Kid Hit Menu Items: If you’re feeling permissive and indulgent and nut allergies aren’t a concern, then the Nutella and banana crêpe is an obvious pleaser. L’Epicerie also offers plain brown sugar, marmalade, and berries with whipped cream in the sweet crêpe category ($7 each). Or savory versions ($9) are rich and delicious, such as one loaded with chicken and wild mushrooms that we enjoyed. (Crêpes are served all day, BTW.) During breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m., well-priced egg dishes come with sautéed potatoes and cherry tomatoes, and a substantial serving of fresh fruit can be added to most entrees for just a buck. Blackberries and honeydew melon don’t strike me as the most seasonal choices in December, but it’s certainly more generous than a bowl of mealy apples and mediocre citrus I’d expect for that price. The half-sandwich option works for smaller appetites.
Adult Perks: L’Epicerie covers a lot of territory at the ground floor of a new Culver City mixed-use project. Fitted into the open plan space is a counter where you can order food and coffee to eat-in or take-out, a full-service sit-down casual restaurant, a big roomy food and drink bar in the center, a modest lovely wine shop, and plenty of appealing French candies and other miscellaneous goodies. Traditional Spanish tapas (tortilla de patatas, marinated anchovies, jamón serrano) along with French-influenced items on the list (beef bourguignon, cassoulet) make the open kitchen in the back seem like it’s taking things up a notch above the half dozen or so salads and sandwiches on the menu. Poured concrete, exposed ducts, subway tile, and requisite reclaimed wood (or wood that looks a bit aged) operate from the current playbook of not-TOO-polished casual chic restaurants. Open for just a few short weeks, this restaurant/café/marketplace hybrid owned by known restaurant pro Thierry Perez is already buzzing with a convivial neighborhood vibe.
Pros: The choice of seating areas and serving situations (full service vs. counter service) is very appealing. Tables are spaced generously apart, and there’s plenty of wiggle room. Tables and chairs in the floor-to-ceiling windows make for a nice street presence, and help visually connect this corner to the busier blocks of downtown Culver City. Plus there’s wifi and magazines for sale to bolster the café/community hang component.
Cons: Not many.
Changing Station: No
High Chairs: Yes
Parking and Access: Easy peasy. The guest parking lot is located directly behind the restaurant in the building, with a doorway that provides direct access into the restaurant.
Other Tidbits: While L’Epicerie isn’t exactly the French EATaly of West L.A., it is trying to be a lot of things to a lot of people. (Except for a late night dinner destination/bar.) Part of the market for French food in this neighborhood is adequately covered, but not an actual French market, with pastries, cheeses, wines, teas, etc. Kids will be curious about all those candies, gum and whatnot wrapped under mysterious and unfamiliar looking labels, and American adults will be suckers for the sheer adorable Frenchy-ness of such products. And the marketplace’s inventory might be a welcome sight to French ex-pats. Some local labels also have a presence, so you can have an ice cream sandwich from MILK along with traditional macarons. L’Epicerie’s flexible space, which anchors a new contemporary building, stands in contrast to the relatively serious city departments and agencies across the street at Duquesne. City Hall and other civic facilities no longer stand as the boundary of where the groovy stuff stops or starts. Instead, now L’Epicerie serves as Culver Boulevard’s western gateway to the city’s ever-growing and enviable food attractions.
9900 Culver Blvd., Culver City
Hours: Daily 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.
UPDATE: Closed as of summer 2013.