Thursday, July 18, 2024

Favorite things I’m eating right now in Long Beach: June 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. These were 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: Hence Brian Addison’s Favorite Things. Not some grand list of “essential dishes.” No, that is a burden to not place 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, and once again in the third person, Brian Addison’s favorite things he is eating across Long Beach…

Tallarin con pescado frito from Casa Chaskis

2380 Santa Fe Ave.

It is pretty wild to think about how Chef Agustin Romo began delivering plates of tallarines verdes—a Peruvian staple featuring strands of pasta lathered in creamy pesto—and empanadas—off of Instagram to make ends meet. And, of course, to save money for what would eventually become Casa Chaskis.

The Westside Peruvian joint—celebrating its sixth year—has become a loved food space citywide. And while Agustin has been happily steering away from the staples and toward the lesser known dishes (like his stellar version of tacu tacu for which I forgot to take a picture when I finally ordered it), there is no doubt that his classics are classics for a reason.

His tallarines have always been excellent. But when paired with his perfectly fried fish, it becomes something deeply warming and inviting. His batter is marvelously crispy to the point of being satisfying: Your fork hits the crunch of the crust before the tenderness of the fish. Savory as can be—no heat, no sweet, all salt in the best way possible, with a bit of umami—this dish is as homey and Peruvian as it comes.

Look for my full profile on Casa Chaskis in the coming days.

Single malt whiskey from Broken Spirits Distillery

300 The Promenade N.

What we have with Broken Spirits Distillery in DTLB isn’t just a much-needed takeover a space that should have never been empty in the first place. (But alas, as the old saying going, there’s often drama in the LBC and the former tenant of the space, Portuguese Bend, was the definition of just that.)

We are able to, at least for now, taste the aged fruits of master distiller Max Stecca’s work long before, well, we’re able to taste the aged fruits of his work. Max had been working for another distillery that also happened to have a bit of drama, Blinking Owl. The closure of that distillery gave Max an extremely interesting opportunity: To buy back his own barrels of booze. Those efforts are what we are tasting today.

And his 96 proof single malt whiskey is a wondrous, extremely American ode to the almighty spirit—and I can assure you that it won’t be available for long. Because when it runs out, we have to wait at least three years to get another batch, then having to lean on (his also quite good) vodka and gin until then.

Get a bottle. And spoeaking of booze…

Merlin’s Beard at Baby Gee Bar

1227 E. 4th St.

Speaking of spirits, Baby Gee Bar has released their summer cocktail menu and it is happily one of their fruitiest, one of their most savory, and one of their most complex. Co-owner and concoction chief Gianna Johns has never been one to shy from layers; it is very likely this exact obsession with complexity that has earned the bar recognition from the Spirited Awards. Two years in a row.

Merlin’s Beard—a picture of tequila, mezcal, and magic—is a perfect example of that.

In the world of playfulness, Gianna’s take on reconstructing a watermelon for her Merlin’s Beard creation is wildly witty: Layering a pool of tequila-and-mezcal-meets-cucumber before dolloping a foam roof of salted watermelon foam and topping it with black sesame seeds, this drink rides a coaster from watermelon Jolly Rancher to margarita on steroids. Gianna calls it the most difficult drink she’s created—and that makes sense with its beautifully constructed complexity.

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To read Brian Addison’s full feature Baby Gee Bar’s new summer cocktail menu, click here.

Spicy peanuts from PBS Pub

464 W. Willow St.

Unapologetic, unfettered, unwavering, Long Beach’s love for diver beer pubs and bars is one that is integrally entangled into our local culture—though, as the city continue to grapple with the consistent change of development and gentrification, the ever-changing tastes of each new generation, the explosion of independent beer and quality food, dives are becoming less ubiquitous and more of a rare beast.

Co-owner and all around stellar human Christine Cabrera has been making nuts for the bar since her and the fam took over the space in 2022. At first, it was just garlicky peanuts—but now, she has a spicy bag of peanuts that isn’t just subtle heat. It’s a beautifully deep heat, where the fried chiles de arbol are left for those willing to eat them in their crunchy heat. It is quite possibly the perfect snack with one’s crispy, cold ass beer.

To read Brian Addison’s full profile on PBS Pub, click here.

Grilled bread with pork butter and roe from Ellie’s

204 Orange Ave.

It is an Ellie’s classic. And yes, while it has largely been replaced by the bone marrow board, you can still score this beautiful dish that has long represented one of our city’s best restaurants.

Chef Jason Witzl’s pork butter—a beautifully savory, creamy concoction—topped with roe is nothing short of stellar and simplicity at its finest. Which is funny because Witzl is known for his wonderfully complex, multi-layered dishes. And at both Ellie’s—his inaugural Long Beach joint—and Ginger’s—the tiny-but-mighty, 12-seater taster space next to Ellie’s. With an entirely new concept in San Diego and a return to the classic Ellie’s that propelled the space into the Long Beach food stratosphere in the first place, Witzl is returning to form.

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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