Thursday, July 18, 2024

Favorite things I’m eating right now in Long Beach: April 2024


Missed out on Brian Addison’s Favorite Things of past? We 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.”

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…

Pappardelle with beef cheek from Bar Becky

3860 Worsham Ave.

“Hell’s Kitchen” runner-up Chef Johnathan Benvenuti’s Bar Becky concept—officially having taken over Chef Ross Pangilinan’s Remix space over at Long Beach Exchange in East Long Beach—is a warmly welcomed one: His food harkens to a simultaneously deeply personal yet universal attachment to nostalgia that doesn’t read contrived or cheap.

And this hit at several moments—as in when there was this very subtle hint of surprisingly supplementary sourness to Benvenuti’s excellently executed pappardelle plate: Reminiscent of some beef stroganoff gone Italian, the beautifully photo-perfect, punctilious ribbons of pappardelle are melded with bits of succulent beef cheek and sour cream and mushroom and tomato. Each somehow stand out—but the subtlety is that back-in-the-mind ode to a humble plate of stroganoff which, for almost every American kid, reeks with memories at home.

Click here to read the full feature on Bar Becky.

Roman Muffaletta from Nonna Mercato

3722 Atlantic Ave.

The frustration with Chef Cameron Slaugh’s consistently solid Nonna Mercato is the equally consistent factor of being underrated: ts underrated baked goods, its definitively underrated sandwiches, and its ridiculously underrated pastas

And speaking of those sandwiches—which have included glorious other takes, like a turkey sandwich on steroids—there is nothing quite like the man’s Roman Muffaletta, a meat lover’s dream where happily thin focaccia slices are stuffed to the brim with ham and salumi and layered with thick slices of fresh mozzarella and black olive aioli. Pure salt, pure creaminess, pure awesomeness.

Rice porridge from Phnom Penh Noodle Shack

1644 Cherry Ave.

With the weather having still been rather gloomy if not outright drizzly, I’ve come to one conclusion: I no longer need the weather to be gloomy or outright drizzly in order to get down on a bowl of porridge, a staple in almost any Asian household (especially after a night of a wee bit too much Henney)—and Phnom Penh Noodle Shack’s staple version is a wondrous alternative to their rightfully famed noodles.

Warm, hefty in some bits and light in the other, drenched in the taste of pork—I like mine with extra pig offal, particularly cubes of blood—this hyper savory dish is best with excessive accoutrements, especially green onion and fried garlic (and, for me, loads of pepper). It is a comfort dish and, unless you have the privilege of access to a friend’s kitchen who grew up on it regularly, it is hard to beat the Noodle Shack’s version.

Kaya from Union @ Compound

1395 Coronado Ave.

One of Long Beach’s most notable newcomers is the restaurant Union located inside Compound, a nonprofit cultural and community space with an art gallery in the Zaferia neighborhood. Behind the stoves is Eugene Santiago, chef and founder of the Southeast Asian fusion pop-up Baryo. Union’s dinner menu is full of playful dishes— a riff on Spanish papas brava made with cassava, charred broccolini and radicchio, shrimp toast with focaccia from Little Coyote…

And while their dinner and newly minted brunch menus both need a bit more refining, there is something clear about Santiago’s classics: There’s a reason he’s behind that stove. His coconut jam, a staple at his Baryo popup, is the buttery, oozy dream of coconut lovers, acting as the perfect sauce to dip, slather, or spread across toast.

All things Spam from The Bamboo Club

3522 E. Anaheim St.

The Bamboo Club has always been connected to its kitchen—and its launch into a formal, weekend-only brunch is the thriving thrust behind reinvigorating (and reminding folks) that they are a space to eat and drink. Even more, the menu feels in tune with what The Bamboo Club represents.

Yes, yes, there are finally things like potatoes and bacon—the latter of which goes for that old school O’Brien potatoes vibes with peppers and onions—and yes, they have coffee thanks to Common Ground and mimosas.

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But then they have small little wonders like Spam eggs Benedict and breakfast fried rice, where chunks of Spam in soy sauce-heavy rice is paired with toast and eggs because carbs-on-carbs are a wonder in themselves. The Benedict? They use the sweet, buttery-ness of King’s Hawaiian rolls as their based, browned to a crisp on the outside before being topped with Spam, fried (not poached) eggs, and hollandaise. With a side potatoes and fried rice, it’s a wonderfully savory, salt forward dish that is great for a hangover.

For the full feature on Bamboo Club’s brunch, 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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