The corner of Sepulveda and Washington Place is an epic place to eat, with three restaurants that, between them, have well over 100 years of history serving L.A. One is a proven, if controversial, landmark preparing the same tacos you were probably served in school, the next is its rival throwing everything at the wall to see what will keep its neighbors’ wayward customers sticking around, and the third is an early fifties classic for doin’ the dip on the Westside. Join us as we look at three classic spots to catch a bite on this stretch of Culver City.
We love Tito’s Tacos and you’ll love Tito’s too! Okay, maybe you won’t, but you will still have that song stuck in your craw all day. A lot of people famously come running their mouth and talking trash about Tito’s 52-year-old taco stand, which serves those hard-shell gringo tacos with mashed-up beef that zillions of North Americans grew up eating for hot lunches and at home before getting their first taste of supreme taquerias. To many Angelenos, Tito’s is a sacred slice of childhood or high school nostalgia for its basic taco, a yellow hard shell corn tortilla filled with shredded beef, lettuce, grated cheddar, and served with a side of dark red sauce with a thick-ish consistency and a subtle taste, stuffed into a cardboard box with some old-looking chips, only the tangled mass of cheese peeking from within. They surely aren’t the greatest tacos in all of taco-dom, but Tito’s is both a local rite of passage, a landmark, and a good bite. Long lines form on the regular for a diverse crowd that plunks down $2.35 per taco, and though they have burritos, tamales, and enchiladas, we’re not sure who really goes that route, preferring the Southwestern madeleine that is the taco here. Tito’s, like Henry’s in Studio City, can be viewed as a bit of a time-capsule, but really, both its long history and staple output are as important to the taco dialogue and as powerful a statement about the marriage of cultures as Kogi.
Tito’s Tacos, 11222 Washington Pl, Culver City. 310-391-5780
Cinco de Mayo has over 100 menu items and they appear to keep adding things by simply typing them up on a piece of paper, adding a photo, and then slapping it up the wall. We’ve mostly been disappointed by the meats we’ve tried here, though we have confidants who swear by their torta de lengua on whole wheat buns, fried carnitas, breakfast burritos, and bowls of menudo. Our thinking is that Cinco is set-up for people who bring their friends to Tito’s only to watch them storm off in search of something “more authentic” or because they are pissed about the line. The menu does seem to have it all, including burgers, fried chicken, and pupusas, and if greasy and messy happens to be your thing, you’re in luck. Cinco also stays open 24 hours a day, lending it a disorganized charm and crowd of characters, and also features a four taco and a drink special daily for five bucks. Eat around the menu and if you’re not turned off quickly, you’ll probably find a new Mexican mainstay or two for your diet. Meanwhile, we’ll be at Sazon Oaxaquena.
Cinco de Mayo, 11204 Washington Pl. Culver City. 310-391-5354.
Westsiders need French dips too and Johnnie’s is the one whose slinging ‘em over here. In fact, this place has been here even longer than Tito’s and has the cool vintage diner setting to prove it, complete with old signage, old waitresses, jukeboxes, and a street-side patio. This is a messy dip indeed, no less when you do a double dip, like many of the double chins here do. Johnnie’s serves up pastrami on rye, hot corned beef, burgers, chicken baskets, and get this neighbors, even a taco and tamale. But you’re here for the dip and this one is a beauty. Thinly shredded, steamed pastrami is layered in heaps onto a plain white French roll and dipped into the drink for a well-constructed bite that backs the soft shreds of meat against the tiny porous, dip-filled cavities of the bread, all beautifully aggravated by a spicy mustard. Some total psychos manage to find room for chili fries here, but fat as we are, we haven’t been able to pull that off. The regular crinkly fries do a greasy good job left nude. Johnnie’s might not keep us from Langer’s, but it has later hours and when in the climes of Culver City, is a must for its historic atmosphere and decadent, belt-busting sandwiches.
Johnnie’s Pastrami, 4017 Sepulveda Blvd. Culver City. 310-397-6654.