Long Beach Lunch: Royal Cup Cafe
All of the cool, independent coffeeshops in Long Beach tend to hug the coastline. On Broadway and Fourth Street, between Downtown and Belmont Shore, nearly a dozen small houses of jolt cling to street corners, filling up each day with latte fans and sandwich-seekers, many of whom spend hours on their computers there, gobbling free wifi.
But go above Seventh Street and these hip coffee hubs disappear, replaced instead with fast food and the occasional suburban Starbucks. So when a friend got hired as a barista at a place she said was on the corner of 10th Street and Redondo Avenue a few years ago, I instantly fell in love with the homey coffeeshop and its trend-bucking location.
It also helps that Royal Cup Cafe is known for its generous menu of internationally inspired breakfasts, salads and paninis and is furnished with an eclectic array of cushy thrift store finds, so that even after eating a full meal in the front-window reading chair (and drinking iced coffee out of a mason jar), it feels like you never left home.
Raj, the South Asian owner, is often behind the counter, thankfully willing to help customers navigate the 40-deep list of panini-pressed sandwiches which can run the gamut from basic (ham and cheese) to ethnic (chicken, pesto, sun dried tomato and provolone) to fusion insanity (cashew chicken with raisins and basil).
Sarah Bennett The electric "Culture Shock" panini
Curious fillers like curry, chutney, cranberries and jalepeños nonchalantly litter the ingredient list, but don't let them scare you off--each creation is perfectly balanced while remaining undeniably unique.
For a simple notch up from the standard, try the turkey and mango chutney panini, a post-Thanksgiving special your grandmother might make if she was a yogi with a cache of tropical fruit. For something more adventurous, the "Culture Shock" loads chicken, pesto, chipotle, avocado, jalepeños and sun-dried tomatoes between two pieces of grilled-and crimped sourdough for a California-style flavor foundation punched with two different kinds of spice. All paninis run from $7.85-$9 and come with a side of potato chips, a salty pittance good for cleansing the palate between bites of your global adventure.
Royal Cup's salads are equally as adventurous with plates of mixed greens tossed with everything from Worcestershire sauce, raisins, almonds and chutney ("The African Safari Salad") to hummus, mandarin oranges, olives and sun-dried tomatoes ("Hummus Chicken Salad"). And though only $9 each, the heaping salads are enough for two low-carb meals so don't be afraid ask for a box.
Whether you need somewhere casual for a quick lunch meeting or feel like posting up with your computer all day at the old wooden secretary desk in the back room, Royal Cup is the only off-beat cafe that dares to stray above the shoreline.
Royal Cup Cafe, 994 Redondo Ave., Long Beach, (562) 987-1027, royalcupcafe.com