Thursday, July 18, 2024

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


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.”

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…

Sal’s enchilada eggs from The Coffee Cup Cafe

3734 E. 4th St. Brian Addison’s favorite things

While I’ve long extolled the wonders of The Coffee Cup Cafe’s spicy chicken chile verde omelette—a wonder in the breakfast world of Long Beach if there ever was one—I am always so swooned by that plate that I forget about their other, Coffee Cup-only creations.

And that certainly includes Sal’s enchilada eggs.

Fluffy scrambled eggs and cheese (with your choice of adding chicken or chorizo if you want to get all extra about it—and yes, I do: I love the chicken) are stuffed into corn tortillas before being rolled and slathered in the space’s house ranchero sauce and sour cream. The result is a savory wonder that I also happen to ask for a side of their spicy chile verde and throw that on top. (My Dude calls me “Avocado” often—meaning I am always extra.)

Ask for the potatoes well-done and you have yourself a damn near perfect breakfast.

Saganaki from George’s Greek on 2nd

5316 E. 2nd St. Brian Addison’s favorite things

George’s Greek Cafe is, like the aforementioned Coffee Cup, George’s on 2nd is a staple—and the location is the last remaining vestige of the family brand after the Loizides’ sold their Downtown Long Beach and Lakewood locations. Nicky Loizides, sister of Demitri “Jimmy” Loizides, with whom she shares ownership of George’s Greek Cafe, heads the Shore location with all the might and must of her father, George.

And perhaps nothing represents the space more than its classic saganaki, something I tend to forget ordering because I feel I’ve had it so often but then when I have it again, I wonder why I don’t order it all the time. Lemony, brine-y in the best way possible, with a beautiful hint of bitter, this fried cheese wonder is a staple for the Long Beach food scene.

Pasta from Nonna Mercato

3734 E. 4th St. Brian Addison’s favorite things

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…

And his “Twelve Days of Pasta,” an advent calendar-like celebration of the carby wonder that spans Dec. 8 through Dec. 23, is an exemplary example of Slaugh’s dedication to perfecting the art of pasta.

Scallop crudo from Selva’s ‘Test Kitchen’ series

4137 E. Anaheim St. Brian Addison’s favorite things

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 sculpture that looks like the rough rocks of the Pacific meeting an alien-like drizzle of bright white and green.

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Dặc biệt banh mi with phở dipping broth from Sesame Dinette’

1750 Pacific Ave. Brian Addison’s favorite things

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. Which is why spaces like Sesame Dinette and the (epically solid, still underrated) Pickle Bahn Mi are important to the Long Beach food scene.

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 instead of using a baguette, the dặc biệt is served on barbari, an Iranian sesame flatbread that Sivrican’s Turkish family introduced. Cucumbers are sliced thin, not shredded, so the sandwich looks layered when divided. When ordered with the pho dipping broth—an essential order—seasoned bits of beef are stuffed into the barbaric with a bowl of pho broth on the side. The sandwich is hardly traditional but also 100 percent Sesame Dinette.

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

Missed out on Brian Addison’s Favorite Things of past? We got you covered—just 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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