Yeah, I consider "mid city" anything from Pico up north to Wilshire, between Robertson and Fairfax.
Doing surface streets going east to USC is doable. Pico is generally good in that direction, as is Olympic...at least, in the morning. Venice is also another eastbound favorite.
Culver City is really nice. Father's Office is great, but I'm also a fan of the downtown Culver area (save parking, which is a total clusterfck). Lots of yummy restaurants/wine bars around there too.