In what many are already feeling as a huge loss to the food community, Dennis and David Robicheau—the son-and-dad team behind Shady Grove Foods and its brick-and-mortar at 2708 E. 4th St.—have announced they will be permanently shuttering the restaurant, effective Jan. 1, 2024.
Announced in various online posts and coming less than two years after opening its doors, the sentiment surrounding the closure is one of both frustration toward the City of Long Beach’s small business practices and the sadness over losing an underrated brick-and-mortar representation of the men who created “Long Beach barbecue.”
City of Long Beach ‘offers little’ in helping Shady Grove Foods move forward
“There’s really no other way to put it: We just can’t do it anymore,” Dennis said in an interview. “And to be frank, it was rough from the get-go given we had paid 10 months of rent before the City finally signed off on everything.”
Those two sentiments—the inability to maintain patronage and the frustrations of City permitting—are intimately intertwined with Shady Grove Foods in more ways than one: After an absurdly lengthy signing off process, their Santa Maria grill was later deemed impermissible, forcing the Shady crew to smoke off-site.
“That really limits what kind of menu we can have, our consistency, our, well, everything,” Dennis said. “I think the most frustrating part is that our customers always had our backs but there is just no way we can build to the capital that would put near installing a smoker—not that it would help because the City also offered little in the way of how we could feasibly achieve this to keep our business running.”
On top of this, we have restaurants having extreme ups and downs lately—as echoed by The Social List and Lola’s owner: “The economy is back? That couldn’t be farther from the truth: We often have couples share a single drink and single entree—and we are not remotely judging them for that. What we’re frustrated with is that they are so needing that social outing but can’t afford it. We need to stop advertising that the economy is ‘up;’ it isn’t.”
Why Shady is important to the local food scene with its ‘Long Beach barbecue’
“We love Texan barbecue but we’re not Texas. Sometimes, I wish Long Beach understood what it really has: Its own unique ecosystem with its own distinct characteristics. What we create is for and through Long Beach.”
These were the words of Dennis, the pit master behind the smokey, barbecued meats of Shady Grove Foods, when him and his dad unveiled the space’s inaugural menu. There were many, many things to love about their inaugural menu—a masterful Tomahawk pork chop, equally masterful smoked chicken, a green curry gumbo…
Especially special? Their sticky pork ribs, an ode to not only Long Beach, but the long, lovely friendship the Robicheaus have had with our city’s Cambodian community. Meaty pork ribs—cut individually and seared across all sides— are marinated in a fish sauce concoction before being smoked and charred around all sides, finishing off with a pineapple, cilantro, and green onion topping that melds the flavors of Cambodian ribs with Southern smokiness. The result is a beautiful representation of a menu that oozes odes to the cultures who have long called Long Beach home.
These dishes were an extension of a very Long Beach-specific food that wasn’t nor could it be mimicked elsewhere—and it provided a sense that barbecue does have a place in Californian food, away from the confines and strict definitions that guide Texan, the Carolinas, Memphis, and Kansas City barbecues.
Some of these have stayed on the menu and some have gone, to be replaced by masterful burgers and specials (including a special dinner I co-hosted with Shady and James Tir to celebrate the history of and taste turtle soup).
Moving forward and the future of Shady Grove Foods
And that ultimately means two things: There is less than one month left to experience their incredible food in a formal, sit-down setting—but it won’t be the last.
“Oh yeah, we’ll be still doing the popup and festival circuit as well as courting to catering services,” Dennis said. “Shady Grove has always been a presence out in the community and the closing of our restaurant won’t change that.”
Shady Grove Foods will serve until Jan. 1, 2024 and is located at 2708 E. 4th St.