Thursday, May 30, 2024

Black-owned and -operated Grilled Fraiche abruptly closes all locations—including Long Beach

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Grilled Fraiche owner Peace Love has announced that Sunday, May 5 was the last day of operations for his much-loved Caribbean-meets-Californian style set of restaurants—including its Long Beach location, one of the few places serving up Black food in a Black space.

“It is with heavy hearts and deep gratitude that we announce the closure of Grilled Fraiche,” said owner Peace Love Reedburg in an online statement. “This has been a difficult decision, but despite our best efforts, we have reached a point where we are unable to sustain our operations due to a lack of necessary capital. We understand that this news may come as a surprise, but we want you to know that this decision was made after careful consideration of all options, and we believe it is the best course of action for the well-being of the business.”

What Grilled Fraiche represented—both in terms of food and culture

The inconspicuous space tucked into the Target/Trader Joe’s parking lot was a gem that filled a long-held gap in the Long Beach food scene, catering to the melding of Caribbean flavors with the sensibility of Californian cuisine. The egregious absence of Trini, Jamaican, Barbadian, Haitian, and other Caribbean cuisines in Long Beach has been felt for years, with the last spot dedicated to the flavors of the islands—Callaloo on Anaheim Street where the stellar Selva currently stands—formally closing in 2018. 

Grilled Fraiche helped fill that hole (especially with the growing impatience toward Ackee Bamboo’s seemingly perpetually halted opening on Broadway)—but perhaps there is no more warmer welcome than its hyper-active, almost-always-present owner, Reedburg, who bounced tirelessly between Grilled Fraiche’s Long Beach and two South L.A. locations. And one would certainly be greeted by Angelica, the Long Beach location’s tireless front-of-house maestro who was always ready with free samples for those exploring the menu for the first time (or, in my case, umpteenth); she held a sense of hospitality that was rare in East Long Beach.

“If the Black community isn’t succeeding, then our entire community isn’t succeeding,” Reedburg told me back in August of 2023. “And sharing Black food in ways where it can be healthy, beautifully presented, accessible—that’s clutch for the entirety of the food scene to thrive because everyone, from every culture, deserves to experience quality food and support local businesses… Food belongs to all of us.”

And while Love’s sermon certainly speaks to the soul, it also didn’t hurt that quality oxtails, Jamaican patties, and jerk chicken bowls sat next to wonderfully rich Californian takes on classics. Vegan crab cakes made from garbanzo beans and jackfruit. And perhaps most famous, their insanely delectable stew dubbed “Believe Stew,” a vegan concoction where hefty black beans met coconut milk in a dish that surely had one asking how they created it without a chicken or beef broth.

“We want you to know that your presence, smiles, stories, hugs, encouragement, and countless shared moments have made Grilled Fraiche much more than a restaurant,” Reedbur said. “We are eternally thankful for the warmth, love, solace, and sense of community this place has provided… It has been an honor to serve you, and we will miss you dearly. Although our daily operations are ending, our team remains dedicated to providing delicious food made with love, no matter what. As we go through this transitional period, we will continue accepting catering requests on a case-by-case basis.”

It was a food that was necessary and, while spaces like Taste of the Caribbean have opened, represents yet another loss of a Black-owned space offering Black culinary wonders.

Black food, from soul to the Caribbean, was once a common staple in Long Beach—and its diminishment needs to be curtailed

The representation of Black food in Long Beach has dwindled along with the Black population itself—but for Blacks and non-Blacks alike throughout the city, the cuisines of the Caribbean, Africa, Afro-Latin America, and elsewhere are not only wanted locally but directly sought after in other cities—and this is for certain when it comes to Caribbean food Long Beach: Trini, Jamaican, Haitian… 

Callaloo, the Trini-West India restaurant that anchored Zaferia’s bourgeoning food scene on Anaheim, has long been shuttered, with patrons long missing its weekends filled with shark soup, chicken pelau, and Trini doubles. There was a brief Caribbean popup on Long Beach Blvd. just a couple years ago that was stellar but nowhere permanently and there’s been a hint of Caribbean food appearing at food festivals, along with the aforementioned opening of Taste of the Caribbean…

But there are still many, many gaps to be filled.

When it comes to soul and Southern American cuisines, much of the same echoes: Soul food staples that were part of nearly every neighborhood in the city dwindled across the 2000s and 2010s—from LBJ’s Fine Foods in North Long Beach to In the Kitchen in Downtown closing up shop. 

But there is a silver lining and renewed ownership among soul food purveyors: As of late, soul and Southern American food has seen a return. Sally Bevans of the much-loved Sal’s Gumbo Shack has expanded her gumbo empire while spaces like Soul Food Renaissance, McDowell’s, and Georgia’s continue to keep their doors open.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

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