March 29, 2016

Maple Block Meat Co.

In connection with our barbecue crawl [last September] and after our first BBQ pit stop, our group moseyed our way up Sepulveda Boulevard to the next barbecue joint, which was a whopping 5-minute walk away.  Not having paced myself too well during round one, I found this short "exercise" a nice way to jump start my digestive system for round two.  Much to my dismay, but perhaps also unsurprisingly, Maple Block was bustling with folks at 8:00 p.m. on a Friday night.  So much so that our group was left standing around for over an hour... thankfully I was in good company.

Really nice touch with the mirror at the top so you can see the magic happening on the counter.

True magic.

Limited Indoor Space -- a couple of tables and bar seating.

Maple Block is not a large restaurant.  I also made the amateur move of not making a reservation for our large group (two strikes on me).  But the staff could have better communicated our wait time or at least have given us honest status updates.  The fact that they kept promising that a group was leaving soon because they had paid the bill was off-putting when, to our dismay, that group showed no intention of leaving anytime soon (lingering groups at busy restaurants are the worst!). Needless to say, by the time we were finally seated, my patience was truly tested.

Another blow was when I learned that the restaurant was out of prime rib.  My heart was lifted only after we were greeted with a large steel tray of sliced beef brisket and massive ribs.

Meat presentation.

Smoked Beef Brisket -- served with pickled onions, red & green chimichurri-like sauce-- 1/2 lb; $14 and 1 lb.; $27.

Full Rack of Pork Ribs  (plus some)-- meaty. 

Mac N Cheese with crumbled cheddar -- $11

Buttermilk biscuits with honey butter -- $7

Banana Pudding with Peanut Butter and Bacon Sprinkles -- $9

Comparing our first BBQ stop with Maple Block is like comparing apples to oranges.  They're part of the same "family," but they each offer different tastes, different vibes, and different price points. Maple Block offers a more sophisticated flair to barbecue whereas Holy Cow is a more of a roll-up-your-sleeves kind of place.

Even without trying the prime rib (I'll come back for you!), Maple Block's brisket and the buttermilk biscuits with honey butter really hit the spot.  Maple Block's menu also includes chicken, pork, fish and veggies. Less conventional barbecue offerings, but without losing the comfy quality of that familiar smoky goodness. Definitely worth a visit.

Maple Block Meat Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

cuisine: Barbecue
location: Culver City
hours: Daily; 11:30am-3pm (lunch); 5pm-10pm (dinner)
websites: { MBMC | yelp | facebook | twitter | instagram }
parking: Small lot; street parking
attire: Casual
how it works: Get seated; table service
notes: Lunch menu is different. You can also order online! If dining in for dinner, make a reservation.

November 01, 2015

Holy Cow BBQ

Just within the last couple of years, Culver City really upped its barbecue game with several different barbecue joints, including one still to come.  Yessir, some of the gems of the South are getting some legitimate representation here in Southern California.

In an effort to get to know these places better, some friends and I ventured on a slow barbecue crawl, hitting up two restaurants.

First up, Holy Cow BBQ.  Like its first location in Santa Monica, Holy Cow Culver City offers some smoky, lip-smackingly delicious 'cue in a casual atmosphere.  If you like MessHall in Los Feliz, you'll likely enjoy the vibe at Holy Cow (think rustic with just the right amount of homeyness).  Loosen up your belt a notch (or wear stretchy pants like me) and dig in!

As anticipated, their menu caters mostly to omnivores, but there are some options for non-meat lovers, too.  In fact, there are plenty of menu options, period.

Menu: Meat & Meat Combos.

Menu: Salads and things.

Menu: Sammies

Menu: Sides.

Indoor seating, great for groups.

Bar seating with beers on tap.

Order at the counter; get your number and grab a seat.

Since we were a large group of 10, we ordered a couple of meat combos, a number of shareable side dishes with a round of delectable desserts to follow.  Needless to say, we kicked off the BBQ crawl strong and without any restraints.

Buttermilk Cornbread with honey, chives and maple butter -- $3.50

5-Cheese Mac N Cheese (Aged Vermont, White & Yellow Cheddar, Bechamel, and Monterey Jack) -- $7

Oh yea.

4 Meat Combo (L to R: brisket; tri-tip, baby backs; pulled pork) -- $22

Texas Brisket, paired with housemade Texas red sauce

Santa Maria Tri-Tip

Baby Back Ribs -- the best!

Carolina Pulled Pork, paired with housemade Carolina yellow sauce.

Hand-rubbed Beef Ribs -- $12

House Slaw -- dressed green and red cabbage, celery seed, aioli, roasted garlic

Collards -- slow braised in vinegar, ham hocks, sweet onion, pork belly -- $5

O-Rings -- sweet onion, spicy buttermilk, seasoned corn flour -- $6

Idaho Potato Salad -- Russets, vinegar, egg, celery, chive, dill, mayo -- $4

Kettle Beans -- medley of beans, cured bacon, braised peppers & onions, house spieces, Q-sauce -- $4

Warm Peach Crumble -- sweet peaches, brown sugar & oats -- $7

Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding -- brioche, vanilla bean cream, chocolate, sugar & spice, fresh whip cream -- $7

Banana Cream -- fresh vanilla bean custard, banana brulee, whip cream, toasted almonds, wafer -- $7

After stuffing our faces, the verdict was in: (1) the Baby Backs define Holy Cow's modus operandi -- Slow Smoked Goodness; (2) the brisket is tender and especially tasty with their housemade Q sauce; (3) Collards are slow-braised in pork belly and Kettle Beans are cooked with cured bacon = winning;  and (4) that Peach Crumble will warm your heart and belly.  Would I return?  With such fair prices, generous portions, and tasty shareables?  Yes ma'am!  So if you're in Culver City looking for a quick bite to eat (in or for takeout), definitely check out Holy Cow for a satisfying meal.

Holy Cow Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

cuisine: Barbecue
location: Culver City
hours: Daily, 11am-10pm
websites: { HC | yelp | facebook | instagram | twitter }
parking: Lot
attire: Casual
how it works: Peruse the menu, order at the counter, take a number and grab your seats.
notes: Some of the best things on the menu are the Baby Backs, Kettle Beans, Peach Crumble, and Banana Pudding.

August 26, 2015

Hoy Ka

As a LA native, I've learned that there are only two main reasons why one would ever choose to drive to/through Hollywood, LA: (1) to attend a show at the Hollywood Bowl (fun times) and (2) to be an obligatory good host for your out-of-state visitors (true friendship).  Every once in awhile, however, there is a third and valid reason to make the oft-frustrating trek: (3) to eat good food (because I'll drive almost anywhere for good food).

Take Hoy Ka, for example.  Hoy Ka is an authentic Thai restaurant located in what I consider to be the outskirts of Thai Town LA (west of the 101).

Appetizer: Pork Jerky -- deep-fried, sun-dried, marinated pork served with spicy house sauce -- $7.00

Papaya Salad -- shredded green papaya, green beans, tomatoes, dried shrimps seasoned with lime juice, chili and peanuts -- $8.50

Noodle Dish: Large Dry Hoy Ka Pork Noodles -- Noodles with ground pork, BBQ pork, pork meatballs, pork liver and fish cake -- $6.50

Noodle Dish: Individual portion of Rad Na -- stir-fried noodles with chicken, Chinese broccoli in soya bean gravy -- $8.00

Rice Dish: Pad Ka Prao -- stir-fried ground meat with basil, green beans, and red bell peppers, served over rice with a fried egg -- $8.50

I don't hesitate to eat out at Hoy Ka because their reasonable prices, good portions, and flavorful food, help me, at least for a moment, mute the negative markers of Hollywood (horrible parking, crowded streets full of tourists)*.  Also, Hoy Ka holds a special part in my heart because it was introduced to me by some good friends, with whom I got to share the delicious meal pictured above.  Thanks J&J.  :)

So if you're craving some honest, authentic Thai food and you happen to be in Hollywood or the wait at Ruen Pair is unjustifiable, know there is another great option on Sunset Blvd.

* My love/hate relationship with Hollywood is only slightly over-exaggerated.

Hoy-Ka Thai Noodle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

cuisine: Thai
location: Hollywood, CA
hours: Daily, 11am-11:30pm
websites: { hoyka | yelp | facebook | instagram }
attire: Casual
price range: $10-$20
parking: Tiny parking lot right behind the restaurant and street meters (Carefully read all signs!)