Missed out on Brian Addison’s Favorite Things of past? We got you covered—just click here.
After my first collaboration with James Tir (aka @LBFoodComa on Instagram), where we picked 50 dishes from 50 different Long Beach restaurants that we loved from last year, there were still places that we were pained to leave out.
So here are some of the places I would have loved to have included if only it were an endless representation of Long Beach’s spectacular food scene…
Tri-tip dip from Shady Grove Foods
2708 E. 4th St.
Shady Grove Foods, like many restaurants across 2023, had a rough year, eventually hitting a wall and declare they were going to permanently shutter their much-loved Long Beach barbecue space on 4th Street come the new year.
Then the mayor asked for their contact information following that very story to come with help: His team would look at their situation but Mayor Rex Richardson was also frank on one end: They need to learn how to better market themselves, especially online. In that spirited vein of community helping community, I offered to photograph their entire menu so they could have a library in order to have a better presence on delivery apps while a few friends of mine, including James Tir (aka @LBFoodComa on Instagram) and Manny Burrola (aka @EaterLBC on Instagram), helped them with their influencer side.
And damn, did I forget how masterful this tri-tip dip is, where layers of smoked tri-tip, blue cheese, and horseradish come with a Cajun brown au jus as a dipping agent.
‘New Mexican’ pizza from Panxa
3937 E. Broadway
To leave Panxa off of any restaurant list is blasphemy but I did have my reasons: Panxa has always been near and dear to me—and we were trying to focus on a list that largely brought us plates we tried for the first time in 2023 or were somehow defined by it. It wasn’t entirely perfect but we tried.
A plate that will certainly rank high on an absolute essential Long Beach dishes list would no doubt be the “New Mexican” pizza from Panxa, an ode to Taco Bell a la the late Chef Arthur Gonzalez. I am not only flabbergasted I haven’t featured this on my favorite things before but it is also the first time in a long while I’ve been able to write about Art since his death.
And we had actually personally discussed this dish: After the fast food world was turned upside down upon the announcement that Taco Bell would no longer be serving its Mexican Pizza—it has since returned to the menu following the outcry—Chef Art decided that he would recreate the dish for his restaurant as he himself was a deep lover of Taco Bell. (No joke: There would be many a nights he would order a shit ton of Taco Bell after closing up shop. I miss those nights.) He not only hit directly home with the dish but surpassed its drive-thru cousin.
Plàtano maduro relleno from Honduras Kitchen
3734 E. 4th St.
Dubbed the “San Pedro Sula” at Honduras Kitchen on 4th Street, this wonder of a plate is a fried plantain that is then slit down the center before being stuffed with beef picadillo and cheese and drizzled with mantequilla Hondureña. This is a hearty dish more than a comforting snack.
The result—a wildly solid combination of salty and sweet—is something that is just as comforting as their baleadas but on a heftier level. The plantains—bright, caramelized—and the picadillo—salty, with a slight fattiness that is quite nice—is a reminder of how often we can be removed from the beauties of Latin America below the Mexican border.
Biscuit and egg sandwich from Wide Eyes Open Palms
416 Cherry Ave.
There is something deeply special about owners/team/couple/badasses Kat McIver and Angie Evans’s wonderfully underrated Wide Eyes Open Palms shop—and the food of Chef Kat proves the difficulty of executing simple excellently.
And given they reopen tomorrow, Jan. 18, following their winter break, this is a great time to experience that excellent simplicity that is exemplified in so many things: Her tangerine dream cake. Her soft-boiled egg with buttered toast—a wonder. Her pastries. Angie’s coffee—black is fine, no accoutrements needed.
And then there is their nearly perfect biscuit breakfast sandwich—arguably the best in the city, both as a sandwich and solely in the biscuit category—that is a savory-saturated wonder: Folded soft-cooked egg is stuffed with cheese biscuit halves layered with herbed chèvre and arugula.
But it isn’t just these subtleties and simplicities-with-anything-but-simple-execution. It’s the fact that this queer women-owned, happily unapologetic, resilient little spot cooks up some of the city’s best food on little more than induction burners and ovens while feeding the community spiritually and ethically.
Kataifi galaktoboureko from Pita Pitaki
3401 Cherry Ave.
Trust me, I don’t even know how to say it after Pita Pitaki’s charming, absolutely awesome owner Penelope Marangos repeated it to me ten times. And yes, I proudly Googled the name of the dish.
And while this vastly underrated little Greek space—definitively the most underrated Greek restaurant in the city, if not the region—serves up delectable versions of the Greek classics you love (including, no joke, the city’s best Greek salad dressing), this special desert from Penelope is not just a reflection of the greatness of Greek cuisine but of Penelope’s skills.
Some might see hints of Chef Dima Habibeh’s brilliant knafeh (and even hints of her wonderfully surreal osmalieh) from Ammatolí and they would be sorta-kinda right. This dessert is much sweeter, riffing off the traditional semolina custard galaktoboureko, and much more Greek—but has the kataifi (shredded phyllo dough, like knafeh) and that beautiful kick of mastic (like in that osmalieh), the sweet, herbal resin that is a cherished staple of both Greek and Levantine cuisines.
The result? A dessert all on its own which, though many might not be able to fully get that name pronounced right, is worthy of celebration.
Missed out on Brian Addison’s Favorite Things of past? We got you covered—just click here