Culver City is now a destination for the comforts of pie

Three slices of different types of pie at Fat & Flour in Culver City
Flavors of pie rotate frequently at Fat & Flour in Culver City but recently included rhubarb (with plenty of whipped cream), pear and cranberry with crumble topping and blueberry.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

At the counter of Nicole Rucker’s new freestanding location of Fat & Flour in Culver City, pie is never far from the line of vision.

The cafe serves plenty of other savory and sweet possibilities: focaccia sandwiches ready to be griddled into panini; grain and vegetable salads, including a clever cold pasta salad featuring spinach ravioli; tidy stacks of cookies and scones tumbled together on a short pedestal; occasional and excellent batches of quiche.

The queen of pie expands her domain

Mostly, though, I am here for pie, as I am generally in life and specifically in whatever form Rucker’s businesses take. She’s been rightly regarded as baking royalty in Los Angeles for at least a dozen years, when she aced the KCRW-FM “Good Food” pie contest in 2012 with four awards while working at Gjelina Take Away and Gjusta. Her now-closed restaurant Fiona was the subject of my first review for The Times five years ago. Many of us have marked the arrival of strawberry, apricot, cherry and peach seasons with trips to her first outpost of Fat & Flour, a stand in Grand Central Market next to Kwang Uh and Mina Park’s Shiku.


Rucker’s Culver City store opened in early December. Dairy-rich pies, including banana cream and her not-too-sweet Key lime signature, line the shelves of its refrigerated deli case. After downtown staple Nickel Diner closed in May, Rucker inherited a vintage countertop pie case that displays plated slices on six tiers. Often an entire pie sits on the counter — have there been studies on the psychological allure of ordering the first wedge carved from the whole? — while others cool on a rack in the background. The sense of abundance feels reassuring.

Nicole Rucker stands in the dining room of her new Fat & Flour location in Culver City.
Nicole Rucker stands in the dining room of her new Fat & Flour location in Culver City.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

A pie is only as good as its crust. Rucker and her longtime right-hand baker Krystle Shelton have the gift: The texture flakes and shatters against the teeth and promptly melts into a memory of butter. Flavors change with the calendar and in fits of imagination. Lately there’s been custardy passion fruit-tangerine chess pie, hidden in whipped cream as thick as a cloud bank, and a streusel-topped combination of pear and cranberry that likely won’t reappear again until Thanksgiving. Pumpkin pie spices pop in an apple-sour cream beauty.

Rucker rejects didacticism around pie made only with in-season fruit: If the frozen product comes from West Coast orchards — some of which, such as the peach trees she “adopts” each year from legendary Masumoto Family Farm near Fresno, she picks herself and processes — she embraces it. Yes, fresh rhubarb will appear in its classic pairing with strawberries come springtime. But right now at Fat & Flour frozen rhubarb basks in a solo moment, flavored with tangerine juice and vanilla bean paste to give its astringency brightness and warmth. It’s even better buried under whipped cream.

A slice of pie on an orange plate in a restaurant with a small retail area
Fat & Flour’s Culver City location includes a small retail area selling coffee beans and condiments.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

The greatness of Grand Central Market, which recently ascended to “Hall of Fame” status in The Times’ annual 101 Best Restaurants guide, is in its neon blare and its swarms of hungry wanderers. Given Rucker’s reputation, the cafe in Culver City has a steady flow of customers, but calm is its default. I felt cheered a few days ago sitting at a table near the sunny entrance, SZA’s “Snooze” playing overhead, two of us sharing three slices of pie in relative quiet.

As you might know, it’s been a devastating week. Meg James stated the situation succinctly in her Company Town column: “The Los Angeles Times announced Tuesday that it was laying off at least 115 people — or more than 20% of the newsroom — in one of the largest workforce reductions in the history of the 142-year-old institution.” We’re losing not only core colleagues in the Food section but crucial talents from the photography, audience engagement and video departments who gave our work its shine, particularly in digital spaces.

In recent years I’ve tended to resist couching foods in terms of comfort: There’s a lot to be angry about in the world, and sustenance is wielded as both weapon and salve. But finding solace in eating is also a primal urge, so I’ll say it plainly: If a slice of beautifully made pie gives your soul ease, as it does mine, you’ll do no better in Los Angeles than Fat & Flour.

11739 Washington Blvd., Los Angeles,

A ‘Top Chef’ winner brings Lebanese cuisine to West Hollywood

Written prior to the dire announcements, I set down a mostly joyful review of Ladyhawk, the 3-month-old Lebanese restaurant in West Hollywood.

Charbel Hayek is the 26-year-old chef forging a remarkably controlled style between tradition and imagination in his approach to the cuisine. Born in Beirut and raised by a mother who is also a chef, Hayek had a professional breakthrough in 2022 when he won the fifth season of “Top Chef Middle East” and was the youngest chef to compete in the 2023 season of “Top Chef: All-Stars.” Before his victory, he’d spent a few years as a line cook working for Josiah Citrin at Mélisse.


His return to Los Angeles marks his first time as chef and partner in a restaurant. Ladyhawk is on the ground floor of the Kimpton La Peer Hotel. The location did give me initial pause. Hotel restaurants are case-by-case scenarios. Too many of them recruit local or national culinary celebrities as consultants who shine their brilliance on a promising launch, only for the polish to dull when they turn their attention to other projects.

So far, so good at Ladyhawk. Which dishes do I recommend for the finest possible experience? Check out the review.

Spread of dishes at Ladyhawk
Spread of dishes at Ladyhawk in West Hollywood including the Ladyhawk mezze table, za’atar manouche, roasted carrots, shawarma skirt steak and fattoush.
(Ron De Angelis / For The Times)

Have a question?

Email us.

Also ...

  • Cindy Carcamo reports from Guatemala City on chef Debora Fadul and her restaurant Diacá. Cindy writes: “She is at the forefront of a movement to reacquaint Guatemalans with their culinary heritage and reconnect this Central American country of 17 million consumers with its farmers and their produce, much of it deeply rooted in its many Indigenous cultures.”
  • Looking for dining options to celebrate Lunar New Year, which occurs this year on Feb. 10? Tiffany Tse has 18 fresh suggestions.
  • The James Beard Foundation announced the 2024 semifinalists list for its chef and restaurant awards. Stephanie Breijo details the year’s nods for Los Angeles — including Nicole Rucker and Fat & Flour for outstanding bakery!
  • Ashley Ahn reports on the imminent closing of the Dragon, a Korean-style Chinese restaurant in Koreatown that has served customers for more than 40 years.
tasting notes footer