Thursday, July 18, 2024

Long Beach Night Market unveils stellar lineup (birria lasagna included)


The Long Beach Night Market—a collaboration between Grey LB owners Bobby Hernandez and Rob Marquez, Rosemallows owner Jimmy Han, and the popup food world of the region—finally returns this Saturday, Dec. 16, after some quirky and unnecessary hiccups with the city shut down the popular earlier this year.

And they have a stellar lineup of vendors.

Instead of the tiny-but-mighty space that sits behind Recreational Coffee and Rosemallows—where the market was hosted previously—the crew behind the market have decided to, well, go bigger and go better: They will be taking over the Promenade space across 3rd Street at Mosaic, giving guests not only much more room but the ability to experience more vendors.

“I want Downtown Long Beach to be a destination spot,” Hernandez said, “and the only way to make it a destination is to give people a reason to make it a destination spot.” There’s more much more Hernandez needs to say but first and foremost…

What about that Long Beach Night Market lineup…

We got El Barrio Cantina, one of Long Beach’s finest since its inaugural menu and certainly the place in the city which messes with the idea and conception of Mexican food more than any other. A breaker of rules (Filipino adobo tamales) and also a steady place for the classics (solid ceviches and the best tacos de papa in Long Beach). And at food events (like this past weekend’s tamal festival), they prove they are just as good outside the brick-and-mortar.

And they will be serving—yes—their famed birria lasagna and, for the vegetarians, a spinach artichoke lasagna.

Sal’s Gumbo Shack, Sally Bevans’s much-loved, North Long Beach-born gumbo joint, will be on hand as Bevans also expands her festival and food event footprint. Expect her famed gumbo and maybe a trick or two that nods to her love of the Cajun and Creole grub from which her Belizean heritage harnesses.

The Rose Park (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) and Wolf’s Brew (Sunday) resident and breakfast master that is Chef Josh Haskal will be bringin his Breakfast Dreams to the Market come Saturday. Expect some of the city’s best breakfast burrito and incredible brekkie sammies.

Caffeine haven Recreational Coffee—of which Hernandez used to own and has now passed on the reins to an employee as a newly minted owner and roaster—will be on hand to serve both hot and cold coffee concoctions that represent some of the most artistic and nuances roasting in the city.

Rosemallows—owned by the aforementioned Han and a longtime staple in the Downtown’s drinking scene and, before that, home to Han’s second Beer Belly location before he closed both this one and the OG location in K-Town—will be acting as the bar at the event. No, you will not have to leave Mosaic to walk across the street for drinks at the brick-and-mortar; Rosemallows will have a popup bar on hand for all your alcohol needs along with partnering with Han’s natural wine brand, Clink.

The mighty smash burger concept from Han, Love Hour, will be returning. (They did a smash burger face-off back in a 2022 iteration of the Night Market, competing against the much-adored Hamburgers Nice along a side-by-side setup on 3rd Street.) An Angeleno favorite—and rightfully so—I would venture to say they are only second to Hamburgers Nice in the smash game.

I Luv Ur Buns, Sonya Suon and Mandy Bardisbanian’s ghost kitchen concept that runs out of the massive Daisy Diner ghost kitchen, will be on hand to, returning to their popup roots (which they never really left). Think fusion steam buns ranging from Cambodian inspiration (lemongrass beef) to Mexican inspiration (carne asada).

Another Long Beach-based popup star—Filipino grub-meets-Texan barbecue popup SmokED and Salted—follows in the footsteps of L.A. legends like pit master Johneric Concordia’s Filipino take on barbecue at The Park’s Finest.

Candice Tzeng and Phil Kwan’s vegan fusion concept, ManEatingPlant, is nothing but awesome upon witnessing: Retrofitting an old school bus into an industrial-sized food truck to better serve its plant-based dumplings, buns, and noodles to its loyal fans, it has been a staple throughout the Los Angeles region since its birth in 2018.

Chef Eugene Santiago’s concept—Eat Baryo, whose locally famous for their coconut jam—will be on hand to serve Southeast Asia-inspired dishes that span fusion to the tradition. His popups have included everything from creamed cassava leaves to chicken adobo.

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Inglorious Funnels might seem like they are at every single food festival, market, and popup community event—and, in a sense, they are—but there is nothing more consistent than Long Beach-bred Inglorious Funnels. Insanely fun, absolutely delicious—go for the Decocco, the Hicox, or my personal fave, The Bear—they are always one of the best dessert options. Also, don’t skip out on the churros or the deep-fried Uncrustable. Wondrous.

Lastly but not least is Bite Club, the pandemic-born Wagyu slider joint.

“Saturday [Dec. 16’s event date] is going to be a lot of fun,” Hernandez said. “Support the local food scene. Eat delicious food and drinks. Enjoy the community in a safe environment in Downtown Long Beach. Enjoy the holiday vibes. Bring friends. It’s gonna be a great night.”

When it first appeared in September of 2022, the Long Beach Night Market was a glowing success when the Downtown scene needed it most: With little advertising, hundreds showed up to pour into the alley and hangout space that sits behind Rosemallows and Recreational.

“And “I feel like that’s what Grey LB, Rosemallow, and the whole Long Beach Night Market crew is about: build something dope that brings people out,” Hernandez said. “And in doing that, yeah, we’ll make the downtown area safer. We’ll add value to the neighborhood—not even talking monetary, but just in making something that’s worthwhile to the community and ultimately make Downtown Long Beach the spot to be. I feel like we partially achieved that with that our inaugural events.”

The result? A revival of nightlife in DTLB, a decent chunk of business for the 3rd Street corridor between Long Beach Boulevard and The Promenade, and a new event that was set to become a regular mainstay should crowds continue to be this consistent.

Beyond popularity, there is a larger goal with the Long Beach Night Market

“I’ve always felt that creating destinations was essential, especially for Downtown Long Beach,” Hernandez said. “I felt that when I started Recreational Coffee in 2015—and I still feel that way in 2023 with things like the Long Beach Night Market, The Edison Theatre, and everything else: Make locals proud to call this their home and make others wish they were here and get ’em to get down here and have fun.”

Hernandez doesn’t dismiss what is currently happening either: “Shoot, that’s what The Ordinarie is already doing—that line’s nuts to get into their Miracle popup. Ammatoli is killing it. ISM is killing it. Altar is killing it. Sonoratown and [the future space of] Padre are gonna kill.”

“I know that Long Beach Night Market was the brain child of Jimmy [Han, owner of Rosemallows] and Rob,” Hernandez said when the event was first created. “They saw LA’s night markets and we figured Long Beach needs this. We have such a diverse and creative food community here that it’s a no brainer. On top of that, I know that Downtown Long Beach needs to be activated. Stats show that increased foot traffic and a community presence lowers crime, clears out sketchy activity. The people need this, the city needs it, and we’re here to make it happen.”

Hernandez’s point about activation is a key one: With a skyrocket in residents both experiencing homelessness and earning less combined with a post-pandemic Downtown bereft of events, Hernandez is not the only DTLB business owner who recognizes that the key to Downtown’s future lies in foot traffic, community, and, well, hanging out.

The Long Beach Night Market is $7 to enter and will take place on north side of The Promenade between 3rd and 5th Streets on Dec. 16 from 6PM to 11PM.

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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