The BLVD Makes It Worthwhile To Get Out Of The South Bay Bubble
By Captain Rick, PubClub.com Blogger
It’s a Friday night in June, and we’re in . . . downtown Lancaster?
What would possess me to leave the L.A. Beach Cities nightlife for a Friday night in this high desert city?
Sure, June Gloom is a factor in getting out of the coastal areas for the weekend, but Lancaster is supposed to be a ba-jillion degrees in the shade with nothing but desert and endless strip malls. Las Vegas, Palm Springs, even Phoenix would make sense for a weekend trip to a desert city, but Lancaster?
It’s one of the towns we drive through (without stopping) on the way to Mammoth. The ground equivalent of “fly-over” country. Yet here I was, having a great time going from one incredible and welcoming restaurant and bar to another, in a downtown filled with friendly and fun people. Downtown Lancaster – who knew?
It all started with an invite from a co-blogger to go to Lancaster’s “Thunder on the Lot,” a large show of motorcycles and custom/classic cars. I’m a car guy, so figured it was well worth the drive.
I wasn’t disappointed – “Thunder on the Lot” was an incredible assembly of great cars and motorcycles. The main event was Saturday and Sunday at Lancaster City Lot, but they held a weekend kick-off cruise-in at The BLVD in downtown Lancaster Friday night. Hundreds of classic and custom cars and motorcycles rumbled into the BLVD, parking under the trees for easy viewing by the assembled crowds.
The BLVD is the result of urban redevelopment efforts to revitalize Lancaster’s downtown, transforming a main road into a visitor-friendly destination area. Too many such efforts in other towns and cities have proved to be colossal wastes of time and money. Recent efforts in some of the local Beach Cities come to mind, where poor planning resulted in streets and sidewalks that were not only unattractive but hazardous.
(Note to Beach Cities governments – please consult qualified traffic engineers, and not just “landscape artists,” when redesigning roads/sidewalks/bike lanes.)
But the redevelopment of The BLVD is an unqualified success. Wide sidewalks, accessible parking, plentiful shade trees, and monuments to aviation/aerospace pioneers combine with local businesses (new and old) to create a real destination for dining and entertainment.
The popularity of The BLVD shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. There’s long been a demand for just this sort of place. Lancaster and Palmdale have large populations, with substantial numbers of professionals such as those working for the local aerospace industry – an industry which formerly thrived in L.A.’s South Bay area, but increasingly has relocated elsewhere. These people need nightlife.
While some locals might opt for a drive to the L.A. area for nightlife, most would rather stay in Lancaster if there was actually something to do here. And there is, because The BLVD not only attracts locals but should even be seen as a destination for visitors from L.A.
The people on The BLVD were the highlight of the trip.
Varied backgrounds and races all gathered together, and everyone was friendly almost beyond belief. Staff at the restaurants and bars went above and beyond the norm. My co-blogger was shocked when “scary”-looking bikers greeted him with a smile and turned out to be friendly locals.
For me, the friendliness was a good reminder of my past experiences with people outside of large urban areas. Smaller cities and towns just seem to have friendlier people.
It turned out to be one of the best Friday nights I’ve had in a while. We started at Rio Brazilian Grill, where the grilled meats and other delicious food caused us all to stuff ourselves to uncomfortable levels. Even the lamb, which is something I usually dislike as being too “gamey,” was absolutely incredible.
Overstuffed, we wandered among the custom cars and motorcyles arriving on The BLVD to work off our overeating. Then we headed to BeX, a massive but welcoming bar/restaurant/lounge, complete with a nightclub with live bands on the ground level and a large bowling alley in the basement.
We closed out the night at Pour D’ Vino, a wine bar and bistro better than any wine bar in my local area of the South Bay. The place was crowded (but not uncomfortably so) when we arrived, with a live band entertaining the clientele. We grabbed glasses of wine and headed for the upstairs deck, a cozy outdoor area with fireplace and views of The BLVD and the night sky.
I couldn’t help but think that this is my kind of place.
On Saturday, we had another great meal, breakfast at a popular 50s diner called Katz N’ Jammers, then went for a pleasant stroll through a preserved desert at the Prime Desert Woodland Preserve. Then, as if we had not eaten enough already on this trip, had lunch back on The BLVD at Kinetic Brewing Company, one of Lancaster’s two home brewpubs.
Frankly I spent the entire time in kind of a daze because I kept saying to myself “this is amazing. And it’s in Lancaster!? Who knew?”
Well I do know now and as a result, have been recommending it to others and certainly recommend it to you, as well.