Kid Hit Menu Items: Cliché as it sounds, who doesn’t love comfort food? And kids can be particularly wise in this department, which is why Clementine is an outstanding source for mac n’ cheese, meatballs, fluffy eggy quiches, mashed potatoes, and hearty soups. The menu, which combines Clementine’s standing signature items along with changing market-influenced dishes, is available for either a sit-down meal, or taken to-go. And the Century City café showcases amazing baked goods of all sorts and stripes, with nothing overly cutesy, flashy or showy.
Adult Perks: There is much to love about the high quality, seasonal American food and small marketplace selection at Clementine, which is a Westside restaurant/café/bakery that embraces good design but eschews gloss. The best gifts we got after our kids were born were Clementine gift baskets with chicken pot pies, soups, mac n’ cheese, sweets, the very awesome fall chicken salad with apples and grapes, and my favorite banana bread mini-loaf. So I like to pay it forward and bring Clementine stuff to friends who have recently had a baby (or two), and are in need of an easy-to-manage meal that’s super satisfying, (sort of) healthy, and delicious. This is also a rare casual venue for complete afternoon tea service, and Clementine serves Intelligentsia coffees.
Pros: Given its space and logistical limitations, Clementine’s one location is smartly run. Take-out and catering operations are smooth, and if you don’t have time to wait in the almost always crowded line to pick up the day’s offerings from the deli case, you can grab pre-made goods in the fridge and packaged frozen items. A separate catering/take-out register helps move things along, including curbside pick-up service for advance orders. The restaurant occupies the east part of its building and has a large awning, so sidewalk seating is shady by the afternoon if you want to eat lunch outdoors.
Cons: Parking can be brutal. You can walk over from Century City Westfield mall across the street, which means braving the unfriendly Corbusian environs of Century City and inconvenient crosswalks. And that’s even after the extensive Santa Monica Blvd. redesign and reconstruction. The ordering area (counter service only here) is usually packed, as is the dining room.
Changing Station: No
High Chairs: Yes
Parking and Access: It’s complicated. See above. Clementine has a lot with an attendant but it’s always full, and brimming over with waiting cars, too. Parking Enforcement must love this area.
Other Tidbits: Clementine’s quaint charm is a welcoming beacon within Century City’s massively, inhumanly scaled cityscape. Except that popular warmth and accessible quality makes it, well, inaccessible and inconvenient. Being a victim of its own success means a visit to Clementine involves arriving early, or making friends with people who live nearby and have parking permits for the surrounding residential blocks. Parking on that offshoot stretch of Santa Monica Blvd. isn’t fun, and the lot is packed. And this isn’t a café that empties out after peak lunchtime; tables will be occupied well through the 2:00 p.m. hour. Yet when I find myself in the area, I can’t help but find some way to sneak up to Ensley Avenue to get some chicken pot pie(s), box of frozen scones, chocolate chip cookies, or if I plan, a large pot pie that I’ve called ahead of time to reserve.
1751 Ensley Avenue, Century City
Hours: Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.