Saturday, March 2, 2024

After 50-plus years of slingin’ eggs, Egg Heaven in Long Beach to close indefinitely

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It had been many things before ever becoming Egg Heaven, the business that would define the southwest corner of Ximeno and 4th Street. It was a corner drug store in the 1930s up into the early 60s, where it was then converted into a dress and textile shop.

And then it became one of Long Beach’s longest running food institutions.

The awning says one thing but folks say another: And whether it was 1970 like its long-adorned green awning proclaims or 1969 like its current owners claim on their website, Egg Heaven has been open for over 50 years—a span of time that is formally coming to an end on Jan. 16, the cafe’s last day of serving Ximeno omelettes and machaca scrambles.

Announced on the restaurant’s Instagram, owner Joe Byron and his family are “absolutely planning” on reopening but that point is so unattainable at this point that they need to “wait until the economy picks up and is more conducive to small businesses.”

This marks one of the most definitive closures of the space since the pandemic has put it through a roller coaster of Are-They-Open-Or…? 

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Egg Heaven’s mythological presence in the city has even spawned art, like this piece by Jordan Lance.

Initially deciding to ride the peak of the pandemic’s closure—when indoor dining was shut down entirely and most streets were ghost towns—they let one of their chefs do a Mexican popup dubbed Tio Pancho’s, all in the name of helping their staff and their family.

“We just can’t keep our doors open anymore—and believe me, we want to,” Byron said. “Unfortunately, we just don’t know that will be. We have to close until the economy comes back. I’ve no crystal ball but I’d reckon it could be many months.”

That uncertainty about its future existence doesn’t just linger heavy for the Byron family but for the entire Belmont Heights neighborhood as Egg Heaven, largely unchanged since its inception, reeks of welcoming wafts of nostalgia—and that is very much on purpose: If there is one thing to be said about the Belmont Heights breakfast dive-slash-legend, it is that it was well written into its buying history that much of the space could never change.

When Glenn Synder became the first person to purchase it from the original owners in 1977, there was a very specific clause in his lease that he told the Los Angeles Times in 1987 when the beloved cafe was listed in a Los Registry of equally beloved dives:

“You cannot change the atmosphere of Heaven. You can clean it up and update it, but you can’t change the feeling.”

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Egg Heaven in Belmont Heights, Long Beach. Photo by Brian Addison.

Glenn eventually died during the other pandemic-the AIDS pandemic—and while the crew attempted to keep it alive, Egg Heaven was briefly shut down after facing legal troubles. It was then that Pot Holder owner Joe Rivello approached the landlord, Mary Kay Williams, and struck a deal: Let him see if can restart the business with six months free rent and get it back up and going—and it did. 

This also explains how many similarities between the two menus arrived: The Maui at Potholder? That’s the Queen Maria at Egg Heaven.

Shortly after, Rivello wanted to expand his Pot Holder empire and decided to offer the space to Byron, under the same conditions it had always had: Don’t change much. 

Unlike the often desperate attempt to decorate spaces with a sense of authenticity, Egg Heaven has very few things bought for the space itself: It’s famed art ceiling has remained largely unchanged while small cosmetic alterations like re-doing the chairs have been minimal. 

It is a time capsule—and one that Byron and his family hoping doesn’t have to come to a permanent end.

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“What we are hoping for is to get involved with another food program like we did last year with the city and county [where we made meals for people that needed it and were paid to do so],” Byron said. “That really saved us, kept all employees working and paid the bills as well.”

For those with the ability to help or suggestions, Byron said he can be contacted at eggheaven@aol.com or at 562-688-6382.

Egg Heaven cafe is located at 4358 E. 4th St.

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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