Sweat was dripping down my back. I was nursing a blister across the top of my right foot – a product of a not-quite broken in enough sandal, and a serious case of crankiness was on the horizon. That was the frame of mind I was in when Andy and I decided that we had to take charge and do something to lift us out of the mid-summer blahs. Our solution? A trip back through time via Happy Hour at The Culver Hotel.
You might remember The Culver Hotel from the recent Hotels.com survey I wrote about that listed the 1924 beauty among the world’s best boutique hotels. Close to the apartment and at the center of the gorgeous downtown of Culver City, visiting the hotel seemed like the perfect opportunity to break us out of our collective funk.
We arrived about 45 minutes too early for the 4:00pm start to the festivities (Happy Hour runs daily from 4:00pm to 7:00pm). This was not an auspicious start, and while we briefly investigated other options for adventure, we finally decided to wait for the magic hour to arrive.
As we parked ourselves on a bench outside the hotel, the people watching began in earnest. The statue of the lion dancing amidst the fountain spray jets seemed to call people of all ages – though only a very young girl was brave enough to try to dance with him while trying (and failing) to avoid the spray. This eight-foot tall bronze statue arrived as part of the Culver City redevelopment project (sculpted by Douglas Olmsted Freeman). Officially, it makes no direct reference to any one character, but given that “The Wizard of Oz” filmed just down the block, and MGM lived here, it’s easy to feel like this new lion is part of a long history.
Finally, the clock stuck 4:00pm, and we were off to indulge.
First decision – stay on the patio, or move to the inside bar? As we had never been inside the much-lauded hotel, we decided that for this first visit, going in was a must. I have to say, it was the best decision for the day. We felt instantly cooler for it – not just because the room was bathed in kind air from the a/c, but because we had discovered a place with a story … many, many stories.
The main floor bar is simultaneously elegant and inviting (even to the more casually inclined visitors). Dark, plush curtains graced the windows, while deep couches were too tempting to resist. Dark wood paneling, chandeliers and a massive fireplace filled out the room and perpetuated the sense that we had stepped back to a time when the hotel hosted the cast of “The Wizard of Oz” in the rooms, and “Gone With the Wind” filmed down the street. And yes, I can totally picture Clark Gable strolling between the pillars on the way to the nearly hidden back staircase.
“Rebel Without a Cause” was projected against one of the larger walls, and I hear talk of live Jazz in the later portion of the evenings. We started small: a glass of the $5 house red (a very nice Cabernet, as it turns out), and a beer for Andy started us off. Then, as the day’s frustrations left us, and we sank further into the cushions, the food began to tempt. The truffle fries came first – because who can resist those? That should have been the end, but the atmosphere was too lovely to leave, and the three-cheese Arancini was calling. So, we stayed a bit longer and started exploring.
Andy’s explorations took him to someone at the hotel who explained that while the style of the main room is in keeping with the original hotel, the big arched wall was a new addition to bring support to the hotel after the Northridge earthquake. Now, of course, I’m dying to see pictures of what the massive room must have looked like before the division.
I started investigating the photos on the walls – all portraying Hollywood actors and actresses from the early days of the hotel. Even the bathroom shined with what appears to be marble surfaces and large winged taps surrounding an ornate faucet (and the walls were once again decorated with production photos).
Is it the most expansive Happy Hour menu in the greater Los Angeles area? No – though what they offer is well-priced and delicious. You go to the bar in the Culver Hotel when you want a taste of sophistication – when you want a little history with your wine. It’s an absolutely magical date spot – perfect for whispered confidences and hand-holding. Meeting the girls? It’s also fun spot for those festive nights, and there is a more expansive dinner menu that can be sampled. And, of course, the patio as the sun goes down provides a truly SoCal experience.
The Culver Hotel bar can be found on the main floor of the hotel located at 9400 Culver Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90232. Easiest/cheapest parking is probably the Ince Parking Garage which is only a block away, though you may find some free two-hour parking in the neighborhoods, if you are willing to walk a bit.