Thursday, May 30, 2024

Favorite things I’m eating right now in Long Beach: November 2023


Missed out on Brian Addison’s Favorite Things of past? I got you covered—just click here.

Too many years back, I wrote a very self-indulgent listicle that was about so-called “essential” Long Beach dishes; dishes that I loved and could depend on as long as that place existed—and I wrote it because there’s something so elemental and useful about a specific great dish at a specific place. It was less about some grander proclamation than it was about, “This is just great food.”

And after a year of not doing such lists, I want to return to it. Not some grand list of “essential dishes”—that is too hard of a burden to put on a restaurant: You better have this and you better have it all the time. But for now, in this moment, I am happy to share some of my favorite things.

In other words: Why not just own the moment? Without further ado, here are the favorite things I’m eating right now…

Breakfast croissant from Hamburgers Nice

1322 Coronado Ave. (inside Good Time)

There’s no doubt that grill master and overall solid human Jairo Bogarín of Hamburgers Nice—the Long Beach-based popup that is honestly the real steward of the smash burger since they started serving at Commodity (now Good Time) nearly five years ago—serves one of the best burgers.

But let us not forget his origins: breakfast. It’s always been breakfast. Long before the smash and the breakfast burgers were trends, Bogarín was combining the two for what made Hamburgers Nice a locally famous joint with his take on breakfast burgers. But since his residency at Good Time (which is a severely underrated coffee joint), he has created new things—and that includes the savory bomb that is his breakfast croissant.

Hefty, decadent, not one to talk about with your doc, this buttery, beast of a creation combines a croissant, crispy bacon, creamy yellow cheese, and Bogarín’s jalapeño spread and some aioli.

Josper-ed octopus at Marlena

6460 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., #200

Marlena, Long Beach’s newest restaurant from newly minted restaurateur Robert Smith and Chef Michael Ryan, sits in the heart of the Naples neighborhood but just enough off of its 2nd Street main drag that is provides a sense of privacy along with introducing a style of Californian cuisine that is not just refreshing for the neighborhood but the entire city.

Taking over the former Russo’s space (which operated there for some 30 years), Marlena is an entire re-imagining of both the space and the food being offered in Naples: A seamless indoor-outdoor vibe that is shockingly rare for a neighborhood that is literally surrounded by houses on canals and boats, Ryan wants to not reinvent the wheel but offer the quality of food that has become synonymous with places like Republique and Alta.

Part of the space’s wonder in its protein plates is its use of a Josper wood oven, which is neither a full-on grill or oven but a combination of the two. The beauty? All the flavor of a wood grill with all the control of an oven.

I never thought I would say this about a restaurant that has only been open for a month-and-a-half but I have yet to order a mediocre protein, whether it is fish (branzino, swordfish), red meat (ribeye), chicken (butterflied and awesome)—and their octopus, which was served to me when I went with a Romesco sauce, is a prime example of how brilliant those damn Jospers work when at the hands of a qualified chef.

For Brian Addison’s small feature on Marlena for Eater LA, click here.

Takoyaki at Jinya

6460 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., #130

After a few years of figuring out both identity and who they are catering to, the massive 2nd & PCH retail complex that took over the old SeaPort Marina Hotel space seems to have finally found its footing. Yes, there have been some casualties—Otosan Sushi, one of the best in the city, closed earlier this year as did ice cream shop Ample Hills; Bungalow Kitchen saw Chef Michael Mina formally step away and rebrand as a lounge less focused on food

…but there has also been unquestionable stand-outs: Noble Bird is first to come to mind, with its progressive and stellar menu. Italian Homemade Company is one of the most underrated spaces in the complex. A Pacific Coast Highway has easily one of the city’s most gorgeous bar spaces.

And while Jinya’s ramen isn’t quite that of HiroNori, they have a solid happy and a genuinely delicious American take on takoyaki, the famed octopus balls that are a staple in Japanese street food. Even better? The massive plate is $11.

Baleada from Honduras Kitchen

1909 E. 4th St.

When it comes to Latin American food, there is something particularly rich and wondrous when it comes to the mighty, carby fluff that are flour tortillas—and if you’ve had the beauty of seeing someone make them by hand, masterfully stretching out dough to create perfect rounds, you are reminded how something so simple can be so worthy of the hype.

And the baleadas at Honduras Kitchen—a Honduran staple in Long Beach for over 15 years after being opened by Rafael Larios—are a prime and beautiful example of how the flour tortilla can transform the simplest of foods. This, joining the mighty fried plantain that is stuffed with picadillo, are just a few examples of how this humble, vastly underrated Latin American gem has been the steward of Honduran food in Long Beach.

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Honduras Kitchen will be featured at this year’s inaugural Central American Heritage Festival, representing Honduran food in Long Beach while joining other spaces representing Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Panama. For more information on the festival, click here.

To read Brian Addison’s most recent feature on Honduras Kitchen, click here.

Beer from ISM Brewing

210 E. 3rd St. 

We have a lot to thank Ian McCall for—and it is as much his investment as it is his talent as a brewer.

Him and his family taking over the former Beachwood space in DTLB is not only clutch for the Downtown community but also brings us a new class of beer and brewpub as, in Ian’s words, he wants this space to be there for the rest of his life.

McCall’s craft beer pedigree is, to be frank, no joke: The man had been the head brewer at RIIP since 2018, lifting the brewery’s already-stellar brand to new heights with seven Great American Beer Fest medals across his tenure, including a gold for his play on a Belgian-style specialty ale dubbed Tangible Passion. And before that, he was the assistant brewer at Beachwood Brewing in Downtown Long Beach for the five years prior to RIIP, a tangental but directly-connected part of the brewery’s 9 GABF medals from 2013 to 2018 (which included an incredible four golds).

So when he served some of his first brews at a private party this month—a pilsner, an IPA, an American amber, and a New Zealand pils—I was not only ecstatic to try but happily reminded why we are so lucky to have him: Filling the pints of Beachwood’s beer-print is not an easy task, if not a nearly impossible one. If McCall’s beers are as consistent as these inaugural gems, there is no doubt he will continue to hold the flag that waves proudly for Long Beach’s role in continually creating great craft brews.

For Brian Addison’s full feature on ISM Brewing, click here.

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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