You would not spot Mar Vista Service from the street. It's tucked behind a stained-glass shop, next to the Curious Palate on busy Venice Boulevard. But it does plenty of business, which suggests good word-of-mouth. Customers report that Raymond, the owner, is the type to discourage you from making repairs unless they're absolutely necessary. He's also got a good sense of humor — don't go if you can't take a joke about your crappy old car. When you call, he'll typically fit you in the next day. Obviously there's a lot of good mechanics out there, but this one's a straight shooter. Closed Sundays. 12100 Venice Blvd., Mar Vista, 90066. (310) 397-6665, —Gene Maddaus

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