Monday, April 22, 2024

Viaje in Belmont Shore is home to Long Beach’s most underrated cocktail program

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Viaje in Belmont Shore serves as one of the most underrated spaces when it comes to the growing cocktail game, with head bartender Tiquio Serratos exploring with Mexican spirits and ingredients that honor and uplift our neighbor to the south.

How Viaje went from casual fast Baja taco spot to elevated Mexican cuisine

Owner Julio Guitierrez had been running (the very-much missed) Baja Fish Tacos in Belmont Shore for years. The fast-casual joint that made an open shaming call toward the Rubio’s down the street—and by that, I mean it showcased how true Baja-style fish tacos should and could be represented Stateside.

Back in early 2018, he saw a large shift in the way eateries present themselves in the neighborhood: With the success of more detailed-meets-elevated comfort food like Simmzy’s and Saint & Second, Guitierrez decided to entirely gut his space.

Ditching the fast-casual concept and specifically privatizing the space he uses for the Baja Fish Taco franchise, he wanted to go toward the direction he saw Belmont Shore going.

With a design by SMS Architects, the space has homages toward Mexico’s cultural legacies—handmade and hand-painted tiles, plaster, warm colors contrasting—while honing in on an overall contemporary feel.

And it’s at the bar is where the magic happens.

Viaje is carving out space for Mexico’s growing distilling scene—beyond agave spirits

Serratos has a deep passion for his home country’s distilling scene—and it goes way beyond tequila and mezcal, two spirits he obviously appreciates considering their heavy features on his menus but isn’t solely focused on.

Before turning around to reach for a bottle, he asks, “Have you heard of Condesa gin?” and returns with a pink labeled bottle advertising a prickly pear gin. A beautiful pink-and-black design, the spirit happily reeks of orange and botanicals—and botanicals I couldn’t quite pin down.

He then serves me a martini—and without even asking me, in my favorite form: straight up with a twist. It featured Condesa’s classic gin and, yet again, after a whiff and a mighty gulp, emanated botanicals I could not quite pin.

“Condesa sticks to the Mexican terrain: xoconostle, palo santo, sage, azahar,” Serratos said. “It’s such a beautiful gin—and there are so few who are opting to use it.”

It was wondrous—and just a hint of the depth of his menu.

So are some of the highlights of Viaje’s menu?

Maravilloso: Mezcal | Cacao-infused Primo tequila | Sweet vermouth | Cinnamon | Orange


Mezcalito: Espadín mezcal | Lime | Peach-habanero syrup | Espazote


La Catrina: Mezcal | Hibiscus | Lime juice | Habanero syrup | Orange liqueur


Pepino Margarita: Pueblo Viejo Blanco | Cucumber | Chile Serrano | Lime juice | Agave syrup

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La Condesa: Condesa prickly pear-orange blossom gin | Apple | Celery | Lemon | Sage syrup | Aquafaba | Floral bitters


Long Beach Last Call: A 10-day celebration of Long Beach’s cocktail and bar scene

After the success of my restaurant week last year during August, Long Beach Food Scene Week, bar owners and tenders rightfully asked: “What about a week for us?”

So I decided to oblige and present Long Beach Food Scene: Last Call, a ten-day long celebration of Long Beach’s amazing bar culture, it’s even more amazing workers, and the industry that often goes without recognition as one of our city’s largest economic and social drivers. 

Thanks to my collaborators—Scott Lennard of RNDC and Chris Lewis of Nosotros Tequila y Mezcal—we’ve created some 15 events across the ten-day span on Last Call. To say the least, we’ve worked our asses off and we hope you’ll come out and celebrate with us (that is, if we make it to Day 10 alive).

Viaje is located 5224 E. 2nd 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.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Simply the best high end restaurant on Second St.,in Belmont Shore. The food, ambience and delicious drinks are amazing.
    The crew is very professional, yet friendly.
    Highly recommend this restaurant for a delicious meal.

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