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Nov 9, 2008 07:52 PM

Soft Wood...opening that is.

The Wood in Mar Vista, on the corner of Inglewood and Washington blvd, previously the old El Castillo. The sign advertises organic coffee and cafe.

On our way to the farmer's market today we noticed some activity and popped our heads in. There was a family of four eating and only a two person staff there, a manager type and a cook. The manager said they were sort of open and he was just training the cook. But we were welcome to order something if we wanted. We decided to come back after shopping.

It was empty when we circled back, although people kept on stopping in the whole time we were there to see what was going on. The cold case and counters were bare. But there was silverware, menus and syrup jars on all the tables. The menu was pretty basic. Divided into breakfast and lunch only. All the items were priced under $10 with most of them in the $7 range. Breakfast section had pancakes, waffles, some breakfast sandwiches and egg combinations. The lunch section consisted of sandwiches and salads.

I decided to try the egg special which touted organic eggs with lower cholesterol. Two eggs, potatoes, two bacon and two turkey sausage links. My wife decided to try the french toast. Menu described it as “old fashioned” with chopped up croissants mixed with cranberries and raisins in a sweet egg batter. Two cups of coffee completed our order.

The food took a while but we weren't too concerned since we were warned they were still in training. Coffee was delivered and it tasted really good. About a medium roast, full bodied in nice hefty heavy mugs.

When the food was delivered, we were pleasantly surprised. My dish also came with a small mound of mixed greens drizzled with a vinaigrette dressing and two thick slices of multi-grain toast. I'm guessing I didn't get a choice of bread since they didn't have anything else.

My wife's french toast was a huge portion dusted with powdered sugar and also a small mound of diced fresh fruit. The menu touted they only carried real maple syrup. The stuff in the table side jars was fairly thin and tasted average. The french toast was more like a flat bread pudding that was placed on the griddle. Good crust, moist with the cranberries and raisins giving a nice contrast.

Digging into my dish, I noticed that the breakfast potatoes were prepared differently than I expected. They weren't cubed breakfast potatoes. Instead I had, six or seven steak fries sized wedges, that were pan fried. Nice crispy crust with a creamy interior. The turkey sausage was juicy and my bacon wasn't super crisp. But since I like my bacon on the “rare” side, it was fine. Toast came with some foil butter and industrial plastic packaged jelly. Kind of weird on the jelly given the emphasis on organic and fresh. Not a big fan of multi-grain toast so didn't have more than a couple of bites to soak up my egg yolk.

Our bill came up to $17.70 after tax. $2.50 each on the coffees. My dish was $5.75 and wife's was $6.95. We thought it was astounding value given the amount of food and pretty good quality.

We talked with the manager for a bit. He said, they were going to try and be officially open on Wed of this week. They will be open from 6 or 6:30 a.m. to 2 or 3 p.m. Open only for breakfast and lunch.

This is certainly an interesting addition to the neighborhood. The portions are large and prices are very aggressive. They also had a espresso machine and lots of paper cups. I'm curious what type of pastries they'll have to go. Having a bus stop right there and an easily accessible parking lot will help.

It's within walking distance for us and we're intrigued enough by the rest of the menu to try them a few times to see how things are. It'll be nice to have a place nearby where we can snag a sandwich or salad to go.

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  1. Nice addition to that particular area. It seemed like the construction on this place was taking forever, then noticed a couple of weekends on the way to the Grandview farmers market that the fencing was going up and the place was actually looking close to done. If he has that whole lot in back for parking, this could really give the owner a leg-up compared to other places around there.

    Not about the food and I like the way it's turned out, but I'm kinda leery about the solid fence - I can easily see some knucklehead tagging it on such a heavy traffic intersection, given the general area, along with the bus stop. That would be a shame, given the investment. I'd landscape in front of the fence with something about chest-high to prevent this - maybe even higher to cut down on the visual chatter from the traffic.

    I'm sure the owner is aware of the bus stop situation as you mentioned - hopefully he will have some sort of quick coffee/pastry/sandwich deal for the riders. I see a lot of relatively mediocre places surviving on just this kind of business alone.

    I think it's somewhat of a blessing for the sleepier parts of Culver City and Mar Vista that Downtown Culver City has out-priced a lot of the small business start-ups. It forces them to expand their radius, opening up businesses along these other corridors like on Centinela, Venice and Washington. I also noticed something might be happening at the old Cresthouse location on Washington. Just speculation on my part, but saw some Venture Capital-looking types out in the lot last week, pointing, talking, and taking notes.

    Hopefully Wood will do well - we will make a point of dropping by either during the week for lunch or Sunday before the farmers market... Thanks for the post!

    7 Replies
    1. re: bulavinaka

      I kind of like the fence. The curb all the way around is at least a foot high. The driving idiot would have to floor it to hop that curb and kill the axle to get up enough to dent it. Also it seems like material that will clean up easily if it gets tagged.

      The owner of The Wood is Demetrious who also owns Venice Grind, so he has experience.

      Good observation about the area. There the curios palate on Venice opening up where Taqueria chihuahua used to be. I've been keeping my eye on the developement of that too,

      1. re: Jase

        Is it open yet? I thought I saw people there this week, sadly we headed the other way to wood to go check it out. For some reason the new Massimo's addition at Rainbow Acres didn't excite us... we hope this is new place is a bit better...


        1. re: Dommy

          No, The Curious Palate isn't open yet. We peered in for a bit being our usual nosy selves. The chalkboard was filled in and lots of equipment. But the dining area was still in disarray with a laptop open and a sheaf of photocopied papers from various food articles.

          Chalkboard said something like farm fresh produce to table.

        2. re: Jase

          We went this AM for breakfast - our first visit - and overall we really enjoyed it. I ran into someone working there that I knew from the 'hood in Venice up until she moved a few years back. She's friends of the owners - I believe she mentioned Demetrious and the guy who owns Cafe Laurent on Overland in Culver City (the same guy who is at the farmers market making omelettes?). I believe they are in this new place together. Didn't get to talk much with her - Stacy - it was just way too busy. Anyway, she says the amount of business since Thursday and the feedback in general has been very good overall.

          This general Mar Vista area is slowly picking up. Just the amount of business changes that have occurred along Venice alone is pretty amazing. I know a couple of business owners in Venice who moved over to this area because of the same issues with Downtown Culver City. A lot of the businesses in Venice that had expiring long term leases were having their rents tripled in many cases - pay new market prices or move out - so many have moved out. The rents are out of hand in Venice, while Mar Vista - Venice-adjacent - is far more reasonable for now. Tattoo parlor, spa, coffee shop, even an adult toy shop (Freddy and Eddy) further west - this ain't "Kansas" like Mar Vista felt like back in the 60s-80s.

          1. re: bulavinaka

            Interesting! Cafe Laurent just started opening for Dinner Hour, which we are excited about as well... so glad to see people continue to invest in the commuity despite the hard times... :)


            1. re: Dommy

              The chains don't need our business - support the locals! :)

            2. re: bulavinaka

              We're a little concerned that things will get too gentrified. We like the feel of older homes and business along with the varied independent business like you mentioned.. The corner of Grandview and Venice got that new facelift and I wonder how many of those business will be pushed out.

              We stopped at Venice Grind for our usual coffee and the staff there also mentioned how busy the Wood was since the opening.

        3. We also have our weekly ritual of the Mar Vista Farmers Market (Totally under rated IMHO) but since we arrive rather early, or original plan of a fried turkey sandwich from the BBQ stand was not happening... (Next weekend fer sure!) Anyway, P. remembered this post and we headed down.

          With a name like wood, it was not quite what I expected. The menu was small, but well thought out. Again, being the 8a mass types, they were only serving breakfast, although we do plan to return soon for the tuna and chicken salad sandwiches...

          He ordered the Westside Benny with Salmon (An extra $1)... What arrived was perfectly poached eggs on top of a generous amount of salmon. P. gave it an absolute thumbs up (I didn't taste it because of my whole salmon is the anti-dommy thing...)

          I ordered the Veggie Omelete... What arrived as more like a Veggie Scramble... lots of great veggies encased in a mound of rich fluffy eggs. Everything was fresh tasting and prepared very well. Usually the problem with scrambles like this is that things get water logged (Even when things are pre-cooked), this actually had a slight crisp edge to it...

          The best part was the potatoes... Cut into wedged and fried to an absolute CRISP... This is the pefect hybrid of the 'stick' styles(which can get dry) and the 'fluffy' style (which has no real texture) hash brown. What was even better was that they wonderfully spiced. Just enough salt, a nice rosemary hint.

          He had the Spanish Hot Chocolate, which was advertised as rich... it was only so so... I got a great chai, which was wonderfully spicy...

          Finally, the place was PACKED... so it's getting a wonderful response from the neighborhood. And even so, our food didn't take nearly as long we thought and the service was a very friendly (Although this isn't a table service sorta place). We are thrilled to have this place in the nieghborhood and look forward to returning with friends... :D


          13 Replies
          1. re: Dommy

            We must have walked right by you this morning. We were peering in while waiting for the light, checking out how busy they were. Everytime we passed by this weekend, the lot was full and it was packed inside.

            Aren't those potatoes great? I really liked the balanced of crispness and creamy interior.

            If you ever see a couple both carrying bright blue grocery bags with white writing at the market, feel free to stop us.

            1. re: Jase

              Excellent!! If you see a slightly over dressed couple with a blue "Real Lemons" bag, that' us! :D


              1. re: Dommy

                Cool! Is the fried turkey sandwich the way to go at the BBQ stand? We tried a couple of different things when they first appeared and weren't impressed. Haven't tried anything from them since. The prepared food stands seem to be hit and miss. But yes, I do think that FM is underrated. It's even better on days LC is spinning the tunes. He creates a good atmosphere that's perfect for a Sunday morning.

                1. re: Jase

                  Not sure about the Fried Turkey Sandwich yet... It's a holiday only thing... and the guy seemed really sad that he couldn't make one for us... :( Also, skip the Sushi Taco thing... sounds like a good idea... but it's not... Go to Mitsuwa down the street instead...

                  1. re: Dommy

                    Ugh, you're not kidding about the sushi taco. The tortilla was stale and chewy even though it was grilled. Everything was just heavy mayo coated. I wasn't expecting high end or anything but was hoping for some light tasting seafood flavors. At home, I frequently slap some random food into a grilled tortilla as a quick snack. I was hoping for something like that here.

                    Furthermore, walking by later, I noticed that the gal handling the cash took money with her gloved hand, counted out change, then proceeded to use the same gloved hand to take a tortilla out of the bag and pressed down on the grill with said hand.

                    Not that I'm a complete germaphobe, but you'd hope a sushi based business has better sanitary practices.

            2. re: Dommy

              We were there this AM as well before heading to the farmers market. My wife ordered exactly what you ordered, except with the fresh fruit. The omelette was exactly as you described. She said the chai seem to pick up steam as she drank it.

              I had the pancakes w/ lemon & blueberries along with the same Spanish hot chocolate. I picked up only a little on the lemon, but the blueberries were plentiful and juicy. The pancakes themselves were a little tough - was expecting something fluffier. The Spanish hot chocolate was rich, but could have used more cocoa (I think). Was expecting more UMPH. But we got a couple of croissants as well and dipping pieces into the hot chocolate was sublime.

              My son ordered the French toast which was described above by Jase. That's a nice piece of breakfast if you like something a little more decadent. The impression that one gets from looking at the dish when it first arrives belies the rich custardy interior. A nice way to use up day-old croissants! I'll have to keep this on my recipe list.

              We got there about 9AM and it was packed - one parking spot left just for us. The place should do well based on the type of crowd it attracted - pretty diverse - and the range of dishes offered. We will be back for lunch as well... :)

              1. re: bulavinaka

                I ride by their location on my bicycle weekly (usually around 4 AM or so) and I really like the look of the building. I would call it a cross between googie and post modern. Will have to drop by and feast on some of the food instead of just the feast for the eyes that it's been so far. Thanks to Jase for all the good houndly research on Wood.

                1. re: Servorg

                  Give it a whirl... they seem to be serious about offering some not so run-of-the-mill choices on their menu - I admire their sense for a little adventure.


                  Click on the signage image for the menu...

                  1. re: Servorg

                    Glad I could help. Looking forward to hearing how you like the food.

                  2. re: bulavinaka

                    Yes, that French toast was good wasn't it? Just well made, we really liked the crust and eggy interior. Btw, Sazon occasionally carries a bread pudding dessert that's similar. They use bolillo bread, cranberries and raisins.

                    We definitely want to try the lunch offerings. My wife was intrigued by the curry chicken salad. I want to try their "french" ham and cheese sandwich.

                    Seems like we passed by a lot of CH's mar vista locals this weekend between the FM and The Wood. Same thing I said to Dommy, please feel free to stop us if you see a couple both carrying blue bags with "Statlistics" in white writing on the bag. Got to love repurposing vendor bags.

                    1. re: Jase

                      I haven't been to Sazon in a while - will give them another go...

                      My wife was eying the same curry chicken salad on the menu. I think she's going tomorrow or the next day.

                      We'll keep an eye out for you. Lately, we've been there almost every Sunday. It is an underrated FM - kinda like it that way. Local community supporting the local FM. Not outrageously overrun like saturday FM on 3rd Street. Us, well look for the haggered parents being pestered by two children - one of the two is an overgrown 9 year-old with hair that looks like wild grass... :)

                      1. re: bulavinaka

                        Sazon has really come to its own since it's inital opening... They have this beef and cheese enchiladas dish that is out of this world... :) Love the bread pudding and flan too! :D


                        1. re: Dommy

                          On our trips to B&B for all the random house stuff, we usually reward ourselves with some flan. Claudia's niece Kayshi has been making the flan a lot lately. You can just tell the pride and ownership she has for that dish. She's always anxious to know what we think and is always talking about how she's trying to perfect it.

                          I just love that kind of attitude.

                2. We were seriously underwhelmed by this place. Small, cramped, loud, frenetic; and the food isn't as good as I'd hoped. (I had the croissant benedict; my girlfriend had an egg white omelet). Might not be bad for a quick bite on a weekday morning, but as a nice weekend breakfast joint it didn't satisfy.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: nick_r

                    As I mentioned above, I was a little underwhelmed with my Meyer lemon/blueberry pancakes and El Parador, but it's not even one week since they've opened so I'll cut them some slack. On the other hand, the "Grandma's French Toast," and the Veggie omelette were quite good. Plus I'll give them style points for trying a few different things right off the bat. I think if eaters can offer constructive criticism to the new place, it can turn out to be what you're hoping it to be...

                  2. thanks for the great reporting, Jase! I have been meaning to get in there and will definitely now with good reviews!
                    Nice to see other foodies in the neighborhood!