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

119 Responses to Ships Coffee Shop

  • Total Dick says:

    Should never have closed

  • Chappie says:

    paul frisch, it must have been cold and lonely at Westwood Ships on Dec 31st 1984, because Westwood Ships was demolished shortly after it closed on Sep 20th 1984.

    Are you sure you were there?

    About halfway down the page …………..

    Shipman, who opened the three restaurants with his father after returning from the Korean War, is proud that they still use pure cream and USDA prime beef. He said he visits the two remaining Ship’s, which bear his Navy nickname, up to four times a week and orders various items to make sure that quality remains high.

    “We’re not fancy or anything,” he said. “But you get your money’s worth. And we are open 24 hours.” None of the three Ship’s had closed for a moment until the Westwood diner shut down for good on Sept. 20 last year.

  • RFoley says:

    My mom worked at Ship’s in the late 50’s/60’s. Not sure which one. Her name was Sophia in case anyone remembers her.

  • paul frisch says:

    does any body remember the cinnamin rolls warm ,fluffy and good with butter,
    new matt shipman very well, last night of ships open in 1984 westwood december 31, 1984, 11,00 pm hot fudge sunday,i was there

  • Denise says:

    I loved this place!! La cienega location. My grandma Mary, mom wanda and sister Kim all worked there. Miss all the memories that come with this place.

  • Cyndie Granados says:

    My stepdad, Bob Steffarud, worked for Ships for more than 25 yrs. He started at the Westwood location, then managed SHIP’S CULVER CITY for many yrs. When he retired from there, he and my mom moved to the high desert.

  • Warren j white says:

    My grandfather was Bob who was the culver city restraunt manager I spent many a day in there painting and helping him fix toasters at home..he was a great man

  • Yolanda says:

    I grew up in Culver City and a couple of nights ago out of the blue I dreamed about the Ship’s sign. Crazy! That’s a great sign!

  • Nancy says:

    Ships first restaurant was opened in 1956 in culver city. Mr Shipman gave us two ashtrays with ships logo. Still have them. My husband designed ad built all 3 signs for the restaurants. Just wanted to give you all a little more history on the signs. Any questions please feel free to contact me, he also created other signs in the LA area

  • Nancy says:

    Sorry he made all 3 signs for Ships

  • Nancy says:

    My husband Dick Bauman designed and mad the sign in 1957

  • Howard Perry says:

    The Ships on Westwood Blvd… does anyone remember “Truman’s” drive in (corner of Westwood a block south of Wilshire, I think)? They had “Suzy Q” fries that were sensational.

  • Liz says:

    I used to frequent the Ships in Westwood when I attended UCLA. They had the best fresh squeezed oj! I was so sorry when they closed.

  • Tony says:

    I currently own the “Coffee Shop” neon sign pictured above. I purchased it in 1996 and placed it atop my coffee shop (Java Bean) here in Seattle until 2014.
    The sign is currently up for sale on craigslist.

  • John Kawamoto says:

    The Ships I remember was in Culver City. I worked the night shift at MGM Lab on the old MGM Studios lot. It was about the only place open when I got my dinner break. Their chicken pie was the bomb! I also liked the hamburger steak. Great memories of solid comfort food and a great time in my life.

  • Perrianne Simkhovitch says:

    I grew up at 6526 Moore Drive perpendicular to David Gold on Hayes Drive. In my life, I dreamed of freeing the physics from ‘The Fault In Our Cars” I dream of a full ecotopia engaging a full floral Doheny, you could swim there. Lindsay Lohan encapsulated the fantasy support the Day it’s own machines saved its earth day. Refly the Spruce Goose. Can you find me a dentist???!! I had a CArthay Circle brief alien encounter in the sixties, my teacher Mrs Gray

  • John Hindsill says:

    Re: When did the last [Norms] close? Perhaps 2014 in Santa Monica. But there are still about 18 stores in SoCal, about 11 of which are in greater L.A. area.

  • Jase says:

    Ralph Jones,

    That Ships sign is still in the backyard of that “Uni High Kid”. I know his son who is a famous producer. We went to Uni together. He told me that when it closed his father had a crane come by and some workers take it down and bring it to his house. Don’t know if it was exactly legal, but as of a few years ago, it’s still in their back yard and it lights up!

    PS: It wasn’t Bel-Air, it’s more of the Westwood area not far from Beverly Glen and Wilshire. Also I was led to believe that the sign came from the Ships on Olympic and and La Cienega but am not sure about that part of it.

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

    RE Norm’s Sean: Anyone remember if there was a Norm’s on Hoover a couple of blocks North of Jefferson in the ’60s?

  • Sean Leal says:

    When did the last one close? I remember for a time, after performing at the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Nuart in West LA, the cast all going to Ships to wind down and have some food. That was in the mid 1980s. (Later, we would end up at Norms, or “Lucky” Denny’s.)

  • John Hindsill says:

    Stacy, in my family what you describe was called an Egyptian Eye. I still make them on occasion, and top them with maple syrple. Yum. Too bad I already had breakfast today.

  • Stacy says:

    What I really enjoyed about ships is that my mother and I would go for breakfast very often and I loved having my own toaster on the table. My mother actually taught the cook how to make my favorite; Egg in the bread. This was when you place a hole in the middle of your bread and place it in the frying pan and then crack an egg in the hole. The bread gets toasty and then you turn it over.

  • Beverly says:

    I ate at Ships almost every day for years. Only desert I remember is a very deep dish pie. I loved their hot roast beef sandwich. I really enjoyed the restaurant for many things. So sorry to see it go. I live in Culver City started going when opened and Until it closed.

  • Ralph Jones says:

    Regularly went to Ships in Culver City – occasionally to the one on Wilshire Blvd, just E of Westwood Blvd.

    Trivia: The Ships in Westwood was a popular hang-out for the University HS (“Uni High”) kids.

    One of those former Uni Hi “kids” from the class of 62? salvaged the sign when it closed, and has/had the sign in his backyard in Bel Air. No clue if the sign – or the owner – are still at that location….but I know who to ask and will follow up……better write self a note, LOL.

  • coolista3 says:

    Coming from a small town, I had lived in the Valley for a few years, and moved to the Wilshire District with my g-f. Ships was a favorite of hers, saying the hook was both that in the rarefied air of the neighborhood, Ships was a regular diner with regular (great!) diner food – normalcy, and that the waitresses were equally as unusual. Each time we struck-up a conversation, our server would say way-out stuff about what they were doing or their situation. The sadness is, trying to explain how low-key was Ships gets lost in translation. Loved the place.

  • Joseph P. Arsenault says:

    In my original post, I need to make a correction…..Where it reads ” Being a big fan of Post modern architecture”…..
    What I meant to say is was, “Being a fan
    of Mid-century modern architecture”…..

  • Valerie Gordon says:

    Dear Mr. Ship’s,
    I am a local pastry chef and owner of Valerie Confections a bakery, chocolate shop and cafe. An ongoing project of mine is resurrecting desserts from closed establishments and am currently researching Ship’s. Is there any way you can help me bring back Mrs. Johnston’s Famous French Cream Pie?
    I hope to hear from you!


  • Scott says:

    Have fond memories of going to Ship’s in Westwood (in 1979) with my mom as I prepared to enter UCLA.

    By the way, a Ship’s restaurant appears in Disneyland’s Circle Vision 360 America the Beautiful film that ran for years in the park. I’m not sure which restaurant it was – but it’s in the scene where the firetruck is rushing through the streets.

  • 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!)

  • 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:

    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:

    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:

    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 ):-)

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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….

  • Patricia says:

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

  • John Hurley says:

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

  • 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!

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.)

  • Alan Valantine says:

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

  • 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;-)

  • 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.

  • Bobbie says:

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

  • 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.

  • Scarla says:

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

  • 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?

  • 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

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