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

72 Responses to Ships Coffee Shop

  • Barb says:

    I ate breakfast at the Ships on Olympic and La Cienega almost everyday I used to own the 76 station on the corner in the late 70’s

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Whoa! That’s a hoot…the 76 is still there:
    As you were so close to Beverly Hills, did ya get a few celebs from time to time?

  • Scarla says:

    loved making my own toast here — there was a toaster at each table!

  • sharren Wells says:

    Does anyone have the recipe for Ships Rice Pudding. It was the best. We have tried unsuccessfully to replicate it for the past 38 years.

  • Bobbie says:

    Did anybody work with patrica at shipps ?not sure which location. Please help I would like to get more information. Thank you

  • John Trenfield says:

    Anyone out there know of Mark Shipman? He was the owners son. I went 1 year of high school with him in Colorado.

  • Terri says:

    Ships in Culver City was just a couple of blocks from where I lived until I was 5yo. My dad had breakfast there the morning I was born. I remember going there for weekend breakfasts through high school. Starbucks can never replace the memories of Ships and cooking my own toast;-)

  • Alan Valantine says:

    The menu above with the prices on it does anyone know what year that is from?

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Alan: Clicking on the menu, one can see 7/71 at the bottom of the page. (Google “inflation calculator” for fun.)

  • Paul McNulty says:

    That must have been at the Abbey School. Was a class mate of Mark for 8 years in grade school and both of us went to the Abbey for 2 years. Last saw Mark about 7-8 years ago. He is still the same guy. He spent a number of years in the Navy. He is married living in Florida. His wife is a career Navy person. I still spot his
    mother once in awhile in his childhood neighborhood.
    I remember Steve, Mark and Bo Shipman. I can still picture their dad, Emmett, with his crew cut haircut.

  • Mr Ships says:

    Trenfield/NcNulty go to email there.

    We did not have Rice Pudding it was Tapioca/Chocolate Pudding.

    The year of the menu was 1971.

    Mr. Ship’s

  • Joe Arsenault says:

    Being a big fan of Post modern architecture and Googie Coffee shops, My wife and I had to check out “Ship’s” back in the late 80’s – early 90’s .This place was
    like no other , and I remember the toasters at each table and the good food….
    and the great design and architecture….it had a vibe all its own… unique would be the word, even with places like “Pann’s”, and “Cafe 50’s” and “The Penguin”
    around town, It had homey atmosphere, with all the stonework and glass and
    woodwork….great place and memories, even if we were a bit late seeing it!

  • John Hurley says:

    I was only ever in the Culver City location, in 1982.

  • Patricia says:

    I loved the Ship Shape Hamburger. It was the very best burger ever.

  • CPH says:

    Never went there myself, but the computer club in which I was a member (Los Angeles Amiga Users Group) would go there after meetings and chat all night, then log on to the club’s Bulletin Board System (remember those) and complain about the food….

  • David Unrot says:

    The Shipburger was the best hamburger, bar none, ever made. Many a UCLA student survived on at least one of these monsters a day.

  • Mike Lipofsky says:

    The article here says that they all closed within a narrow window in the 80’s, but the Ships on Olympic & La Cienega was still open at least until 1995, because I went there a couple of times in 1994-95, when I lived in the Park La Brea apartments.

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Yo David 11:16!
    Aha! So that explains why USC’s Trojans and TroJanes are…how shall we say?…. superior, per munching on Woody’s Smorgasburger Matterhorn! LOL ):-)

  • John Hindsill says:

    Sorry Bob, but much as Woody’s is a cult thing here, especially among former employees, it did not hold a candle to a Shipshape. It was a fun place, true, scarfing up those-do-it yourself condiments, but for eye appeal and taste, all Ships. I used to eat at Woody’s south beach (Redondo/Hermosa) about 3-4 times a month as guest of my boss in the 1968-69 period. He really dug it.
    My comparative rating – Woody’s 7.5; Ships 9+.

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Ha ha John, I am crushed! Indeed, they were two distinct venues (altho that use of the word didn’t exist back then!) Speaking of crushed, hope you put nuts from the D-i-Y Sundae condiment bar on your Matterhorns, which used the flavor of Kaiser Rolls as an enhancement! Technically, I “claim” it was in Hollywood Riviera and on its very spot today is one of KISS’ Rock & Brews. Alas, you missed me by 5 years. Hopefully, you had a chance to taste another of Mr. Wood’s adventures, Admiral Risty in PV celebrating its 50th anniversary this year! Say hey, talk about nostalgia, here’s a great review as well as ad from the past… “Chow!”

  • John Hindsill says:

    Bob, I didn’t know Risty was related to Woody’s. I worked in El Segundo and that was the unofficial TGIF weekly blow-off. I didn’t go too often as I was till newly married, and my bride didn’t much care for my hanging with the singles. The first Velvet Turtle I ate at was in Redondo. Good restaurant area, the South Bay, then. Maybe still, but I stay close to Pasadena-Glendale-Burbank these near fifty years later. Oh, and still have the same wife!

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    John: Never did the Velvet Turtle, but did “The Polynesian” on Holly Riv’s main street (doorways from “Curt’s” Danish-moderne furnishings.) El Segundo was “after my time”, but did stop there to show my kids in the ’70s on a Disney trip. While “pricey”, maybe some day you will take your “Vieja” (a term used lovingly in New Mexico to to “salute” her years of keeping you happy! Eh! afterwards…cocktails n Jazz at The Lighthouse in Hermosa which survives to this day! (Pasadena!!!??? Oh great! a floor to sleep on hopefully, lest I venture out to one last Parade!)

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