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Some of the newest eating and drinking establishments in Culver City are within blocks of Smashbox Studios.

SKRATCH
Owner and head chef Jeffrey Price considers his latest project ideal for “foodies on the run.” Skratch is intended to be a healthy, gourmet and affordable alternative to fast food in Los Angeles, offering diners a menu of all natural ingredients (with all entrées priced at $6.95) prepared in salad or sandwich form.

Formerly the site of Price’s bistro, BagEte, the Ohio native took what was best of the French predecessor and infused it with a home-style flare to create Skratch. The site has black-and-white metal countertops and a sleek feel to it. All rubs and dressings used by the restaurant are made, appropriately, from scratch. Entrées include the mayo-free Homestyle Tuna with olive tapenade, caper berry aioli and caviar, and Braised Pulled Pork, with fig and white grape compote and a chevre-walnut spread, served warm. For eat-in or take-out, the fresh food will “energize you,” Price said.

Skratch, 310-558-3400. Open Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m.

VINUM POPULI
A locale for indecisive drinkers and wine-tasting connoisseurs alike, Vinum Populi is the latest wine shop to hit Culver City. Owner Miguel Garza offers patrons an intimate setting within which to sample from 48 different reds and whites, most from Italy and Spain.

Customers purchase a wine debit card that can be scanned through Vinum’s Enomatic wine serving system, which pours a 1-oz. serving per swipe — just enough for a taste. Each wine station displays a digital label that reads the bottle’s cost per ounce, and comes complete with a description of the wine, including the region and country of origin, and any additional tidbits the winemaker provided. With ounces ranging in price from 68 cents to $25 a serving and corresponding to bottles that run from $13 to as much as $500, patrons can drink to their own price range. Check out Happy Hour from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily for free appetizers, $4 house wine and $5 beer on tap.

Vinum Populi, 310-204-5645. Open Monday-Thursday and Sunday, 5:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m., and Friday and Saturday, 5:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m.

This story first appeared in the October 10, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

FRAICHE
The latest love child of executive chef Jason Travi and his wife (and pastry chef), Miho, Fraiche is a comfortable, rustic Angeleno twist on the tastes of the French and Italian countryside.

Dishes revolve around the season’s freshest farmer’s market produce, including the popular Steak Frites ($22) and Monkfish “Française” ($23). Designer Ernie Roth of Roth Interiors has created a home-style ambience to complement this European dining experience, complete with an outdoor candlelit lounge, darkened hardwood flooring and a copper-coated bar. Though the wait for dinner reservations is two months, the restaurant can accommodate most of the 5:30 p.m. crowd — those who come without reservations just as it opens. And with its own dining menu and 50-person seating capacity, the indoor-outdoor bar still makes it possible to immediately indulge in this fare.

Fraiche, 310-839-6800. Open Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., and Monday-Sunday, 5:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m.

MELTDOWN ETC.
It seems that health-conscious Angelenos can’t seem to shake the occasional impulse for a grilled cheese sandwich — meltDOWN etc. is exhibit A.

Owner Ryan Afromsky and head chef Wendy Jacobs-Riche, formerly of Patina and Chinois on Main, present a gourmet twist on this home-crafted delicacy, serving lunch six days a week to Culver City crowds. Variations include everything from the Classic 3 Cheese melt ($6.75), combining sharp cheddar, muenster and fontina on sourdough, to the Market Melt ($8.75), with grilled vegetables on ciabatta bread, or even the L.A. Chick ($7.50), made with grilled free-range chicken breast. Don’t miss the restaurant’s sweet melts, offering childhood faves that cater to those perpetually young taste buds, like the PB&J melt ($4.25) or the Banana Nut melt ($5.25), a warmed Nutella and banana sandwich on egg bread.

MeltDOWN etc., 310-838-6358. Open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

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