10 Essential Long Beach Restaurants
But boy, am I lucky for it, because the city of Queen Mary and Snoop Dogg has many wonderful restaurants in an area that spans 50 square miles--an area that includes Cambodia Town, Second Street, Naples, and Downtown. And let's not forget the breakfast joints! My god! The breakfast joints!
Herewith are this food critic's essential Long Beach restaurants. 10 of them, which doesn't even scratch the surface.
Agree? Disagree? See something missing? Let me know. Put it in the comments. As always, the list is alphabetical.
At Last Café's first-time customers turn into instant devotees. Every one of the or so seats is filled nightly. Those who didn't think to snag a reservation either wait it out on the street or order to-go. Either way, budget about 30 minutes to find parking, which is frustratingly scarce and the inevitable topic of conversation for the first few minutes of your meal. The rest of the time, you'll talk about the food, about how chef John McLaughlin manages to charge a fraction of what other establishments of this caliber would. For example, his Brick Chicken: a deboned half-bird cooked flat under the weight of a brick, its crispy, mahogany skin reminiscent of the best Armenian rotisserie hen and meat so juicy it bursts. The cost for this now famous poultry plate is a mere $10.50.
James Republic has such lovable quirks. For example: using jars for just about every appetizer and dessert. To back up claims that its sustainable, James Republic recycles its old menus to use as doilies. And because of this ethos--one that no new restaurant these days goes without--the menu changes daily. Named after chef Dean James Max--the empire-building, James Beard-nominated chef responsible for other high-achieving restaurants--the place counts the time since it opened, with its days printed atop the menus and scrawled on a chalkboard near the kitchen. How a dish reads one day will be different than the days before or after. Get the potato puree, which will be served in a jar you wished you had longer fingers to squeegee, and then finish with the warm, sticky toffee bread pudding, which is actually served on a plate.
Jongewaard's pies and all-American dishes are classics, winning over the loyalists like trophies. In their Norman-Rockwell-meets-Martha-Stewart-Living lunch counter, there are stories of some folks eating three meals a day here. You can just imagine Long Beach's version of Jerry, George and Elaine convening nightly in one of their booths, sipping coffee out of thick mugs, talking about nothing. Jongewaard's demands repeat visits, and nurtures regulars.