Thursday, May 30, 2024

Egg Heaven in Long Beach officially reopens (with chilaquiles included)

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The heartwarming story of the return of Egg Heaven is one worth repeating: After spending 16 years with El Torito, a corporate giant that is the direct opposite of an operation like Egg Heaven, former Egg Heaven server Esperanza Trejo reflected on her days at the tiny cafe, her first job as an American resident—and with that reflection came memories of joy: Connecting with customers to the extent where numbers were exchanged and customers would call to make sure she was working. Playing tag team with the kitchen staff, who had become extended family. Enjoying a space that was locally owned, locally visited, and locally loved.

Calling owner Joe Byron and former cook Rito Garcia, she presented an opportunity: Let her and Garcia take over the space—they didn’t have the money, as of right now, to outright purchase it—and return it to its former glory.

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Rito Garcia officially begins food service at the reopened Egg Heaven. Photo by Brian Addison.

“She has always dreamed of opening a breakfast diner like Egg Heaven,” said her husband, Paul, hunched over a newly glassed counter while eying the hard work of his wife. “But it is doubly spectacular that she actually got Egg Heaven itself.”

With a little elbow grease and some cleaning product, the “new” Egg Heaven isn’t some wild transformation—the artistic panels on the ceiling remain, the image-collage counter remains, the wood paneling remains—but rather a brightening up that is the reflection of Trejo.

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A plate of huevos rancheros sits in front of chilaquiles slathered in a salsa verde sauce. Photo by Brian Addison.

The space feels brighter and less dingy, cleaner and less greasy (in the best way possible for those that love the sensation of the old, well-used, cramped space), and simply put, warmer. And, by a little elbow grease, I mean taking a knife and a cloth and cleaning the entire brick wall brick by brick, removing old, grease-soaked strips of wood top to give way for metal, and diving into nearly every nook and crevice of the space.

Plants dot here and there. A new floor opens up the space. And then there’s the obvious addition: The spirits of Trejo and Garcia.

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The chilaquiles with salsa verde, a recipe from Trejo’s childhood in Mexico City. Photo by Brian Addison.

While Trejo traipses from table to table, talkative but not overwhelming, kind and engaging, Garcia whips up the classic menu of Egg Heaven while having some additions of their own, particularly chilaquiles—with a red sauce that comes from Garcia’s days growing up in Jalisco and a green sauce from Trejo’s days in Mexico City—and huevos rancheros.

“If there is something from the old Egg Heaven menu that a customer wants, all they have to do is ask—Rito knows the entire recipe book of this place,” Trejo said. “But we feel honored to include some of our heritage, especially with the chilaquiles because there’s me on a plate and Rito on a plate.”

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Coffee and chilaquiles at Egg Heaven. Photo by Brian Addison.

The additions are warmly welcomed.

The chilaquiles are a direct reflection of my own experience’s with my partner’s family in Jalisco, where chips are made by hand and the sauce, heavily drenching the chips as they should, are topped with crema and queso fresco while the huevos rancheros bring a distinctly Mexican-American interpretation to the plate: Yes, we have the traditional tortilla, layered with refried beans and topped with a fried egg—but then Garcia’s housemade salsa, pickled jalapeños, good ol’ black olives, avocado, cheddar, and sour cream, make for a huevos rancheros that better reflects the many Mexicans who have made the American kitchen possible for the past three decades.

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Rito García’s huevos rancheros at Egg Heaven. Photo by Brian Addison.

“I hope we succeed,” Trejo said nervously. “We’re here for the community, we want to keep a place alive that was open for over 50 years—there’s no reason Long Beach should have to lose that.”

And, Esperanza, with a heart and soul as warm as yours, there is no reason as to why Long Beach won’t fully embrace Egg Heaven.
Egg Heaven is now open and 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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