Long Beach Lunch: Pee & Gee Fish Market

Sarah Bennett

Few strip malls in Long Beach have more cultural significance than the one on the southeast corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. It is here where Snoop Dogg filmed his "What's My Name" music video and where hip hop fans for decades have flocked to take their picture under the iconic VIP Records sign.

But across the parking lot from where gangster rap's most notorious record store once stood (it now exists in a smaller form in a storefront around the side of the building) is another long-standing Eastside tradition--Pee & Gee Fish Market.

Since 1976, the dingy little seafood market has been offering up cheap fish, shrimp, oysters and scallops to Central Long Beach residents who come either for their daily dose of take-home protein or to make use of Pee & Gee's "You buy we fry" ethos.

Sarah Bennett

The outside Poly High School-facing wall is covered in dreamy ocean-scape mural that draws customers into another world, away from the harsh glare of the surrounding urban jungle. Inside, however, the similarly painted walls can't escape from surrounding its city life; they are perpetually covered in autographed headshots from semi-famous regulars and concert posters from Long Beach's up-and-coming MCs.

Laundromat candy dispensers and candy vending machines also line the small dining room and it is this kind of charm (okay, maybe the generous portions help too) that makes Pee & Gee a frequent locals-only stop.

But this isn't the type of place to pick up luxe ocean creatures like swordfish or salmon. This working-class staple stocks fresh cuts of eight affordable fresh and saltwater fish from sandab and tilapia to red snapper and whiting, along with other lowbrow specialties like jar oysters, jumbo shrimp and catfish nuggets.

Sarah Bennett
Fried up red snapper and jumbo shrimp

For lunch, there are two meals, each under $9, that come with four pieces of fish and a side of fries. Order over the display counter and wait for your number to come up (no plates--always Styrofoam containers) at the small kitchen window a few feet away.

Unless you order your filets to go, all the fish pulled from the case at Pee & Gee get fried in a Southern-style batter made of cornmeal, flour, cayenne and garlic power--a traditional combination made famous by hush puppies that beats the chewy grease of British fish and chips. Thin fish slices help the batter form crevices like a desert mountain range along the ridges of meat, making for a perfect crispy complement to the soft mild fish inside.

Despite all its experience with fish frying, the shrimp baskets are also a major draw for Pee & Gee eaters. Puffy meaty shrimp fried in the same cornmeal batter as the fish bring in everyone from construction workers to BMX kids to old grandpas, all enjoying the same Pee & Gee tradition that has made it a hub for Long Beach seafood lovers for nearly forty years.

1002 Pacific Coast Hwy, Long Beach, (562) 591-0395

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