help that the gravy was tepid. I don't have a problem with standard diner fare especially at those bargain prices, but all of our food was so cold (waffles, fried eggs, grits), that it just wasn't very enjoyable. Maybe I need to try it again.

            1. re: Will Owen

              if you want to praise the place for lunch based on your meal there, go ahead. i just don't think it's worthy of the praise it's received in past posts for breakfast, which is the meal that i had.

              there are plenty of independent diners and cafes here in l.a. that do pancakes and waffles from a scratch batter. i don't doubt the biscuit was homemade - it just wasn't very good. the homemade biscuits at other places are much better. speaking about breakfast ham quality and saltiness, try the ham at norm's or denny's. you'll see what i mean about the quality. better breakfast ham has less of that rubbery salty lunchmeat consistency and is similar to a meatier drier hamsteak.

              1. re: trishyb

                "f you want to praise the place for lunch based on your meal there, go ahead. i just don't think it's worthy of the praise it's received in past posts for breakfast, which is the meal that i had."

                I would point out that while I was eating a noontime meal, the content of it was breakfast: CB hash, eggs and toast. Granted, my side was tomatoes, but that's not unknown at a Southern breakfast, and ditto with the iced tea. And of course you're right that I had no basis to comment on the ham, since I didn't have it. However, I NEVER get ham at a place like this, especially in this part of the world, since that Farmer John crap is pretty much all there is. I don't mind it diced up in an omelet or a scramble, but I'm not going to waste plate space on a slab of it.

                I will run those biscuits through the wringer on my next visit, promise. AND the gravy.

          2. I go there when I want breaded pork chops and eggs and biscuits and gravy. It's that kind of place.

            Actually, S & W was the *only* game in town for breakfast or lunch in Culver City for YEARS. There was literally nothing else around. It started out in the early 90's (I think) as Sam & Woody's and precisely because it was the only place local to eat, and filled a need for "country home cookin," it swiftly became a standing room only breakfast place on the weekends. They served hazelnut coffee when it was still a novelty. It was originally just the front room where the entrance is, but they were so immediately successful they expanded within a few years. It is still packed at breakfast on weekends. Drive by around noon on a Saturday and you'll see gobs of people willing to wait hours to eat there, all milling about on the sidewalk. .

            Having lived in this area for years, I really think the success of S & W was the inspiration for Culver City to make itself over from an essentially vacant 'burb into a mecca of food and culture (not that I think it's that much of a mecca, but I think that's been the goal and fairly well realized in some respects). They proved that if you had a good restaurant there, people would come and would continue to come.

            1. I love it there... it could be a long wait on weekends for a late morning meal, but whenever I get a chance, I drive down from the valley to eat there. Plus there's a WaMu (MY brand) right across the street as well :)

              1. I'm a big fan of S&W and have posted so on this board. I think it is the best inexpensive breakfast on the westside, and I'm one who likes it a LOT better than John O'Groats. I love their combo breakfasts -- a meat (corned beef hash, homemade or canned, or the usual sausage, ham or bacon), two eggs (which are always cooked properly), and choice of sides (hashbrowns and toast, pancakes, waffles, tomato, etc). The strongest sides by far are the hashbrowns ordered welldone or the pancakes. The few times I have ordered a waffle much of the food has come out less than hot, indicating to me that the waffles throw their timing off. As mentioned, their biscuits are strange -- very light and caky, cut into squares from a loaf. (But the lauded biscuits from O'Groats taste like baking powder and dry flour to me, not flaky or flavorful at all.) Yes, the OJ comes from a commercial jug, and the meatloaf when I tried it was a bit soft and bready. But there is good communication between the waitresses and the cooks so eggs come out to your specifications and hashbrowns ordered crispy are cooked that way. And Will, if your combo and ice tea came out to $11, then you are including tax and a nice tip.

                2 Replies
                1. re: nosh

                  Thanks for the waffle tip! Next time I'm there I'll stick to the corned beef hash, which we liked a lot aside from the temperature.

                  1. re: mollyomormon

                    I order their corned beef hash grilled crispy too. I really like sharing breakfast there with a friend -- that way we can split the hashbrowns (ordered crispy, fantastic) and also the pancakes (really good, but I can't finish them alone -- too big). I also like their sausage patties, which have a bit of spicy hot to them.

                2. I just have to say consistency is key to any successful business.
                  And S&W holds to that art of consistency.
                  I had the breakfast burrito two years ago, then once again just last week, and another time today. It was delicious and the same every time.
                  I also noticed that the prices seem relatively the same, as of two years ago!, so this makes a terrific place to get a large meal for a very decent price.

                  1. I ate there a couple weeks ago for breakfast in my quest for good corned beef hash. I had a plate of scrambled eggs, CBH, and toast along with tomatoes. I really liked the diner/cafe atmosphere. The food and service was good and I would go back. But the corned beef hash was a disappointment. It was clearly a mix of corned beef and chorizo. Probably a concoction from a mexican cook who likes chorizo. I'm not opposed to chorizo, but I prefer my CBH more traditional.

                    I would go back, but not for the CBH.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: roaniecowpony

                      I'd be willing to bet that the hash's content depends on who made it this week. Anyway, if I go back there for some I'll ask for canned; that's one of several things (chili being another) that are often better out of a can.

                      Not included in this particular thread is the fact that I did go back and try the biscuits. Yes, very weird. Not inedible by any means, just...eccentric. Certainly better than Pillsbury or Hungry Jack. I bet with gravy all over them they'd be kinda nice. Just not something I'd make an extra trip to Culver City for, especially with Saint Amour around the corner...