When Beachwood Brewing’s DTLB location announced they would be permanently shuttering their kitchen in January of this year, there was both lament at a downtown lunch staple and a sense of sadness that such a great space would be relegated to a taproom.
So when Proudly Serving owner Matt McIvor—the popup’s master smash burger creator—was approached by Beachwood to offer some food at their newly minted Bixby Knolls space (that took over the former Liberation Brewing Co. spot), he thought of something more ambitious: Why not just move into the kitchen Downtown and take advantage of a full kitchen and restaurant space?
“The moment he asked, I was like, ‘Yes, absolutely, take it over—please!'” said Beachwood founder and co-owner Gabe Gordon. “And in all honesty, it works out because it alleviates our stress from having to manage a kitchen but allows us to offer our customers some great food that has never come out of the Beachwood kitchen before.”
The food is, indeed, great.
Their chili cheese fries? Simply stellar—and that includes the fries alone, crisped in duck fat. But for the meat eaters? Even better when slathered in Proudly Serving’s solid, spicy chili, American cheese, and onions—an ode to Tommy’s famed (and infamous for many a bowels across SoCal) chili cheese fries where there are no beans, no fancy schmancy cheese, and thick-cut fries.
“We didn’t just magically arrive at this,” McIvor said. “This took quite the practice—as in my PS Burger had 13 previous iterations before we arrived on the one he served.”
Those previous iterations were the result of a popup in his neighborhood—a popup that also didn’t magically arrive: McIvor had had a food PR business for the decade before the pandemic, becoming the manager for countless restaurants, chefs, breweries, wineries, and production spaces. With those massive, almost endless number of accounts comes a truly endless exhaustion: Egos combined with having to be perpetually efficient for clients (who often dismissed or outright refused to acknowledge that other clients existed) meant one thing—and that was a desire to escape.
So he decided to work on opening a restaurant—with Alex Currasco of Bee Taqueria, no less—and then all hell hit with the pandemic. Without paying themselves, like many new restaurant owners, McIvor returned to his PR business. And he was not only faced with returning to business he was wanting to escape, he was outright forced out of it as restaurant after restaurant began to cut every single expense it could, including PR.
“I kinda knew it was gonna happen—it was just a reality if COVID prolonged and it did,” McIvor said. “So, here I was, with a wife and one-year-old, going through our savings… And I loved burgers. And it’s an easy thing to sell out of my drive way.”
Hitting up the seemingly endless interest sparked by humans stuck in their apartments and bored and mindlessly perusing everything from Facebook groups to Nextdoor, McIvor told his story and said he needed to make money making burgers. And slowly but surely, people started showing up. By the fourth popup? Over 150 people down the street, eventually being dubbed “Burger Alley,” where folks would bring chairs and their own beers to kick back.
“It’s one thing when your friends are showing up and saying it’s great,” McIvor said. “It’s different when entire strangers ae asking you why you don’t have a bigger space.”
Then came the Hi-Lo popup in DTLB at The Current. Then came L.A. popups. Then came the catering. Then came a nearly similar situation with a brewery in Redondo (doing 300 burgers a day).
And then came Beachwood, which is—much like Gabe emphasized—a thing of serendipity, for both Beachwood’s DTLB kitchen and the downtown as a whole, as well as for McIvor’s business.
The result? Simply put, damn good burgers, which come in a variety of three and, at least for me, act as tributes to the mighty burger stands of SoCal—all simple, to the point, and, well, pretty damn delicious.
The aforementioned PS Burger, the spot’s OG hamburger, is a pseudo-ode to In-n-Out Double Double, where the Thousand Island is deconstructed—there is an outright addictive special sauce and, unlike the sweetness of bread’n’butter pickles chopped into Thousand Island dressing, McIvor opts for the mightier dill pickle—and the patties and cheese come in twos.
There’s The Founder, a direct nod to the biopic about the founder of McDonald’s, and a burger that one wishes was found at Mickey D’s: Beautifully seasoned patties, American cheese slices drooling down the side, mustard and ketchup, dill…
There’s, of course, a chili cheese burger that lacks any accoutrements outside chili, cheese, and raw onion.
Could this lead to something bigger? Well, remember that brewery they were operating out of? Well, they outgrew it.
“We needed a bigger space so we’re signing a lease for a brick-and-mortar in Hermosa Beach,” McIvor said. “That should be in the coming months.”
Well, damn, Long Beach, let’s help the mini-burger empire expand by supporting it—and yes, it is worth it.
Proudly Serving is operating out of Beachwood Brewing, located at 210 E. 3rd St, operating Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 9PM.