Friday, July 19, 2024

Favorite things I’m eating right now in Long Beach: March 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…

Beef carpaccio from Marlena

5854 E. Naples Plaza Dr.

Marlena is the city’s best new restaurant. Its service (thanks to GM Debra Zelenka), its cocktails (thanks to the mighty return of David Castillo), its kitchen (thanks to Chef Michael Ryan).

And Ryan & Co.’s newly minted brunch menu (which includes some pretty stellar drinks on top of multiple dishes that are list-worthy) exemplifies that: An absurdly awesome toast with Bufala ricotta that is life altering in terms of ricotta; an eggs Benedict pizza that actually works; a lox’n’hashbrowns dish that makes you want to skip the bagel (okay, okay, tranquilo: it makes you sometimes wish for a potato pancake instead)…

But it’s the carpaccio that makes my heart weak.

With Ryan’s history—enveloping his mentor’s, Chef Evan Funke, often off-the-cuff, let’s-make-something-happen-with-these-ingredients-we-have ideal—there are random specials that popup, like a masterful take on carpaccio: Creating a perfectly pickled giardiniera, frying sage and basil leaves, and slicing some gorgeous heirloom cherry tomatoes, this carpaccio is one of the best in the city. Bright, heavily’n’happily acidic, it needs nothing more than a fork.

Burnt cheese lemongrass asada taco from Chinitos

11130 Del Amo Blvd.

To love Long Beach is to love Cambodians and Cambodian-Americans—and to celebrate a culture that has brought so much to our city. To be entirely frank, it is absolutely egregious I have never included this Long Beach classic on this list.

Chef Beeline Krouch’s burnt cheese taco is a fusion masterpiece: Long before the cheese crust phenomenon took hold—even before Lowkey’s masterful cheese-encrusted burritos built up a following on Instagram—Krouch, a Long Beach native, had been serving up some of the region’s most distinct, lavishly layered tacos with his melding of Cambodian and Southeast Asian flavors with Mexican grub, where rounds of melted cheese—burnt to a brown, crêpe-thin crisp—acted as taco shells.

Yes, there are a variety of proteins but his bright, lemongrass-centric asada is where the salt-saturated shell acts best as a meat deliverer.

Assorted tempura from Te-Buru

3850 Atlantic Ave.

There are many holes in the Long Beach food scene—regional African, especially Ethiopian, Uyghur, Eastern European, and more—and one of its most glaring is traditional Japanese food, especially when compared to our neighbor that is such a great hotbed of this very cuisine, Gardena.

Te-Buru still needs uplifting in many ways but there is something wonderfully comforting about its assorted tempura plate, which is provided with slivers of sweet potato, onion, green bean, shrimp, and more. Simple, fresh, to the point.

Surely, adults as kids who were lucky enough to be around such cuisine but too finicky to try sushi will find nostalgia. For others, it is a great example of Japanese cuisine’s masterful minimalism.

Corned beef sandwich from The Auld Dubliner

71 S. Pine Ave.

For those that read me often, they know my love of The Auld Dubliner, an Irish pub in Long Beach that is actually one of the rarer of its forms across a country filled to the pint’s brim with Irish eateries, bars, and spaces: It is a space in which its Irish co-owner, David Copley, consistently bounces between his Motherland and the States to provide The Dub with a perpetually updated version of what Ireland pubs represent.

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And its food is no exception: As Ireland, after an all-too-long history filled with fluctuating economics and stability, begins to experience a culinary, cultural, and commerce renaissance, it is best that pubs reflect that as well. And sure, The Dub offers a solid beef Wellington on weekends along with oysters, the occasional razor clam, and various other upgrades from (it’s already nearly perfect versions of) fish’n’chips and shepherd’s pie…

But its classics are where its heart lie—like the corned beef sandwich that I have somehow never included in this series. It’s damn near perfect. And there isn’t much to say after that, now is there?

Aged gin from Broken Spirits Distillery

300 The Promenade N.

This one surely isn’t fair because no one can publicly taste it yet but gimme one second—because I need to emphasize the serendipity with which Long Beach is receiving Broken Spirits Distillery.

The space that formerly occupied Portuguese Bend Distilling—Long Beach’s first grain-to-glass distillery that shuttered in February before filing for bankruptcy in August—has officially been taken over by the crew behind Smoke & Fire and Villains Brewery. Dubbed Broken Spirits Distillery, the massive re-haul of the space will show off some definitive reminders of its previous tenants while also offering an entirely new space dedicated to the craft of master distiller Massimiliano “Max” Stecca.

And one of the most oddly and perfectly timed aspects of his being brought on? He came from a now-defunct distillery–and therefore collected his previous product. That means whiskeys and aged aquavits and… Well, this aged gin, y’all. It’s beautifully citrus-forward, wonderfully caramelized, and definitively perfect for a cocktail once it’s been proofed.

Can. Not. Wait.

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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