Long Beach Lunch: Long Beach Fish Grill
From the gritty "You Buy We Fry" ethos of Central Long Beach's P&G to the market price upscale burritos at Roe. in Belmont Shore, there are more than a few ways to get your tilapia in this town. Exactly one mile from the water in Long Beach, however, is a different ocean house that combines affordability and sustainability like no other.
Long Beach Fish Grill--with its pristine white restaurant, blue awnings and green outdoor shrubbery cased inside its own parking lot (as to separate it from the grimier Food 4 Less and Rite Aid next door)--looks more like an aquarium where fish would swim rather than an establishment that gives them their most respectful last rites. But with little advertising and lots of word-of-mouth business, this six-year-old seafood kitchen has been churning out ecologically aware tacos, fryer combos and grilled filets to East Anaheim's hungry masses.
Since 2009, Long Beach Fish Grill has been one of the largest supporters of the Aquarium of the Pacific's Seafood of the Future program, a nonprofit seafood advisory program that connects restaurants to responsible suppliers of fish, shrimp, scallops. With so much overfishing and unhealthy farming practices out there, its a nice surprise to see a menu that denotes not only which products are part of this groundbreaking program, but also which ones are farm-raised or wild caught.
Sarah Bennett "The House" fryer combo
Don't worry. Prices do not suffer for the first-world luxury of knowledge and the reality of sustainable seafood will never be as creepy as that Portlandia episode where they bring out a dossier of the dead animal along with the meal.
Starting at $8, the taco plates come with two overstuffed yellow corn tortillas prepared Baja style with cabbage and cream sauce atop either grilled or battered fish. And most of the fryer combos are only $10 and come with some combination of Alaskan cod, scallops or shrimp with a mound of fries and house slaw.
While most fried fish just accepts the unhealthiness of its preparation method and cakes on thick layers of bready batter, Long Beach Fish Grill's is more tempura-like, light and crispy so as to not ever be confused with British-style fish and chips or that greasy stuff from any number of lesser fish markets.
Where Long Beach Fish Grill exceeds all other seafood establishments in portions, flavor and options, however, is--duh!--with its grilled fish. Nearly a dozen options await you at the counter daily from the typical salmon and Pacific snapper (both $10.99) to the harder-to-find basa ($7.99), mahi mahi ($12.99) and swordfish ($16.99). Unusual findings like rainbow trout and local white seabass often litter the daily special.
Sarah Bennett More Pacific snapper than you can handle
The list price of whatever fish you choose gets you a paper plate loaded to bending with a generous filet, a side of rice, fries or veggies and a cup of house cole slaw, which serves as a crucial palate cleanser between bites.
On a recent trip, my piece of Pacific snapper extended beyond the width of the plate and was coated in a layer of Cajun seasoning with a helping of spicy melted butter on top. The kick from the cayenne and paprika on the outside was such a contrast to the firm mild meat on the inside that I vowed to never go back to either the garlic butter or teriyaki seasoning options.
With enough fish-centric places to keep the city's seafood lovers satisfied through hundreds of Long Beach lunches, Long Beach Fish Grill remains one of the most underrated, a place where source is just as important as that final presentation and fresh ocean fare doesn't have to ruin the environment or your wallet.
Long Beach Fish Grill, 1201 Redondo Ave., Long Beach, (562) 986-6900, longbeachfishgrill.com