Culver City’s reputation as a young and hip destination for the culinary-inclined continues to grow. Some of the more interesting dining offerings are tucked away in remote corners of the city and in nearby Palms, but downtown Culver City is a walkable restaurant playground for the hungry and thirsty. To promote the continuing revitalization of downtown Culver City, the Culver City Downtown Business Association sponsors a monthly Third Wednesdays Block Party.
I remember attending my first Downtown Culver City Block Party last year. It was a great opportunity to introduce a bunch of friends to great spots in my city. I’d study each restaurant’s specials, map out a course, and we’d jump from spot to spot, checking out as many establishments as possible. The first block party I attended was a huge success. I got to experience Culver City in the best possible way: there were lots of people walking about, music everywhere, and a celebratory atmosphere.
Additionally, my friends were excited to visit me in Culver City again soon to spent more time at our favorite spots. But a couple of block parties later, the specials got worse, restaurants put in less effort, and there were fewer people about. After one particularly unsuccessful block party, I decided not to attend anymore.
After sitting out several Third Wednesdays, I decided to give it another try when I got an invited out by a group of friends. Once again, I studied the flyer, made a list of the specials worth hitting up, and we hit the town. While most of the specials were lackluster, there were enough to make me excited about hopping around downtown.
The first special that caught my eye was the slow-roasted pork bao and hite beer combo for $6 at MoKo. I was curious to check out the spot since it has been divisive among food bloggers, and Jonathan Gold had that day called it “a restaurant Culver City needs.” Excited for a quick bao and beer for only $6, we took our seats in the mostly empty bar. Service was inexcusably slow and they changed the special without telling us (it was two bao & a Hite beer for $10 – still a good deal), but they were almost forgiven because the steak and shrimp bao were so damn good. Thinking back to those substantial bao, I’m sad that MoKo is closed and turning back into Gyenari (technically, G2).
The slow service put us behind on our restaurant-hopping, but we ditifully ran across the street to Honey’s Kettle. Unfortunately, our hopes were dashed when we attempted to order the 2 for 1 deal (the best advertised deal of the night) and were told that Third Wednesday specials closed at 9. We were still pretty hungry and prices are so reasonable at Honey’s Kettle, that we still ordered a feast of blueberry cakes, fried chicken, and biscuits. I used to love the pancakes overflowing with blueberries, but unfortunately the pancakes were a little drier and had fewer blueberries than on previous visits. Still, solid gut-busting food for a good price.
After Honey’s Kettle, we lingered outside of Ford’s Filling Station next door. I give a lot of credit to Chef Ben Ford for knowing how to throw a party. Live music from Vaud and the Villains and a Crabfest with beer pitcher specials made it the most festive spot in town. Most of the city, however, put minimal effort into the event. If you were lucky, a restaurant might offer discounted wine or a free dessert. Since the event ends at 9, it’s almost impossible to enjoy more than one or two places.
It’s time that this event either ends or is rebooted. It has turned into a DineLA restaurant week, but it’s one night a month and with lackluster specials. It should run later, encourage bar-and-restaurant-hopping, have live DJs and bands, and feature real specials. The festivities should be spilling into the sidewalks and streets, not just in quiet dining rooms.
Tomorrow, I will talk about a more successful neighborhood block party.