Ships Coffee Shop

The Ship's on Overland Ave. in Culver City

Christopher Columbus had three ships and restaurateur Emmett Shipman had three Ships — one in Westwood, one in Culver City and everyone’s favorite, which was the one at Olympic and La Cienega.  Each Ships was open 24 hours and it wasn’t Denny’s. In terms of cuisine, it wasn’t that much better but it felt friendlier and classier.

If you ordered breakfast, they brought you bread instead of toast and you cooked it yourself in the toaster at your table. Every table had one, plus they were all along the counter for the folks sitting there. It was another great place to get a hot turkey sandwich and I remember that a friend of mine liked to go there because they had “the coldest milk in the world.”  The waitresses were all what you’d get if you put out a casting call for “friendly coffee shop waitresses.”

All three Ships Coffee shops were opened by Shipman between 1956 and 1967 and closed within a narrow window in the eighties.  They were noted for their decor and the one at Olympic and La Cienega was used as a location in several movies.  They may be among the “most missed” defunct eateries in all of Southern California. Here’s a look at their classic menu…

To see the entire Ships menu, click above

45 Responses to Ships Coffee Shop

  • Frank Balkin says:

    I enjoyed Ship’s. I went to the one at Olympic & La Cienega several times. There was a huge sign that loomed over the building that under the Ship’s logo had another sign that said “Never Closed.”

    When that location went out of business, the “Ships…Never Closed” stayed up for at least another year. Which I found funny.

  • Mr Ship's says:

    Thank you for your comments. The Ship’s website is up at http://www.shipscoffeeshop.com. Lots of old and new information.
    The Culver City store operated 1956 to 1996. 50 million customers
    served in 40 years.

    Thanks

    Mr. Ship’s

  • Jennifer Davis-Lewis says:

    I believe my aunt worked at the Ships in Culver City for a majority of her life. Her name was Florence Fields.

  • AMBRO says:

    In college, used to go there a lot after a movie in Westwood. Always reliable, always good service and coffee, and the bestest paty malt. Miss it.

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  • Ed W. says:

    I enjoyed all three locations for different reasons. They had a unique atmosphere that made you feel special for some reason. I guess they had an air of elegance and were simply very well run. They had a great turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce on it. I always used to get their turkey brochette too. No turkey dishes on the included menu but it was real turkey.

  • DaveF says:

    Ships in Westwood was like our dining room I ate there so often–the servers all knew my daughter’s name. A good friend got the giant Ships’ sign when they tore down the building and it is now installed in his back yard. It still works, too.

  • Phil says:

    I remember the old joke was you can burn your own toast. I miss Ships, there was no reason for them to go out of business, look at all the 24 Dennys still in business.

  • Larry Levit says:

    My wedding party culminated at Ships in Westwooed at 1am which was down the street from the Temple we got married at

    Long time resident of Culver City Ships was a staple for late night munchies

  • John says:

    Loved going to the Westwood Ship’s on Sunday mornings. Had a great breakfast and always consistently good. Anyone know why they closed? They always seemed busy to me. ???

  • Phil Conley says:

    My first date was at Ship’s in Culver City — around 1964. I first ate there in 1962 and yes – there was always something special about it that made it much classier than a Denny’s. It always had that super futuristic spaceship motif outside –

  • Jesse Silver says:

    Ships, the Westwood Village bastion, was my home away from home when I was a student at UCLA. The waitresses were friendly and a couple of them looked after us kids like we were theirs.
    I took my dates there, met my friends there, sometimes studied there. The food was good, but the clam chowder, Manhatten variety, was the absolute best!! Boy, how I wish I had that recipe I so miss that chowder!!
    Much better than Denny’s!
    Definitely much missed. If there is a heaven, there will be a Ships there!!

  • The ChocolateDoctor says:

    Ships La Cienega was my place to go. Who would ever think of putting toasters on every table? What a great idea! I can’t believe that no one else has copied that idea, but then of course, some dope would burn themselves on a hot toaster and sue you for sure. I think the food tasted better because your toast was hot and fresh. The building designs were fantastic—space age and all—really 1950 post war architecture. Can you imagine trying to get a Ships, Webster’s or Huddle approved by any building department today?

  • Kevin Hogan says:

    It just so happened that a friend of mine and myself were in the Olympic store the last night it was opened. You would have thought there would have been some fanfare or some kind of big bang going out but, no…it went out like a whisper and we left that night with a heavy heart for one of our favorite night spots.

  • gordonvincent says:

    Ships had the best deep dish boysenberry pies! I lived for those.After a night of running around,I would go right there for those pies.Everything anymore is corporate America.

  • BreakfastLover says:

    In the 80′s I worked for a TV network and loved it whenever I had to go to LA. We’d stay at the terrific Westwood Marquis, stroll around the hood and pray for a snowstorm in NY so we’d have to stay longer.

    I really loved breakfast at Ships. Quality was OK, but the toasters did it for me. Hot toast, heaven.

    Wonder if they ever got troublemakers sticking forks in the toasters…

  • Narumon Phongsopa(mon) says:

    I miss you so much Matthew Shipman.
    I also miss Ship’s in Westwood.

  • Carolyn Kunin says:

    The ship-shape burger was my passion. And they cooked it rare as I asked. The friendly atmosphere, the fifties decor all added up to a great dining experience. The Westwood Ships was demolished to make way for a high rise. We fans were promised that the restaurant would have a place on the first floor – it never happened.

  • Pam (Pitti) Turner says:

    A family favorite for sure back in the 50′s and beyond. I remember going there with some high school friends quite a bit. It was fun to toast our bread in the toasters on the tables. I was so sorry to see it go. The hot turkey sandwich was amazing.

  • Bill says:

    I remember the single pat of butter and carrot that accompanied each hamburger. The back page of the menu named all the suppliers so I knew they cared about quality ingredients. When I had a cold and didn’t have the energy to fix a late night dinner I used to drive to Ships for an open faced chicken sandwich which made me feel better every time. Then there was the deep dish berry cobbler with cream, yummy. I loved Ships and will treasure my memories of Ships always.

  • TONI says:

    My Mom “Virginia” worked at the Olympic Ships for 19 years. She was there when it closed. We had so many late nights and good times there that I will never forget. My mom and everyone were so very sad when it closed. We miss Mom and Ships.

  • Penny G. says:

    I grew up going to Ships in Westwood after school to have a shrimp cocktail and a Tab. It was my favorite neighborhood place for many years and the toaster on the table was a hoot. I got a real kick out of seeing the fire engine whiz by Ships in the America the Beautiful movie at Disneyland. That movie was replaced with something else back in the eighties, too.

  • John Hindsill says:

    The Ship Shape–’nuff said.

  • Randy cox says:

    Is there any way to get Ships merchandise or at least a t-shirt of the old coffee shops?

  • Mr. Ship says:

    Thank You for your kind Ship’s recalls.
    Mon. Pls contact Ship’s Web site http://www.shipscoffeeshop.com
    Mr Cox we have some hats for sale on web site. http://www.shipscoffeeshop.com

  • Lauren says:

    We used to ‘ditch’ high school (Marymount) and have lunch at Ships Westwood in the late 70s. What a great place. We only got caught once !

  • Rachel says:

    I have fond memories of going to Ships when I was 4-5 years old in the early 80s. I remember my favorite was the cinnamon roll – I would unwind the whole thing before eating it. I don’t see it on the menu though… Does anyone else remember Ships’ cinnamon rolls?

  • Michael Vinella says:

    I worked in the House of Fabrics just behind the Ships in Culver City for about a year in 1973 and 1974. I ate most of my meals at Ships. Great service and good solid food but, it was Ships that made me learn to cook for myself. I enjoyed the food but, ate the same thing over and over. I decided it was better to go home and cook my meals. It is how I learned to enjoy cooking. Still I remember those toasters and great waitresses.

  • Randy Bash says:

    Spent my childhood at the Ships in Westwood Village. Chocolate malts and chocolate cream pie! YUMMM! Just imagine toasters at each table! Would never fly today. Glad we all survived!

    Loved this place!

  • The Furious Cheese! says:

    I think the author’s mistaken about the Culver City location. I’m sure I went there a few times in the summer of 1995 for breakfast.

  • Carol L says:

    Ships was also in one of my fave movies; Into the Night. I loved the 24-hr deal and the Westwood location. Miss that great neon artwork with Ships emblazoned into the night sky.

  • Audiosynchrocy says:

    The La Cienega and Olympic Ships was and will always be one of my favorite coffee shops ever ! I spent many times there with my buddies after band rehearsal and the food always hit the spot ! Loved the ship shape burger and the soups were great too …. 24 / 7 , never closed !

  • Janet says:

    Whenever my Mother visited me from Detroit….we always had to eat at Ships (La Cienega and Olympic) at least once before she returned home. We loved it.

  • Aston Banniser says:

    One n Culver City had to be the setting for the last scene of Pulp Fiction…just had to be..

  • Taska says:

    We know this aston banniser, we say the movie already.

  • Taska says:

    Where did it go janet and why you stop eating there? Why?

  • Mary Anne says:

    Loved to go to Ship’s after a night at the movies. We would sit and eat toast; for some reason we really liked the fact that we could make it ourselves at tableside toaster.

  • Guy says:

    Always went to the Ship’s in Westwood before going to the beach in Santa Monica during the summer. It was 1966 and I was single and it was a Ritual ! What fun !

  • Mark Kraus says:

    Please get the facts straight. La cienaga Ships opened in summer of 1968. I lived right down the Street. They all closed the same day at the end of June in 1n 1995. All 2 since Westwood closes yard before to be razed for an office building on the last day I ate my last chicken pie at the Culver City one

  • Mark Kraus says:

    Wow! My typos drive me crazy! I watched La Cienega Ships go up I summer 1968 Nd open that fall it was an iconic place. Food a Denny’s couldn’t touch and crowdeto bust popularity. Quality quality ingredients, terrific meats, nobody didit like Ships

  • jonas says:

    My dad used to take me there for French Toast and a Ship Shape burger, before and after my games at La Cienega Park.

  • Michael Hauser says:

    I remember Sal at Ship’s La Cienega…… I bought him a watch when it closed. He always got my “To-Go” orders correct. I miss calling and hearing him say “Ship’s La Cienega, how may I help you?”

  • Herb Slojewski says:

    Who remembers the Ship Shape Hamburger–the best hamburger in the universe? h.slojewski at gmail.com

  • Herb Slojewski says:

    I met Caesar Romero while sitting at the counter in the eighties at the Wilshire near Westwood Ship’s, very pleasant fellow.

  • Linda Rombach says:

    One night in the 80′s, Valentin’es Day to be exact, there was a flood coming down La Cienega Blvd. Bus benches were being swept along the water so I pulled into Ship’s to wait it out. There were musicians in there from the club next door called the Subway. I ended up eating something at the counter with Sly and the Family Stone. A few hours later the water subsided and I left in my car to my parents house around the corner to spend the night.
    Ships had the best dinner salad. Crisp, cold, grated fresh carrots and excellent Roquefort dressing. Their turkey brochette with cranberry sauce and chicken salad were my favorites.

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