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Sep 28, 2005 02:39 PM

Ronnie's Diner - A Neighborhood Joint (if your neighborhood is Marina Del Rey/Venice/Culver City)

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What makes a restaurant chowhoundish?

Sometimes, for me, the lines blur ... and granted, I'm pretty new here so maybe I haven't caught on. I get the concept -- great food, not just the hot new thing. And a chowhound place can be anything from 200 per person sushi to a 2 dollar per person taco truck. Sometimes, you just know.

But, are all chowhound places destinations? Are all of Jonathan Gold's counter intelligence places destinations? Maybe there should just be a mileage meter - as in how many miles you'd travel to eat at a certain restaurant.


I really like Ronnie's Diner.

I've been eating at Ronnie's for three years regularly, since I moved to the western part of Culver City. Ronnie's is on Culver Boulevard where Braddock goes from parellel to crossing Culver. It's right where the 90 fwy crosses Culver, call it the Marina Del Rey/Play Del Rey border. It's in a little mini-mall with a liquor store, a good beer bar called The Bus Stop, a pretty good Japanese place where we get noodles or curry rice called Asa-Ya and an Italian place that looks busy but I never eat there.

Ronnie's is a total neighborhood place. You'd never notice it if you weren't looking for it and you'd never go there unless you were in the area. It's really friendly and casual, it's a t-shirt and Vans sort of crowd.

It started off as a breakfast place. A healthy breakfast place, too. They have all the traditional dishes, egges, omellettes, and sides. The menu doesn't read amazing. What's great about the place is just how fresh every ingredient is, how fresh everything tastes.

What do I get? Even though they have all the "regular" breakfast items, I go for the healthy area of the menu. They have egg whites with pancakes and a juicy chicken breast or think steak that comes out perfect, the meatiness of the chicken or beef offset by the high grade maple syrup. They've got protein only deals with black beans instead of the pancakes. The pancakes, btw, come in regular or (I think) blueberry (I'm blanking on the fruitier pancakes). They've got apple-turkey sausage and delicious, crispy bacon.

When I don't order from the healthy section, I go for the breakfast burritos. I love breakfast burritos, but these are great because it's an excuse to use the awesome salsa that's on every table. I've put it on omelettes, too. My kids order french toast which comes in portions too big for them to eat.

The coffee is really good, too.

Ronnie's gets sort of crowded on the weekends (lots of cops, from the Pacific Division down the street, btw) but you can sit their and sip coffee and read the paper all you want. I tend to linger less when it's crowded and people are waiting for the table, but during the week or when it's slow and you can sit there all day.

I don't go for lunch as much because I'm not home. I'm not in the neighborood. Sometimes we go for dinner, though. I ususally get the turkey burger because I like turkey burgers. (I'm not someone who eats turkey burgers because they are healthier than hamburgers. I eat them because done right, they are delicious. Sometimes I eat hamburgers. It's like sometimes I order a turkey sandwich, sometimes I order pastrami. One isn't a sub for the other.) Ronnie's is seasoned just right on a whole wheat bun. It comes with good fries.

Speaking of potatoes, the breakfast dishes come with good potatoes or you can go the rice route if you're watching your diet. Both have good flavor.

The rest of the dinner menu reads like a really good coffee shop or diner. Some chicken dishes, hamburgers, some Mexican fare, though don't confuse it with authentic Mexican. And the same fresh flavors prevail.

There is nothing fancy at Ronnie's. Go there expecting the sublime and you'll be disappointed. But if you are ever in the Marina area (not the Admiralty Way/west Washington part .., but the east of Lincoln part) and want a very good breakfast with good service and good coffee, if the appeal of good cooking with an emphasis on healthy and frexh is something that sounds good to you, if you like big booths and chairs with arms and a place to read the paper is something you are into ... then give Ronnie's a try.

It's not a Best of LA or an "I'm coming to town for three days and where do I eat sort of place." It's a neighborhood place ... I'm just glad it's in my neighborhood.

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  1. Excellent Report.

    My kind'a place!

    I live close by in Westchester and I'll give it a try.

    I'll report on the lunches too.


    1 Reply
    1. re: Wes

      Me, too. Thank you!

    2. INteresting report for what sounds like a worthwhile place.

      The Italian restaurant you are referring to is, I believe, Fioretto Trattoria, which was generating a lot of raves on this board for a while, but they dissipated somewhat, when uneven food quality and ultra slow service turned off some diners. Now that they have their liquor license, they may be doing better. I haven't gone since the spring when we ordered a bunch of different things and found half of them excellent and the other half mediocre.

      1. What a nice, flavorful review. I have to do some work in that area every so often, and usually I try to find a way to make Pann's be on my way home to Pasadena - but I want to see if Ronnie's might give me a reason not to make that stretch. Thanks!

        3 Replies
        1. re: Will Owen

          I was sort of thinking of Pann's when I wrote the post.

          I think I've only been to Pann's once and don't remember what I ate or anything. Not that it wasn't good, I just don't remember.

          But I've read a lot about Pann's here.

          But in this context I was comparing what I've read about Pann's and what I was writing. Pann's seems like a destination. People go out of their way to eat at Pann's, because they like the food and because Pann's has a certain "country" style that isn't found everywhere.

          There is a "richness" to Pann's food, at least as I read it.

          But where Pann's is rich, the word for Ronnie's is "fresh." (I'm not implying that Pann's isn't fresh, just that it's not the appropriate adjective.)

          If Pann's is "country," Ronnie's is "Gold's Gym."

          I'm glad you wrote about Pann's in a loose reference because I'll be curious to see what you think. I'm not sure that Ronnie's is a substitute for Pann's-craving -- but if Ronnie's is close by and Pann's out of the way it should satisfy in a different way.

          Glad you posted ....

          1. re: PaulF

            regarding the "Gold's Gym" reference in the above post.

            That shouldn't be taken to mean that Ronnie's is a health food restaurant. Health food restaurants are a different thing.

            Ronnie's is just a diner, but one with some healthy items. "Gold's Gym" referenced the fact that it's the kind of place that body builders or anyone who works out might go because the menu has both healthy items and also some power items designed for people on certain diets (like high protein).

          2. re: Will Owen

            ronnies is a simple place that is over priced and has poor service. If you are in the area go for it. Otherwise skip Ronnies

          3. i used to think ronnie's was ok... cathy's cafe that was located where ronnie's is now was really good, but they closed about 6 months before direct tv opened up across the street. anyways, my latest trip to ronnie's, last week, ordered a couple bacon chedder cheese burgers which usually you cant go wrong... but this time the patty was premade frozen crap.. and not cheap either.. extremely dissapointed... when called in to report got no offer of some sort of discount only wishes that we will return..

            1 Reply
            1. re: civicisr

              Wow that happened to me. I placed an order for three meals. They got 2 right one wrong. When I called to inform them that not only did they over charge me but they got the order wrong. They made no effort to fix the problem. What the owner Ronnie said was "well we didnt do it on purpose." I told him I had been coming for 3 years now. He said to come in for a refund and that I was no longer aloud to frequent there. Ronnie the owner states "his customers dont look at the bill and the ones that do dont care about the overcharging"

            2. This place is OK at best. The main thing working for it is location. The service, parking and cost make it less then great. I think