Friday, July 19, 2024

Essential dishes from Long Beach restaurants in 2023


Hop Through the List

2023 was a year that both James Tir (aka @LBFoodComa on Instagram) and myself call the year of the flex in terms of what the best restaurants in Long Beach brought to the food scene: Heritage was honored with the city’s first Michelin star; Ammatolí and Selva scored their second year on Los Angeles Times food critic Bill Addison’s Top 101 Restaurants list, with Tacos La Carreta joining for the first time; it was a year filled with incredible one-off specials (many on this very list)…

And previously, I was going to do my favorite 23 dishes from 2023—but compiling the list left way to many out and it was James’s brilliant suggestion we do one, big, 50-dish collaborative list honoring 50 different restaurants. (We had so many places with multiple dishes we liked that we realized, yet again, many were being left out; look for “additional suggested dishes” to see some of our other favorites.)

In no particular order…

Makloubeh (مقلوبة) from Ammatolí

285 E. 3rd St.

by Brian Addison

Should Chef Dima Habibeh of Ammatolí have any special going on, get it—it is a simple rule-of-thumb for one of the region’s best restaurants. Whether its mansaf—lamb shanks braised in yogurt—or malfouf—a stack of rice-stuffed cabbage rolls topped with succulent lamb chops—I can guarantee you it will likely be something you’ve never had or, if you have had it because you explore Levantine food or grew up on it, it will be one of the best versions you’ve had.

Take the makloubeh, the upside-down rice dish that is served throughout the Levant but is perhaps best loved in Palestine, where it is largely considered one of its national dishes: Chef Dima’s version—in the one made for me, she used lamb; she also does versions with chicken or purely vegetables—chunks of lamb, eggplant, fried tomatoes, and potatoes are layered in an aromatic rice where cinnamon and cardamon immediately hit the nose.

Savory, slightly sweet, herbaceous to the extent of being outright wondrous, it is a dish I will never forget.

Note: This dish was a special and is not on the regular menu (like her mansaf, for example); call to check for any specials Chef Dima Habibeh might be offering.

Additional suggested dishes: Palestinian msakhan; fresh pita and baked items; roasted beets hummus; sayadyieh; beef shawarma; moussaka

Detroit-style pizza from Speak Cheezy

3950 E. 4th St.

by James Tir

Sitting at the easternmost end of Long Beach’s Pizza Row, Chef Jason Winters has been shaking things up by building a culinary carousel: Stretching, topping, and baking his way through his favorite iterations of the regional pizza of America, slinging neo-New York, Sicilian, and Chicago Tavern-style pies. 

I’ve always been keen on his pies across the board—the gas-diffused sourdough lends itself to a leopard-spotted crust with a pillowy crumb, resulting in a crispy and fluffy chew, making the base pie alone fantastic—however, Winters’ knack for flavors as a chef has the kitchen churning out some of the most inventive pizza in the region.

My favorite has to be his Detroit-Style Pizza.

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The rectangular pie is cooked in a deep square pan that’s topped with edge to edge mozzarella and white cheddar, lining the sides with shatteringly delightful fried cheese when pulled out of the oven. As for the nigh two-inch tall crust, it too cracks with teeth-on-crust contact yielding to an airy, almost Brioche-like crumb. I asked for a whole host of toppings: bright tomato sauce, thick-cut pepperoni, ricotta, fresh basil, and hot honey. In a year that included Los Angeles’ first Pizza City Festival (of which had several Long Beach participants, including Speak Cheezy and had fest host Steve Dolinsky visit Long Beach for a tour Brian Addison and I provided), this was my favorite pizza experience of the year bar none. 

Additional suggested dishes: the “Tie Dye” pizza; soft serve; any special

Sea urchin cappuccino from The Attic

3441 E. Broadway

by Brian Addison

The Attic on Broadway’s Chef Cameron Slaugh’s supper club—where diners are invited into the house’s private dining room—is truly one of the city’s most exhilarating food experiences and the city’s best tasting menu. And the starter dish, a sea urchin “cappuccino,” was one of the best dishes I’ve had. Period.

It was served in a small, heated, deep stone bowl filled with what only could be described the permeating ooze of the ocean. An uni-layered foam, topped with more sea urchin, an oyster, and a dollop of caviar. It was umami bomb in the best way possible, with bits of salt, acid, and ramsons—garlicky white flowers often called wild or bear’s garlic—cutting through the fat and creaminess of the uni and oyster. And for a moment, there was little to focus on other than the dish, the people surrounding me, and the room.

And when the server closed the door, an immediate escape of the restaurant’s cacophony of diners, servers, and chatter. It was our private little universe—and I was diving fork first into the first dish of five, an oceanic universe of a first course created by The Attic on Broadway’s Chef Cameron Slaugh.

It was a nearly perfect dish in a nearly perfect room—my fingers only avoiding typing “entirely perfect” because of that nagging thing inside me that no such thing exists. But if we were to push toward it, this would be it. 

Note: This dish is part of Chef Cameron Slaugh’s Supper Club at The Attic, which alters its menu seasonally; call for most current Supper Club menu.

Additional suggested dishes: carpaccio with sorrel and oyster sauce; brick chicken; morel mushrooms topped with green freekah and flowering broccolinis

Carne en su jugo from Cañada’s Grill

3721 E. Anaheim St.

by James Tir

Manuel and Maria Gonzalez opened Cañadas Grill in 2014, serving what on the surface, seems to be common Mexican fare by Long Beach’s standards. However, what sets them apart are the dishes that hail from the Mexican region of Jalisco—specifically the torta ahogada and the carne en su jugo. The latter of which is on my regular rotation for soups in the city. 

The carne en su jugo is made by simmering thin slices of flank steak in a tomatillo stew alongside pinto beans, bacon, and chilies. The subsequent elixir is surprisingly bright, with a rich beefy lacquer lingering on your tastebuds. As for the flank steak, the famously tough and lean cut of beef, is broken down into a tender bite. It’s accompanied by fresh lime, red onion, grilled chilies, and corn tortillas. 

Scallop crudo from Selva’s ‘Test Kitchen’ series

4137 E. Anaheim St. B

by Brian Addison

It has been a wild first two years for Selva, scoring spots on critic Bill Addison’s Best 101 Restaurants list for the Los Angeles Times each year—and ever since writing about Chef Carlos Jurado’s Colombian love letter of an inaugural menu, it has been both an honor and privilege to see him push boundaries while also harnessing his Colombian heritage.

And now, it is time to truly flex with his monthly “Test Kitchen” series, which held its inaugural venture on Dec. 12.

Jurado’s pedigree is rarely mentioned by the chef—for example, he worked under Chef Jordan Kahn, the genius-meets-frustrating creative whose work at Vespertine was hailed as the region’s best by much-loved food critic Jonathan Gold before his death—but it nonetheless should be noted: Jurado has been in the game at some of its highest heights and while he never once to blindly chase accolades, he does see this as a way to flex his culinary muscles. 

A personal fave? His scallop crudo under a gorgeously black squid ink tuile sit in a pool of coconut milk and ají. The result is a gastronomical piece of art—much like our next listing.

Note: This was part of Chef Carlos Jurado’s ‘Test Kitchen’ monthly dinner series; call for upcoming Test Kitchen menus.

Additional suggested dishes: the smoked bird; scallop crudo; arepas

Prix fixe dinner from Heritage

2030 E. 7th St.

by James Tir

In October of 2020, I distinctly remember having a conversation with Lauren and Philip Pretty, the sibling co-owners of Heritage. They were a gourmet sandwich shop at the time. I was enjoying their (very much-missed) chargrilled brocolini sandwich, and Philip said that they wanted to get a Michelin Star. Not only that, they wanted to be Long Beach’s first—and three years later, they achieved it getting recognized with several accolades, including the Michelin Star and Green Star

When it comes to bang for your buck, an intimate six-course, zero-waste, chef-driven meal for only $120 is unheard of. Not to mention, most of their goods are acquired either from the Heritage Farm located here in Long Beach or local purveyors and farmers markets. 

From a presentation standpoint, the Prettys eschew chef-tropes of arbitrary microgreen application for more thoughtful garnishes such as wood sorrel or ruby streaks mustard from their farm, resulting in some of the Pretty-est plates in the city.

As for the items in the course, the breadth of flavor and texture throughout is wondrous. The kanpachi crudo has a nice fat-acid balance between the avocado and the fermented pineapple. The cannonball cabbage is crisp and clean, punctuated by the intense umami of the sauerkraut soubise and caesar dressing. The grilled diver scallop is gently sweet and assisted by the earthy sunchoke and allium perfumed crown. The free-range Jidori chicken sits in a pool of verdant snap pea smear and doused in a bright caviar beurre blanc. And the desserts entail a blackberry froyo comprised of pomegranate granita and meyer lemon, and a burnt sage honey cake adorned with pumpkin pastry cream and pepita granola.

Note: The dishes mentioned are part of Chef Philip Pretty’s rotating prix fixe dinners. Call for menu specifics.

Nhom sdao from Crystal Thai Cambodian

1165 E. 10th St.

by Brian Addison

I have long extolled the virtues of this very special, very Long Beach restaurant—and it is because while the Noodle Shack (rightfully, mind you) gets swarms of attention for its famed bowl of Cambodian noodles, Cambodian food is more than just bowls of noodles and Cambodian-tinted Thai and Vietnamese dishes.

Cambodian cuisine is a cuisine all its own—and if one wants to “step into a Cambodian family’s home,” as my friend and fellow food lover James Tir (aka @LBFoodComa on Instagram) put it, one goes to Crystal Thai Cambodian, immediately skips the offerings of pad thai and green mango salad, instead opting for nom p’jok—their gorgeous tamarind fish soup—whole fried Mekong River catfish—with tamarind sauce and sdao to wrap its chunks of yellow flesh into lettuce cups—and somlar machu kreung—a sour tamarind soup with water spinach and a lemongrass-meets-garlic wonder that is kreung paste.

But this? This is where flavors that are likely to turn off most become combined in one of the most intriguing, delightful moldings I’ve had at the space: very bitter sdao, a Cambodian herb, is the star of the dish, tossed with sprouts and greens with bits of fried fish’n’fat—to the point that my Mexican dude called them “bits of chicharròn pescado”—fried pork belly, and pork tripe. Add some fish sauce, a wee bit of sugar, and citrus, and this dish is a gorgeous representation of what so many miss out when they choose not to go adventurous.

Nixtamal Queen from Gusto Bread

2710 E. 4th St.

by James Tir

Whether Gusto Bread, the lauded Indigenous-meets-European panadería, is dough master Arturo Enciso’s magnum opus remains to be seen—however, it’s undoubtedly one of the best bakeries in the Southern California region. The bakery churns out conchas, choribuns, pastelitos, and more, often selling out by midday. 

My go-to item is their nixtamal queen which smashes the concept of a kouign-amann together with house made nixtamal creating a wholly new pastry. Its layers are fragile yet dense, fracturing in parts, bouncy in others, succumbing to a subtle corn masa aroma. 

And after their recent space expansion which brings Cafe Cuate’s Oaxacan coffee to the table, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better pairing with the Queen. 

Kamayan plate from Gemmae Bakeshop

1356 W. Willow St.

by Brian Addison

A Kamayan plate from Gemmae Bakeshop for 2023's inaugural Long Beach Food Scene Week. Photo by Brian Addison.
A Kamayan plate from Gemmae Bakeshop for 2023’s inaugural Long Beach Food Scene Week. Photo by Brian Addison.

To see the growth of Catherine Tolentino—the daughter of Prescilla Tolentino, who uprooted herself 30 years from the Philippines to open Gemmae Bake Shop in Long Beach—is to witness a daughter not only grasp her mom’s ambition but also inherit her talent. Gemmae has grown beyond a bake shop and into a true community asset: Expanding to offer hot foods, proudly charging into the 2020s with contemporary takes on Filipino classics (like their stuffed pandesal, which alters with a new flavor monthly), and a continual love of collaborations (like her stellar sisig pizza collab with Chef Jason Winters over at Speak Cheezy, another dish on this list), Catherine is taking on her mom’s spirit in creative ways that even get the hard-to-earn-but-very-much-worth-it Nod of Approval from Prescilla.

But one of her dishes for my inaugural Long Beach Food Scene Week—a traditional Filipino Kamayan plate—was a standout.

Honoring the tradition of Kamayan food spreads—translating into “hands” in Tagalog, where foods that are intended to be eaten by hand are laid out across a table lined with banana leaves—Catherine has created a $20 plate with steamed rice, lechon kawali (braised’n’fried strips of pork belly), their famed lumpia Shanghai, adobong pula (a red adobo sauce, where it is used on chicken for this plate), cassava cake, and a side of atsara (pickled papaya) and sweet chili sauce.

I am praying Catherine might bring it back one day…

Note: This was part of the Long Beach Food Scene Week and is not part of Gemmae’s regular menu.

Wagyu carpaccio from Ellie’s

204 Orange Ave.

by James Tir

Jason Witzl’s Southern Italian-inspired and California-driven restaurant is a stronghold in the Long Beach restaurant scene. Handmade pasta, seasonal produce, and wild game characterize the dinner menu, with plates often changing alongside whims of nature—and of the chef. 

It would be easy to highlight any of their pasta dishes as Ellie’s sit firmly alongside some of the best pastaio in the city including La Parolaccia, Nonna Mercato, and Michael’s, but their shared plates have been essential in many a date night. In particular, the wagyu carpaccio has been a standout. Paper-thin slices of wagyu beef lay flat whilst a cadre of black garlic emulsion, shaved button mushroom, celery, olive oil, and aged parmesan dress the delicate wagyu flesh in a canvas of nutty, umami, slightly bitter, and savory flavor. 

Additional suggested dishes: the brunch burger; hamachi crudo; broccolini

Birria lasagna at El Barrio Cantina

1731 E. 4th St. 

by Brian Addison

I’ve always said that Chef Ulises Pineda-Alfaro’s food comes from that old-school ideology that food should speak for itself—leaving aside seemingly endless conversations about food diasporas, what defines undefinable things such as “authenticity,” and the politics behind food.

No matter how you dice it, though, you can’t help but notice how the very neighborhood that shaped the chef—Los Angeles—plays a role in one of his best and most comforting dishes to date: birria lasagna.

For us in SoCal, we often take for granted the kaleidoscope of cultures that come to play with us side-by-side on a daily basis—and that includes dishes in which two separate cultures firmly shake hands to create something magical.

Like this.

Green tinged lasagna sheets infused with onion and cilantro, stuffed with Barrio’s birria de res and layered with cilantro-infused requeson-style whey cheese, and topped off with a marinara-inspired salsa (that is essential; drizzle it all over the damn thing).

For Brian Addison’s latest feature on El Barrio Cantina, click here.

Additional suggested dishes: tacos de papas; pescado chicharrón; Peruvian scallops

Pain au Chocolat from Colossus

4716 E. 2nd St.

by James Tir

Speaking of dough masters like the aforementioned crew at Gusto, Kristin Colazas Rodriguez is a baker and pastry chef that has mastered the art of the croissant. There are hours upon hours of laminating, resting, and folding together dough and butter involved in achieving the layers of flaky goodness in America’s favorite French pastry. Whenever I have a vicious croissant craving, Colossus is always top of mind. 

In particular, their pain au chocolat (or what we often call the chocolate croissant, to the chagrin of the French) is my choice for a coffee buddy. The pain au chocolat is a classic for a reason, and Colossus’s consistency in delivering that experience has me returning time and time again.

Additional suggested dishes: pizza (which is now available daily); kouign amman; pecan sticky bun

Causa and tuna from Sushi Nikkei

3819 Atlantic Ave. in Bixby Knolls & 5020 E. 2nd St. in Belmont Shore

by Brian Addison

For the owners of Sushi Nikkei—sushi master Eduardo Chang Ogata and his wife, Daiwa Wong—celebrating their one-year anniversary at their Belmont Shore location was essential: The space, for some strange reason, fails to attract the crowds that its older sister in Bixby Knolls does—but that doesn’t mean the pair won’t fight to keep both locations as active as possible.

Creating a special menu for the evening, Eduardo created a masterful play on traditional Peruvian food with his sushi leanings, piping a beautiful string of bright yellow causa—mashed potatoes so smooth they feel like frosting—with bits of macerated tuna blended with spices. And the result is something they should include permanently on their menu.

But perhaps more importantly is the fact that we have this kind of cuisine at all, especially here in Long Beach: While “nikkei” refers to anyone of Japanese heritage outside of Japan proper, the Nikkei in Peru have face immense struggles in order to maintain their existence, making their food not just unique but one of cultural resilience (much like the Cambodian food we are blessed to have in the city). 

And for those uninitiated in Nikkei cuisine—just as I was—fear not: The servers are there to help or, if you trust me, I can assure you there is no bad order at Sushi Nikkei. However, I do have a sincerely deep suggestion: The eight-piece Sushi Nikkei tasting, where you can feel and taste the evolution of Eduardo’s sushi journey.

For Brian Addison’s full feature on Sushi Nikkei, click here.

Note: This was part of their anniversary menu and is likely not on their regular menu; call for availability.

Additional suggested dishes: Nikkei tasting; Dusty roll; Tiradito Nikkei; tuna tasting

Gang hung lay from Chiang Rai

3832 E. Anaheim St.

by James Tir

Michelin-mentioned Chiang Rai has managed to rise to the surface in a sea of Thai food eateries in the city. That’s not to say that all other Thai spots are bad—quite the opposite, they’re all good. 

Through the result of gastrodiplomacy (seriously, look up Thailand’s meddling in standardizing Thai food all around the world as a marketing opportunity for Thai tourism, it’s a fun rabbit hole), the bar for Thai food in general (and by default in Long Beach) is pretty high, though they all feel comparable. 

Chiang Rai stands apart as they put the highlight on Northern Thai dishes such as khao soi, larb and gang hung lay, over pad Thai or any other variation of wok fried noodle dish. My favorite dish at Chiang Rai is the khao soi. But, the gang hung lay is a real underdog. It’s comprised of thick cut pork belly that has been stewed in a sweet soy sauce broth, ginger, and various spices until it is fork tender. It’s served with freshly shaved ginger, cashews, and steamed rice. If you’re a fan of pork belly, this dish is essential. 

Additional suggested dishes: khao soi; Midnight chicken

Carbonara pizza from Ten Mile Brewing

1136 Willow St.

by Brian Addison

The city’s pizza game is wildly out of control in the best way possible—from Speak Cheezy’s pies (including their stellar Detroit-style pizza, included on this list) to La Parolaccia to Michael’s on Naples to…—and probably the largest shocker amongst them all is the fact that a brewery with no formal food decided to throw their hat into the pizza ring. And come out with some of the city’s best pies.

One of owner Jesse Sundstrom’s best creations? A carbonara pizza that uses Shady Grove Food’s famed bacon, peas, and mozzy with a shaving of a salt-cured egg yolk—and it’s one of my favorite pies I’ve had in a long time. Savory as all hell, gooey in all the right ways, this ode to one of the four Roman mother sauces is absolutely wondrous.

To read Brian Addison’s full profile on Ten Mile Brewing’s dive into pizza, click here.

Hawaiian-style Poke from Poke & More

2292 E. Carson St.

by James Tir

I am a huge fan of poke—and Brian Addison also has fave, Poke Pub in DTLB—but I am obsessively into poke. Not of the frilly, covered in avocado sort that abounds in California, but of the Hawaiian sort that celebrates the fish above all else.

Adelle Gutierrez’s Poke & More serves just that. You’ll find the poke displayed in big plastic tubs filled with cubes of crimson-tinged ahi that have been resting in spicy mayo or ginger soy sauce. The poke is apportioned via ice cream scoops and paired with rice, just like they do in Hawaii. 

It’s pure comfort, designed to feed the stomach, and not the Instagram. Sure, they do serve a few embellished dishes—such as their poke burrito (which I must admit, is quite delicious)—but the core of the poke is simple: fish, sauce, and rice.

Cinghiale Milanese from Michael’s on Naples

5620 E. 2nd St.

by Brian Addison

Michael’s on Naples—thanks to the talent and culinary prowess of longtime Executive Chef Eric Samaniego paired with the hospitality mastery of General Manager Massimo Aronne—is truly a gem in Long Beach. James’s (rightful) choice of their straciatella and pistachio pizza being added to the list further cements that sentiment.

But as I have always said: Samaniego’s tasting menus are where it’s at when it comes to the white-cloth space—and his tasting menu dedicated to the almighty wild boar of Italy was one of the chef’s most beautifully executed array of dishes: a stellar garganelli with a boar ragú, a play on canned tuna-gone-boar with cannellini beans and tomatoes…

But the star was a butterflied wild boar chop, breaded and fried Milan style, sitting atop a spread of creamy polenta and slightly bitter greens. Arguably the most cozy dish Samaniego has served in his tasting menu, this felt more like a nonna’s cucina, where the flavors weren’t layers of culinary school but decades of masterfully cooking warming food.

For Brian Addison’s full feature on Michael’s on Naples, click here.

Note: This was part of the chef’s tasting menu and is not on the regular menu. Call for current tasting menu offerings.

Additional suggested dishes: pizza with straciatella and pistachio (or any pizza); tasting menu; wine pairing with any dish

Panino con Mortazza from La Parolaccia Osteria

2495 E. Broadway

by James Tir

Brian included this item in last year’s “The 22 essential dishes from Long Beach restaurants across 2022,” and despite that, I found this dish deserved a revisit. Michael Procaccini’s mastery over Italian, and specifically Roman, cuisine is unquestionable, and I am unashamed to gush over his talents as a pizzaiolo and pastaio.

His dough dexterity is best displayed in the most simple of dishes, whether it’s the margherita pizza or the titular panino. La Parolaccia’s panino con mortazza, a quintessential Roman street sandwich, begins with a focaccia base. The dough is laced with biga, a pre-ferment that gives Procaccini’s focaccia a nuanced nuttiness and cavernous crumb. When paired with house made stracciatella, imported olive oil, and thinly slice mortadella—you have a sandwich that is both elegant and unpretentious.

And all in all? La Parolaccia stands as one of the best restaurants in Long Beach.

Additional suggested dishes: any pizza and any pasta—no joke

Bánh mì heo quay from Pickle Banh Mi

1171 E. Anaheim St.

by Brian Addison

I absolutely love our city’s growth in traditional Vietnamese cuisine—and Pickle Banh Mi Co.’s first location beyond the Orange Curtain is a prime example of that, giving us the city’s undisputed best bánh mì (and some of the best baguettes, made in house for a buck a piece if you just want some good bread).

Even more, the story behind the small operation is one that is about the empowerment and resilience of Vietnamese women and their families—and it is directly reflected through their food, including their offering of the city’s best bánh mì.

From the traditional—like bánh mì đặc biệt, the cold cut bánh mì that has defined the sandwich since its origins, or the bánh mì bò nướng sả, a lemongrass beef that has subtleties of sweetness amid its savory and herbal qualities—to the witty and fun—like a play with Peruvian lomo saltado for one or the use of chả cá thăng long, the famed turmeric-dill fish dish, for another—there is no bad bánh mì order at Pickle Banh Mi. 

I mean that: No bad or even middling bánh mì at Pickle Banh Mi.

But their pork belly version, with perfectly roasted bits where the skin is crispy and the meat is tender? Well, it’s a damn wonder that masterful bit of a sandwich there…

Additional suggested dishes: bánh mì bò nướng xã; cơm heo quay; nem nướng cuốn

Lemongrass Beef Sticks from A&J Seafood Shack

3201 E. Anaheim

by James Tir

A&J’s is literally a shack, one situated along the border of Cambodia Town and Zaferia, and it is admittedly conceptually odd on paper. They solely serve takeout via a window that includes dishes you’d often find at higher budget Cambodian-Chinese joints such as Hak Heang—think wok-tossed lobster or salt and pepper shrimp. But it works. The juxtaposition of a steamy crustaceanship on an outdoor bench embues the normally luxurious dining experience with a relatable charm. 

Though their seafood is top-notch, I’d like to feature one of their other dishes: the lemongrass beefsticks. These skewers of kroueng-marinated beef are probably the most approachable Cambodian dish. With a tender and unctuous bite, the beef emanates a bouquet of lemongrass and galangal with every piece consumed. 

Additional suggested dishes: house lobster; grilled oysters; salt & pepper shrimp

Artichoke dip from The Social List

2105 E. 4th St.

by Brian Addison

I think the thing I love most about The Social List is a simultaneous conundrum: On one hand, it is the neighborhood hangout; a place where regulars are far more prevalent than visitors and a place that feels like a staple which isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. And yet, on the other hand, it has a consistently revolving door of menu updates (like a stellar truffle burger they offered for Valentine’s Day).

But in the true vein of The Social List, they are a neighborhood joint that is, as I said, filled with regulars for a reason: They are returning for what they want—and rightfully so. And in the latest round of menu updates from The Social List, they have a witty if not outright warming return to food trends of the 90s, all with a bit more sophistication and flair.

There’s a Chinese chicken salad that is awesome. A genuinely great Kung Pho cauliflower that is both an ode and diss to Panda Express.

They even have, in probably the space’s most brilliant middle finger to food trends, an ode to almighty spinach artichoke dip. The result? A wonderfully creamy, definitively cheesy, inexplicably warming dish that honestly ranks up there with some of my favorite appetizers in the city.

Additional suggested dishes: chicken Szechuan sandwich; Kung Pao cauliflower; Shishito peppers;

Kimchi Fried Rice from Sura Korean BBQ

621 Atlantic Ave.

by James Tir

The kimchi fried rice has long been a staple of Sura’s menu, comprised of wok-fired heukmi bap (Korean purple rice), bacon, and kimchi. Those who experience menu paralysis are often drawn towards this guaranteed crowd pleaser—the violaceous pearls, the smoky essence of wok hay, and the understated brightness of the kimchi unify in a pure comfort experience that will satisfy the pickiest of eaters. 

Even better, owners Claire and Brandon Kim have been iterating on this dish—it was perfect, but now it’s also beautiful as the dome of rice is surrounded by a shallow moat of egg. 

Additional suggested dishes: Army Base stew; rose tteokbokki; chicken katsu

Chả cá thăng long from Sesame Dinette

1750 Pacific Ave.

by Brian Addison

There is something particularly special about Sesame Dinette—and that is the fact that much of our Vietnamese food is passed through a Cambodian or Thai lens. Even our much-loved Pho Hong Phat is Cambodian owned and operated—and that necessarily isn’t a bad thing but it does provide a deep yearning for traditionally prepared Vietnamese food by Vietnamese hands.

And that’s where daughter-and-mother, owner-and-chef team Linda Sivrican and Chef Judy Mai Nguyen come in: What started as a market popup in DTLA’s Chinatown during the pandemic, where Nguyen’s cold food was served out of a refrigerator, blew up into a national sensation, garnering coverage from the New York Times to the Los Angeles Times.

Nguyen’s food is special: It spans the traditional and even breaks away from it—like her beautifully witty pho French dip—but the traditional is where Long Beach can begin to explore some genuinely gorgeous Vietnamese dishes, like her chả cá thăng long.

Chunks of flaky white tilapia turn vibrant yellow after marinading in a turmeric-dill concoction and before being pan fried and stacked atop a bowl of vermicelli noodles and greens. Use rice paper to assemble your bite, top off with both tamarind and anchovy sauce, and you have yourself a gorgeous bite of Vietnam right here in Long Beach.

For Brian Addison’s full feature on Sesame Dinette for Eater LA, click here.

Additional suggested dishes: mì vịt tiềm chay; phở đuôi bò; dặc biệt banh mi; oc lá lốt

Smoked Twako from Battambong BBQ

Various locations; check Instagram

by James Tir

Chad “The Cambodian Cowboy” Phuong, needs no introduction after he exploded on the scene with his masterful fusion barbecue.

As a refugee and pitmaster hailing from both Cambodia and the panhandle of Texas, respectively, he has found a way to meld two very disparate cultures creating a cuisine that feels uniquely Long Beach. He plays with Khmer flavors such as lemongrass and kampot black pepper, the latter of which is pervasive among his smoked meats. The kampot pepper is spicier compared to the ubiquitous tellicherry which has a more citrusy body, lending a bolder finish on the palate. 

All of his food is noteworthy, though the smoked twako is particularly special. This beef, galangal, and fermented rice sausage is typically grilled or fried—Phuong tosses them into the smoker which subdues the acidity and creates sausage that’s bright and aromatic. 

Additional suggested dishes: smoked turkey (Thanksgiving only); brisket; garlic noodles

Beans and pork belly from The Ordinarie

210 The Promenade N.

by Brian Addison

While the entire staff and family of The Ordinarie is coming down the holiday mayhem that is their Miracle bonanza, it is only proper to return to the restaurant’s origins: its place as a social hub for sustenance and liberating.

Young, reserved, and extremely focused, Chef Nick DiEugenio—brought on earlier in 2023—grew up in one of the most jealous-inducing situations: His parents were the authors of cookbooks that focused on American cities—leaving him to inspiration about how one can approach a kitchen. (He is also happy to discuss his neo-Platonic philosophical leanings or his more recent dive into medieval Islamic philosophy.)

His food is a decidedly American take on cuisine—no easy task but one that he tackles well.

And while there are other tidbits on his inaugural menu that deserve applause—a stellar steak (that was ribeye when I visited but alters and will likely be leaving soon) with chimmichurri, a genuinely fulfilling Carolina-style pulled pork sandwich with a mustard slaw that could serve as a side on its own…—there is nothing more plainly Ordinarie-esque than DiEugenio’s play on pork and beans.

A strip of pork belly that is marinaded’n’sous vide-ed before being fried and served atop beans, it is the Hormel-in-a-can American pantry staple on a much-needed dose of steroids and class.

For Brian Addison’s last feature on The Ordinarie, click here.

Note: This is a seasonal item that was on their Fall menu; check for availability.

Additional suggested dishes: pot pie bites; Just Your Ordinarie burger; beef and barley soup

Double cheeseburger from The Win~Dow

4600 E. 2nd St.

by James Tir

Belmont Shore has been seeing a culinary and cultural renaissance, and The Win~Dow is one of the latest to grace the strip when it was announced back in May they would be opening their first Long Beach location. Taking over the old Archibald’s space, this burger joint extends its minimal concept from Silverlake and Venice to Long Beach, focusing on no-frills and affordable eats. 

Is it the best burger in Long Beach? I’d venture to say no (perhaps Hamburgers Nice would get that recognition), but it is a genuinely good burger, from a locally owned and operated spot, with a comparable experience to the fast food juggernaut that is In-N-Out. The cheeseburger is $4.25 while the double is $7.50. Oh, and they have a chicken sandwich that’s actually fantastic—and In-N-Out obviously doesn’t have one of those. 

Additional suggested dishes: Chicken sandwich; ice cream sandwich

Crispy pig ear with shishito peppers from Chez Bacchus

743 E. 4th St.

by Brian Addison

Chez Bacchus is a vastly underrated space, particularly for Long Beach. Overtaking a previous space which was riddled with problems and following a concept that never even led to open doors, owner and sommelier John Hansen has done what most thought was outright impossible: Create a white-cloth dining experience without the pretense—and make it successful.

With the onboarding of the incredibly humble, equally talented Chef Danny Kay, there’s been a nice shift that expands the space’s dedication to Californian cuisine: Yes, it includes some stellar, elevated dishes—like Chef Kay’s wonderful potato and chèvre-stuffed agnolotti with shaved Tuscan black truffle—but one of his most incredible dishes is one of his most humble.

Happily exemplifying the Asian flavors he grew up on, Kay takes the oft-dismissed, underrated pig ear and braises it to the point where it becomes gluttonously gelatinous before he throws it in a tamarind concoction while crisping the slivers of ear. Topped with a beautiful array of earthy and minty herbs and charred shishito peppers, this mighty ode to the pig is wonderfully delectable and a damn near perfect bite to grab at either their bar or before dinner.

Additional suggested dishes: Wagyu beef cheek pot pie; New Zealand venison chop; Long Beach Mushroom risotto

Rice porridge from Phnom Penh Noodle Shack

1644 Cherry St.

by James Tir

The Tan family opened the Phnom Penh Noodle Shack in 1985 and it quickly became a haven for the Cambodian community. Growing up in Cambodia Town, the Shack was a block away from home for me. I have distinct memories of walking over with my mom and getting a bowl of rice porridge. It was a healing serum, that warmed me in the same way that chicken noodle soup would warm the archetypal American child. 

The loose delicate rice grains, the sumptuous pork broth, and the assemblage of pork offal are flavorful on their own, however, like many Southeast Asian dishes, it’s just the canvas. Your paint involves a variety of accoutrements including chili sambal, fermented soy beans, fresh lime, and bean sprouts, allowing you to balance the heat, salt, acid, and crunch to your liking. 

Additional suggested dishes: Phnom Penh Noodle House Special; cha quai

Panzanella from Nonna Mercato

3722 Atlantic Ave.

by Brian Addison

There is a pasta renaissance that has been happening for a few years now: Beginning with Chef Michael Procaccini at La Parolaccia and Chef Eric Samaniego Michael’s on Naples, rolling into Lorenzo Motolla’s Vino e Cucina, and maintained by Chef Jason Witzl at Ellie’s and Bjoern Risse at Wood & Salt.

And if there is a culmination of this artistic endeavor, I would boldly claim Chef Cameron Slaugh’s creations at Nonna Mercato represent that. Sopressini layered with oyster mushrooms and charred’n’fried broccoli spigarello in a citrusy, mascarpone sauce. The ultra light, beautiful ode to semolina that is gnocchi alla Romana with sweet pumpkin and the savor-bomb that is n’duja. Torchietti wrapped in a creamy, citrusy concoction where layers of mint, green chickpeas, and preserved lemon. Chitarra with Dungeness crab and guanciale…

There is no bad pasta order at Nonna Mercato—and that is speaking volumes—and it is something I couldn’t exclude.

But Slaugh’s seasonal only, insanely perfect panzanella salad with heirloom tomatoes? A staple for any Italian household, in America or otherwise, one takes stale bread chunks and turns them into crouton-like chunks via a healthy dousing of olive oil and salt before being crisped, tossed in a vinaigrette. Paired with nothing more than heirloom tomatoes and basil, Slaugh’s version is likely the closest they’ll find to, well, their nonna’s take on the classic.

Note: This is a seasonal item that was on their Summer menu and is not currently available.

Additional suggested winter dishes: any pasta; dill trout conserva; mozzarella di bufala; crispy pumpkin blossoms

Vampiro taco from Tacos La Carreta

3401 E. 60th St.

by James Tir

Tacos la Carreta is a Sinaloense-style taco truck that José Manuel Morales Bernal Jr. started in homage to his father’s roots in Mazatlán, serving up carne asada and tripa that have been grilled over burning wood coal, giving all of their meat a thick kiss of smoke. 

They’re most famous for the torito which involves a lard lathered flour tortilla, anaheim chile, cheese, and the aforementioned grilled meats—it’s the taco that garnered them everything from being declared the unanimous winner for LA TACO’s Taco Madness 2023 to the very editor of LA TACO, Javiar Cabral, calling them some of the best tacos in the region to their inclusion in LA Time’s 101 Best Restaurants. It’s very good, no doubt, but my essentials choice is their vampiro. 

The vampiro is built on top of a soft tortilla that has been left on the plancha until crispy. It’s then topped with asada or tripa, onion, cabbage, and salsa. It’s a textural treat with the double crunch of the tortilla and cabbage sandwiching the tender bites of meat. Definitely one of my favorite tacos experiences in the city. 

Additional suggested dishes: the Torito; chorreada; papas locas

Dirty Elvis wings at Shlap Muan

2150 E. South St.

by Brian Addison

When I first wrote about this tiny-but-mighty wing shop in North Long Beach for Eater LA, the story was an ode to the symbiotic relationship between the Cambodian community and Long Beach: Owner Hawk Tea had to balance many things while being raised in his parents’ North Long Beach Chinese-American restaurant—his Chinese ethnicity, Cambodian culture, American citizenship, search for self…—but ultimately, it was his eventual take over that very restaurant that has proven to be his most fulfilling endeavor to date: Eschewing the majority of the space’s old-school menu and rebranding as Shlap Muan (“chicken wing” in Khmer), Tea has created a mini-wing empire that honors everything about his multi-cultural life—especially the Cambodian side.

And his Dirty Elvis wings—a fire-licked, wok-ed out set of wings with Tea’s proprietary master sauce that has layers of soy, fish sauce, and sugar—are the perfect example of how Tea has harnessed his memories, identities, and love for his parents into a single dish.

For Brian Addison’s latest feature on Shlap Muan, click here.

Additional suggested dishes: shrimp fried rice; garlic noodles; any regular wings

Tallarines verdes con bistec apanado from Casa Chaskis

2380 Santa Fe Ave.

by James Tir

Due to colonization, global trade, and emigration, Peruvian cuisine became entangled with Spanish, Italian, West African, Chinese, and Japanese cultures—hey there, Sushi Nikkei—creating a unique environment for naturally occurring fusion cuisine to develop. This is why I enjoy going to Peruvian restaurants—you can order multiple items and they can feel disparate at face value, but the flavors meld together harmoniously when you decide to take a bite. 

This is why Agustín Romo started Casa Chaskis in Westside, he was enamored with the flavors of Peru and wanted to bring them home to Long Beach. From lomo saltado to cocina chifa, he’s been showcasing the breadth of the what the cuisine has to offer. 

One of my favorite dishes is the tallarines verdes con bistec apanado which is comprised of linguine coated in a Peruvian-style pesto and paired with a lightly-breaded, pan-fried flank steak. The pesto itself is a bright green, effusing spinach and basil—with a creamy mouthfeel from the queso fresco and walnuts blended in. 

Additional suggested dishes: arroz con mariscos Norteño; lomo saltado; empanadas; chaufa

Mole negro Oaxaqueño from Lola’s

2030 E. 4th St.

by Brian Addison

American chefs can try as they might to make traditional mole negro Oaxaqueño but the simple fact is that many of the ingredients—from the beautifully black pasilla mixe and earthy chilhuacle chile to the rare bi-color cacao beans—aren’t here or, if they are, aren’t as fresh or quality-centric.

Well, leave it to Lola’s Chef Luis Navarro to do something out of the ordinary—which is rarely un-ordinary for him and Brenda Riviera, who perpetually update their menus, from having pink-and-purple slathered dishes for Valentine’s Day to celebrating their 15th year in business in 2023. After befriending famed Oaxacan Chef Susan Trilling—known for her absurdly complex, mind-blowing-ly wonderful mole negro—he decided to do something no one else has done in Long Beach for my inaugural Long Beach Food Scene Week back in August: Ship Trilling’s mole negro straight to Long Beach.

Velvety smooth and outrageously complex, the sauce has notes that all hit at different times. A bit of heat there. A hint of bitter there. Sweet. Savory. Umami. Earthy. And Navarro let’s it shine with nothing more than a perfect medium rare filet, white buttery rice, and some pickled onions and tortillas.

It was a dish I can only wish is brought back in some capacity.

Note: This was a special dish made for Long Beach Food Scene Week; however, they have their own mole negro on the menu regularly.

For Brian Addison’s last feature on Lola’s, click here.

For Brian Addison’s feature on their Long Beach Food Scene Menu, click here.

Additional suggested dishes: birria; cochinita pibil; queso fundido con chorizo

Sandwich of the Day from Oh La Vache

2112 E. 4th St.

by James Tir

As a friend of fromage, I can’t help but delight in the new imports that regularly arrive at the inconspicuous cheese shop that sits in the mix of Retro Row. Inside, Oh La Vache’s owners Erika Ponzo and Jessica Sarwine, are always eager to showcase the both the delicious and the strange, demonstrating a wide roster of cheeses, both foreign and domestic.

I’ve had Red Dragon from the U.K. which teased the tongue with pungent mustard. Anati Black Lemon Gouda which misled the brain with lemon meringue. And they even once carried mimolette, a French-cheese pocked by cheese mites, leaving behind a curious zest. Whether you’re adventurous or not, they can pair a cheese to any person. 

This understanding of cheese allows Ponzo to fashion some of the best sandwiches in the city. They all begin with Hey Brother Baker’s bread—baguette or ciabatta—and it’s a recipe roulette from there, matching cheese with cured meats, jams, pâté, housemade pickles, and more.

For Brian Addison’s full feature on Oh La Vache, click here.

Additional suggested dishes: Any cheese. Any. Damn. Cheese

Pork belly taco from Chinitos Tacos

11130 Del Amo Blvd.

by Brian Addison

I’ve always been frustrated by the lack of love Chinitos gets (even after multiple inclusions from me on my underrated restaurants lists and a glowing feature in the Los Angeles Times by the much-missed Patricia Escárcega).

It could very well be his location: Lakewood, love it or hate it, is different; as in much quieter and much slower. While the patronage was loyal, Krouch found himself closing early—effectively shutting down his dream of being the late-night-go-to taco joint—and not really feeling much love from Long Beach. And if the mentions in my group are any indication, there is a partial truth to that: Chinitos is, somehow, vastly underrated.

The blunt reality is that while Chinitos might be in Lakewood, it is one-hundred-percent birthed out of Long Beach: Chef Beeline Krouch, the Cambodian-American Long Beach native, has been serving up some of the region’s most distinct tacos with his melding of Cambodian and Southeast Asian flavors with Mexican grub.

While he is beyond well-known for his burnt-cheese taco and things like lemongrass carne asada and five-spice barbacoa, there are added items that are not highlighted on the menu but worth requesting—like his stellar pork belly taco. Chunks of slighty-sweet-definitively-savory pork belly sit atop browned quesillo on a small four tortilla before being topped with Beeline’s mom’s papaya salad. The result? A quite perfect taco.

Keep it up, Bee—promise you Long Beach has your back.

Additional suggested dishes: loaded tots with Chinese 5 Spice barbacoa; burnt cheese tacos with lemongrass carne asada and Asian spice carnitas

Breakfast burrito from Good Time Coffee

1322 Coronado Ave.

by James Tir

Good Time is one of my regular haunts, you’ll find me here often getting a cup of hot chai, or typing away on my laptop. By default, I find myself grabbing breakfast here, and genuinely, the breakfast burrito here hits the spot. 

The flour tortilla envelops a filling of crispy potatoes, cheddar cheese, over medium eggs, charred bell peppers, and chipotle aioli. Seems par the course for a breakfast burrito, however, the way each ingredient is treated makes all the difference. The crispy potatoes are skinless tiny cubes that are deep fried and then seasoned, contributing a nice crunch. And then the over medium eggs are jammy but not gushing. Meanwhile, the chipotle aioli adds a nice heat and allium element to the whole equation. Not too heavy. Uncomplicated. Delicious.

Additional suggested items: a visit to Hamburgers Nice when they take over the kitchen; potato tacos

Rex’s Po’ Boy at Sal’s Gumbo Shack

6148 Long Beach Blvd. / 4470 California Pl.

by Brian Addison

Sal’s Gumbo Shack owner Sally Bevans is nothing short of the prime example of taking ownership of one’s life: After living a life in the corporate workspace only to find it questioned when a new owner took over, Sally took what she had saved—a nice chunk of nearly $40K—and began focusing on turning her gumbo into a bonafide business.

One of her earliest fans? None other than Mayor Rex Richardson, who was anything but when he first met Sally as a neighbor: Young and ambitious, the future mayor would depend on Sally and her skills at the stove to stave his hunger—but not without his own suggestions, including the brilliant idea of combining the catfish and shrimp po’ boys into one.

The result? A perfectly salty umami bomb stuffed between the slice of a starchy white bread roll and topped with a creamy rémoulade and lettuce.

For Brian Addison’s full feature on Sal’s Gumbo Shack, click here.

Additional suggested dishes: gumbo; ‘gumbalaya;’ Louisiana BBQ shrimp

Basque cheesecake from Marlena

5854 E Naples Plaza

by James Tir

Tucked away from the main artery of 2nd Street in Naples is where you’ll find the newest spot Long Beach is consistently praising: Marlena, a distinctly Californian-style bistro with a focus on shared plates with influences from Italy and across the Mediterranean. Wood-fired pizza, succulent salads, chargrilled seafood—thanks to a large, two-tiered Josper wood grill—and craft cocktails from David Castillo, the former head of The Ordinarie’s spectacular bar program, characterize the menu. All the while, a seamless indoor-outdoor concept welcomes diners into an aesthetically intentioned space. 

I’ve had multiple meals here and the one thing that struck me every time was the basque cheesecake. Minnie Choe, head chef Michael Ryan’s wife and contractor with Marlena, makes and curates the dessert menu here—and she knocks the cheesecake out of the park. The cheesecake is surprisingly light. It’s sweet, creamy, a little tart, and has a discreet hint of molasses from the scorched surface.

Additional suggested dishes: Josper grilled meats; any pizza; Ceasar salad

Chilaquiles Burrito from Sala Coffee & Wine

3853 Atlantic Ave.

by Brian Addison

Led by partners Brandee Raygoza and Derrick Montiel, Sala is an underrated gem of a space if there ever was one—so I was happy when Chef Melissa Ortiz dragged me to the Bixby Knolls coffee and wine shop for a breakfast pitstop.

The menu is wonderfully minimal: a breakfast sandwich, breakfast burrito, chilaquiles, and a chilaquiles burrito.

While the breakfast sandwich is something not to be skipped—a perfect model for The Breakfast Sandwich, with bacon and a full on McDonald’s-style hashbrown accompanying a yolky egg, cheese, and brioche—it is the chilaquiles burrito that is something rather special.

Layers of tortilla chips slathered in salsa verde line with bacon and beans to create an ode to the mighty carb-on-carb masterpiece that is the torta de chilaquiles of Mexico City. The result? A savory, hint-of-heat, textures-abound burrito that is as delectable as it is surprising.

Additional suggested dishes: breakfast sandwich; avocado toast; all the coffee

Empanada de frijol from La Esperanza

1626 Orange Ave.

by James Tir

I was graciously invited to a Guatemalan Día de los Muertos celebration this year by my friends, Jayro and Ashleigh Sandoval, and was treated to a Guatemalan feast: Chicharrón, tamales, and sopes were a few of the things that I engorged myself on—but what really caught me off guard were what looked like football-shaped dumplings. Upon further inspection, they were actually fried plantains that have been stuffed with refried beans and coated in sugar. I was told that they were a Salvadoran-Guatemalan empanada that they got from a local restaurant, La Esperanza. I was hooked. 

Adriana Moran opened the Long Beach location of La Esperanza in 2017—they and a handful of pupuserias filled a much needed Central American void here in the city. 

I would typically visit them for pupusas, however, I had to go back for the empanada de frijol. They were even better at the restaurant. Bronze-hued and crispy on the outside, the plantain shell caved in to a deluge of refried black beans. The beans, normally a savory component was sweet, reminiscent of Japanese adzuki red bean paste, yet exhaling a more earthy aroma. They were served alongside crema Guatemalteca which, in contrast, were savory, comparable to a cheesier sour cream. It somehow all worked, resulting in a cooperation of flavors that straddled the dessert line. 

Additional suggested dishes: pepian; garnachas; chuchitos

Gordita de chicharrón prensado from Los Reyes del Taco Sabroso

2345 E. Anaheim St.

by Brian Addison

There is some irony in that, immediately after praising Los Reyes’s land meat-free Lent menu, I am sharing a gordita filled with fried pork—but this is something truly awesome, Long Beach.

Chicharrón prensado translates roughly into “fried pork pressed,” a process where, instead of chunks like traditional chicharrón, the pork is chopped into tiny bits before being fried and then pressed to leak the fat.

If you don’t think this is decadent enough, it is stuffed into a gordita before being fully fried, then sliced back open to stuff with lettuce, crema, and queso. Crispy on the outside, savory on the inside, it is the perfect hand-held food.

And don’t skip out on the habanero or chile de arbol salsa for the table.

For Brian Addison’s full feature on Los Reyes, click here.

Additional suggested dishes: quesadilla de maiz; tacos de canasta; carnitas; barbacoa de borrego

Liu sha bao from Northern Cafe

4911 E. 2nd St.

by James Tir

This eponymic cafe was part of the community-dubbed Belmont Shore renaissance, opening its doors earlier this year, to bring a cuisine that’s sorely underrepresented in the city: regional Chinese cuisine. To be specific, Northern Cafe’s roots hail from the Northeast China’s Liaoning Province, though the menu’s offerings are more pan-Chinese; including items such as mapo tofu, xiaolongbao, dan dan noodles, and Chongqing crispy chicken. 

Though some may decry them for not being super traditional, I find that their dishes walk a happy medium between satisfying critical palates and being approachable at the same time.

One item that they did not make any concessions on are their liu sha bao, which translates to ‘molten custard salted egg buns’. They present it as just custard buns on their menu, however, what makes this different from your local dim sum custard bun, is that the custard core floods out of the bun like golden lava. The addition of salted duck egg yolk is what allows for this consistency, making this dessert encounter one of my favorites in the city.

Additional suggested dishes: beef roll; sauerkraut beef noodle soup; soup dumplings; lao gan ma

Fish and chips from The Auld Dubliner

105 Pine Ave. 

by Brian Addison

The Auld Dub is approaching 20 years serving the Long Beach community—and for those that don’t know its owner David Copley (along with his longtime creative partner, former Dub overseer, and now owner of The Ordinarie, Christy Caldwell) there is a particular brand of “This Is Special” that applies to The Auld Dub.

Forget the fact that the space was designed in Ireland proper and flown over in pieces to be assembled on sight, attempting to mimic an Irish pub as traditionally as possible. 

Forget the fact that Copley takes an annual crew of worthy and loyal patrons to the Motherland itself, showcasing not just where their experience comes from but to update the menu and vibe at The Dub in order to keep in pace with Ireland proper.

It is an letter of love to Long Beach from Ireland—a point I hope no one easily dismisses.

And their fish and chips—unquestionably the best in the city—is a mighty ode to one of the Irish’s staples of sustenance: A massive, single chunk of haddock sits atop fresh cut fries, next to a heap of coleslaw and some of the best tartar you’ll ever enjoy.

Addictive, creamy, crunchy, salty, wonderful.

Additional suggested dishes: Shepard’s pie;

Pork xiao long bao from Dan Modern

6460 E. Pacific Coast Hwy. #100

by James Tir

Dan Modern Chinese is the place for xiao long bao in Long Beach. Once in a while, I get the soup dumpling itch, and before they were around, I’d have to make a trek to Din Tai Fung and wait in a long queue before I’d get access to those dainty sacks filled with luscious jus. 

And, this I fully admit: entirely cumbersome for the stereotypical Long Beachian who is resistant to leaving the borders of this city. 

Fortunately, we now have Dan, which has a comparably scrumptious dumpling. They have several variations, including one that contains both pork and Dungeness crab. Though I’m devoted to the staple pork dumpling. It’s purity allows the addition of fresh ginger, black vinegar, and soy sauce to turn the entire parcel into a complexly balanced experience.

Additional suggested dishes: spicy oxtail noodle soup; Dungeness crab fried rice

The Lunch Burger from Hamburgers Nice

1322 Coronada Ave.

by Brian Addison

What is there to say about Chef Jairo Bogarín’s genuinely stellar smash-burger operation? The best burger in Long Beach? In terms of quality and cost, could very well be.

His “Lunch Burger” is simultaneously stupidly simple—two patties, American cheese, some sauce, pickles, onions, jalapeños—but packs such an astounding flavor punch that there is no disbelief in the fact that the popup perpetually sells out.

Yes, Hamburgers Nice has what is basically a permanent spot every Thursday morning (8AM to 2PM, serving their equally stellar breakfast burger that has a dollop of grape jelly and I promise you that it won’t anger you) and Friday for the dinner crowd (from 5PM to 9PM, often accompanied by a partnership or featuring a special burger) at Good Time, which makes the burger popup come full circle given they used to serve at this very spot when it was Commodity. But they also venture elsewhere, so check out their Instagram regularly.

Additional suggested dishes: breakfast croissant; breakfast burger

Tamales from Nehemia’s

5439 Cherry St. #B

by James Tir

Both Brian and I have eaten an innumerable amount of tamal. Whether it was as a judge at the International Tamales Festival for two years running, or whether it was from a Home Depot parking lot; we’ve somehow landed in the husk-wrapped hotbed of tamales. 

I’m not complaining, we’ve had so many nourishing nuggets of steamed nixtamal grace our tastebuds in this city, from Arcelia Reynoso’s competition winning tamales to the salsa verde con calabazitos drenched pork tamal from the Montesinos’ Los Reyes del Taco Sabroso, you can find a true Mexican winter here in Long Beach. 

Year round, however, there’s one place I return to time and time again for my tamal fix, and that’s Nehemia’s (Brian had rightfully included Nehemiah’s in his 2022 Underrated Restaurants list). LA TACO’s Javier Cabral tipped us off to this place and it has truly become my favorite. Whether it’s pork, chicken, or dessert—they’re all delightful—solely on the basis of a perfect masa, which are rigorously nixtamalized by the owner Ramon Martinez. The tamal here are supple, rich, moreish. Easy endorsement. 

Porchetta sandwich from The Kroft

4150 McGowen St. (inside The Hangar)

by Brian Addison

There is so much more than this little blurb that needs to be said about The Kroft’s owner, Stephen Le, a man who has entirely shifted the way he runs his business, an OC giant in the food scene when they bursted out as Anaheim’s Packing District’s most popular spot when they opened in nearly a decade ago in 2014.

What used to be a spot focusing mainly on decadent poutine, Le—during the pandemic and currently—noticed a slip in both patronage and online promotion. With a humble heart, he realized two major things: he wasn’t that happy and he wasn’t making food the way he used to enjoy.

The porchetta sandwich represents one of the main reasons he did what he did in the first place—his travels to Italy, where massive hunks of porchetta would sit in deli windows enticing passersby, was his inspiration—was one of the reasons The Kroft blew up in popularity when it was birthed in Orange County. And for good reason: crispy bits of fried pork belly fat are tossed with chopped bits of succulent pork loin and arugula. I order mine with light salsa verde—though if you opt for the original dosing, its olive oil sheen is quite decadent—and enjoy what is really just a wondrous little thing.

Additional suggested dishes: Wagyu smash burger; chicken katsu curry poutine; fried cheese curds

Chicken pot pie from Noble Bird Rotisserie

6460 E. Pacific Coast Hwy. #125

by James Tir

Sidney Price, owner of Noble Bird Rotisserie, has two sons who have severe food allergies. That provided her with the challenge of creating a restaurant that was safe for them and others who shared similar stories to dine in. Determined to create a space that omitted major allergies without sacrificing quality or flavor, she brought Chef Andrew Bice on board. He helped her curate a menu that was both wholesome and travel worthy, despite disregarding seemingly essential ingredients such as dairy and nuts. 

They have many items that qualify as a must-try, nevertheless, the chicken pot pie has my heart. It’s presented as a deconstructed chicken pot pie comprised of chicken, carrots, green beans, mushrooms, and potatoes resting atop a non-dairy gravy. It is then topped with a pastry shell. The whole package is velvety and herbaceous, with tender bites of their signature pasture-raised chicken, a snappy crunch from the vegetables, and delicate pastry that surrenders from the slightest graze of a utensil.

For Brian Addison’s full feature on Noble Bird Rotisserie, click here.

Additional suggested dishes: chicken and waffle; harvest bowl; fried rice; the Noble club sandwich

Ube and cream brownie from Foodologie

4150 McGowen St. (inside The Hangar)

by Brian Addison

When Filipina-American home baker and all around great human Maria Leyesa announced she was about to majorly expand her sugar-coated online business, Foodologie, this past May, it marked what has become a boom in Southeast Asian-influenced baked goods that has long been led by the 30-year-plus presence of Gemmae. (Also: shout-out to Vera from Ida’s Sweets for representing the Cambodian community.)

Moving into a brick-and-mortar in Belmont Shore, she took over the space formerly occupied by Cheese Addiction at 195 Claremont Ave. The move was big for her (as it is for any bourgeoning small business owner; in an Absolutely Adorable Instagram Post when she turned on the electricity to her new space, her excitement overrode any anxiety).

Yes, there are stellar churro- and ubedoodle cookies, but the beautifully purple, ube and cream brownie is truly a remarkable creation.

Pad Thai from Tasty Food to Go

2015 E. 10th St.

by James Tir

This is one of those ‘if you know, you know’ Long Beach joints. It’s a tiny Thai and Lao spot abutting a barbershop, of which has marketing that’s seemingly powered by the owner Lam’s gregarious nature. After several degrees of word-of-mouth exchanges, it now seems like it’s one of the city’s most well-known secrets. 

There are no frills here—they execute your favorite Thai dishes consistently and in large portion without breaking the bank. There are places where the best order isn’t the Pad Thai—such as Chiang Rai, where it would be amiss to order the basics. But here, there’s no better move. The Pad Thai arrives as a steaming hot lump of soft-yet-pliable rice noodles, fully captivated by fish sauce umami and tamarind tang. 

Additional suggested dishes: nam tok; larb; lad na


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