Monday, March 4, 2024

Long Beach late night food scene: The Ordinarie creates an ode to post-partying munchies

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The Long Beach late night food scene, let’s be frank, has a lotta work to do—and restaurants are definitively re-approaching the concept post-pandemic and, well, post-past-decade that saw Hof’s Hot and Shore House catered to hungry 2AM crowds beforehand. And The Ordinarie in Downtown Long Beach is one such place.

Still recovering from the absurdity that is Miracle—where bartenders and kitchen staff saw records being broken nearly weekly in sales—The Ordinarie Executive Chef Nick DiEugenio and his kitchen have created a late night bites menu that is nothing short of an ode to the post-partying munchies.

The Ordinarie’s take on the Long Beach late night food scene is one dedicated to the industry worker

“The kitchen became entirely involved in getting on this late night menu,” DiEugenio said. “And it because, collectively, we all share the same frustration with a lotta workers in the industry: When we get off of work, there are few places open after hours.”

Of course, there are the drive-thrus—but that’s the last thing many are seeking after grueling hours in either a kitchen or dealing with front-of-house. And yes, some fast food (like the cherished-by-many industry workers Taco Bell on Broadway where regular hours are until 2AM and on Fridays and Saturdays, extend to 4AM) have dining rooms.

Still, there’s a sense of dignity there.

“It’s kind of a love letter from our kitchen—we had so much fun developing this menu,” DiEugenio said. “Words we were throwing around was, like, ‘food truck,’ ‘popup food,’ ‘late night,’ ‘fast food’… It was that kinda vibe. So everything is a bit of a take on the food we eat late, but a bit more elevated, popup-style in a dining setting where people can actually sit, order a drink from the bar, and enjoy their food.”

So what, exactly, does this all equate to?

A variation of decadent fries: From The Ordinarie’s classic “Ordinarie fries,” where a cheese sauce and short rib gravy slather the fries, to pulled pork fries, where a heap of pulled pork is paired with a house-made bourbon barbecue sauce and a Carolina-style mustard sauce before being topped with slaw…

But perhaps the most comforting of all is DiEugenio’s chili cheese fries, where a proper chile con carne—”No, no beans; they don’t belong on chili cheese fries,” he said laughing, noting an homage to Tommy’s famed red shack version—is happily doused in cheddar, pickled onions and jalapeño, and a chipotle-sour cream concoction. The result are some of the best chili cheese fries in the city, harkening back to the much-missed Proudly Serving version that was at the now-defunct Beachwood BBQ.

There’s a double smash burger that is as wonderfully messy as it is an absolute savory bomb: Thanks to the talents of Chef Clayton Peters—you likely had experienced some of his food at Shady Grove Foods—and his house-made Thousand Island dressing, this happily stacked burger acts as ode to the McDonald’s creation of the same style. This version just happens to be on steroids.

Speaking of messy, while The Ordinarie has always had a solid patty melt, DiEugenio wanted to create a double patty melt that harkens to the famed Carl’s Jr. tag of the 1990s and takes it literally: If it doesn’t get all over the place, it doesn’t belong in your face. Dripping with a hefty heap of caramelized onions and that Carolina-style mustard sauce, it definitively competes as the best version in the city.

For those over the burgers and still thinking a Crunch Wrap Supreme, DiEugenio and his crew got you covered: The “late night wrap” is a carefully folded flour tortilla filled with crispy tortilla bits, chile con carne, cheese, a variety of pickled veggies diced to morsels, and a couple of dipping sauces—chipotle crema and a nice red pepper coulis.

“There is definitively a science behind that dish,” DiEugenio said, laughing. “It took us multiple iterations to keep the interior crunchy but saucy while also having the outer tortilla nicely folded and packaged.”

In other words: Kudos to Taco Bell’s corporate food magic.

The Long Beach late night food scene is tricky—because it’s a balance between staying open and patrons actually coming in

Long Beach restaurants have long struggled with maintaining late hours, both pre- and post-COVID—and in a huge sense, it’s the snake that eats itself: People consistently claim that they want places open later so a handful do but don’t receive the patronage because it is presumed that, well, no one is open late. Hence the vicious circle.

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There used to be late night hubs in nearly every Long Beach neighborhood, but particularly post-pandemic, many if not all have scaled back, even in restaurant rich neighborhoods like Alamitos Beach, Belmont Shore, DTLB… 

Some are taking the risk to change that.

The Ordinarie—the epicenter of this article—once had its kitchen open until 2AM, has opted to remain open until 12:30AM every day of the week with its kitchen open until midnight. Their surrounding neighbors—ISM Brewing and Michael’s Downtown—have collectively agreed to expand hours, including late operations. Altar Society on Pine Avenue wants to offer something different from the clubs. Te-Buru and Ramen Hub in Bixby Knolls have begun testing late night hours in the hopes the sleepy neighborhood won’t be a 9-to-5 place.

And it all goes beyond just catering to the revelers; late night food options are both good for business and good for the souls of residents: It lets them know they can actually depend on their city for certain needs—and hunger, no matter when it arises, is clutch for that to happen.

And, from an urbanist angle, late night food encourages crowds of all hours and therefore a presence at all hours, leading to more foot traffic, more presence, and more safety.

The Ordinarie is located at 210 The Promenade N.

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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