Long Beach Lunch: Berlin Bistro

Sarah Bennett

For the first few years of its existence, whenever I would mention that I'm going to Berlin, I would be met with the kind of dead stare that told me they thought I was about to get on a transcontinental flight. Thankfully, the reputation of Berlin Bistro and Coffeehouse now precedes it and when I say I am going to Berlin, I am more often met with either announcements of love for its food and parklet-patio or jealousy at the fact that I will be hanging out adjacent to the best record store in the area, Fingerprints.

That's because Berlin--which has the same owner as legendary Long Beach coffeeshop Portfolio--is embedded inside the same adaptive-reuse structure that houses Fingerprints, a project that was completed in 2011 and has since ushered in a new era of foot traffic and creative energy for the once-desolate stretch of 4th Street.

And even though most of my trips to Berlin are still merely for a cup of coffee and some wifi (it's enthralling, this writer life), I do sometimes take advantage of the fact that unlike its big sister Portfolio--where counter-ordered sandwiches and coffeecakes round out the food offerings--Berlin's table-service and full menu of filling meals is a lunchtime focal point.

More »

Long Beach Lunch: Alien Sandwiches

Sarah Bennett

In all my time living and writing about food in Long Beach, there is one culinary truth that continues to hold fast about the city's otherwise vibrant downtown: a good, cheap sandwich is hard to find.

Sure, you can buy two pieces of bread stuffed with meat from a few corporate outposts around downtown, but for the most part, you have to trek to Rocco's Italian Deli or make do with a pre made coffeeshop 'wich for your fill of the quintessential lunchtime meal. The lack of sandwich variety and quality is an affliction that office workers note in their glassdoor.com entries and one that residents forced to stand in line at the Subway on Pacific Ave. resent with all of their hungry hearts.

So, when a cursed storefront on the ground floor of the Lafayette in the East Village Arts District (its last tenants served under-appreciated Cuban food) recently reopened as a space-age-looking place called Alien Sandwiches, I felt the distinct need to enter its otherwise unappealing front door.

I'm glad I did. Because not only is Alien Sandwiches a new place to get sandwiches downtown, it's also the first Vietnamese cafe in downtown, which means that the sandwiches are not your mustard-and-mayo spreads, but instead delicious banh mis.

More »

Long Beach Lunch: Downtown Farmers Market

Sarah Bennett
Farmers markets in Long Beach are about as diverse as the city itself and the ready-to-eat food they offer is no different. There's the North Long Beach one that serves up hot soul food and cold bionicos. The one at the Marina on Sundays is a little more tony with a veritable food court of street grub from Greek to vegan to Argentine.

But for choice people watching, produce buying and lunchtime eating all in one parking lot, it's hard to beat the most recent incarnation of downtown's Friday afternoon farmers market, which runs from 10:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the blacktop between the oldest church in Long Beach and the under-construction lofts taking over Pine Avenue's closed down movie theaters.

The market landed in this location earlier this year after being booted from its longtime spot on the Promenade North through City Place. And even though the new setup is smaller and slightly more limited in its selection of farmers, it still is home to the best assemblage of lunchtime pop-ups in downtown LBC.

More »

Long Beach Lunch: Babette's Feast

Sarah Bennett

Belmont Shore in the summertime is about as far from Paris, France as you can get. The oceanfront locale and its onshore breeze, the chaotic flurry of visor-wearing tourists and the sea of college-age day drinkers constantly stumbling down the enclave's main drag, Second Street, is the near cultural opposite of the espresso-sipping visitors and erudite locals that stroll the romantic brick-lined streets of central Paris.

But enter Babette's Feast--a bakery and cafe nestled on the far west end of the beachy strip--and you can escape into a romantic world where warm eggy crepes full tummies each morning and the people-watching on the patio is accompanied by the relaxing lull of a central fountain.

More »

Long Beach Lunch: Holé Molé

Sarah Bennett

There is one Mexican restaurant that is a rite of passage for Long Beach's newbie 20-somethings, and it's not because it's the most authentic taqueria or it actually has an assortment of mole, as its name would imply. Holé Molé (accents aside, it's pronounced "holy moley") is locally world famous among all the young boozers for being the only post-midnight grub along the infamous 4th Street dive bar crawl.

At least that's how I first discovered it--shoveling cheese enchiladas and 50-cent potato tacos into my sloppy drunk face after a round of Jameson at Ferns across the street.
Only after nursing half-a-decade's worth of hangovers and venturing out into the sunlight for food as a sober adult did I discover that Long Beach is actually home to five locations of this homegrown Baja-style chain, and that all of them are unsurprisingly more equipped for quality lunch than the late-night hovel on 4th Street.

More »

Long Beach Lunch: Ahimsa Vegan Cafe

Sarah Bennett

Last year, Long Beach's oldest vegan and raw restaurant unceremoniously disappeared from its long-standing location at 340 E. 4th St., without so much as a closing party or note to loyal customers. Despite wonky hours and notoriously slow cook times, Zephyr was the much-loved bastion of health food and alternative thought on the northern fringes of the East Village Arts District, perfect for a lazy-day sietan bowl or a casual meeting over zucchini and tempeh sandwiches--until it was gone.

Thankfully, the kirtan-loving, political-rallying, crunchy-granola vibe that Zephyr cultivated for the city's artists, hippies and college students remains not only intact but on steroids at its former location, where Ahimsa now resides. Aside from its hard-to-pronounce name ("ahh-heem-sah"), Ahimsa is an upgrade from Zephyr, with a fresh, re-decorated interior (think: chalkboard menu art and a South Asian-inspired mural) and a selection of healthy foods that adds Indian flair to the previous veg offerings.

More »

Long Beach Lunch: Hamburger Mary's

Sarah Bennett

There aren't too many places where lunch includes a sandwich with a sexually suggestive name and a bill that gets dropped on the table, placed delicately inside of a sequined high-heeled pump. But then again, there aren't too many places like Hamburger Mary's, Long Beach's most flambouyant--and largest--gay bar.

More than just a watering hole that churns out generously poured well drinks in frosty schooners (which it does every day during happy hour), Hamburger Mary's is also an LGBT nightclub, dinner theatre and restaurant with a mammoth selection of grub for every diet and appetite. Since vacating its original location on Alamitos Ave. and Broadway earlier this year--where it anchored the west end of the so-called "Gayborhood"--Mary's now occupies prime real estate on Pine Ave., where its nightly drag shows and go-go nights add vibrancy to downtown Long Beach's straight scene.

More »

Long Beach Lunch: Roxanne's Lounge

Sarah Bennett

By night, Roxanne's Lounge in historic California Heights is an upscale neighborhood bar with dapper bartenders, a password-only speakeasy in the back and a lineup of house craft cocktails unlike anywhere else in Long Beach. During the day, however, Roxanne's swaps its dimly lit interior for sunny patio space and switches up its Latin-inpired dinner menu for a creative selection of lunch and brunch items that mix its owner's Central American heritage with American bar favorites.

More »

Long Beach Lunch: El Torazo

Sarah Bennett

Whenever I get asked about where to find the best taco in Long Beach, I genuinely have to think about it. Do I say El Taco Loco because they make their own tortillas and are open 24 hours? Or do I say Taqueria La Mexicana since they are the most accessible, yet with a dollop of guacamole on each, not quite authentic? Or do I say Los Compadres even though they are the most expensive and least likely to afford a taqueria-like experience?

These days, I've taken to telling folks to wait until Tuesday or Friday and going to El Torazo, the shotgun shack of a taco stand permanently parked on the corner of 10th St. and Temple Ave. On those two days only, all of Torazo's five distinct taco types are on extreme sale, costing only $1 each for the little guys and $2 each for the bigger ones.

More »

Long Beach Lunch: Arya's Fine Persian Cuisine

Photo by Sarah Bennett
Persian for the paisas

To some Long Beach residents, the strip mall unit at 2507 Long Beach Boulevard is best known as Julio's, a beloved 'hood-ready Italian delivery establishment that takes forever to get to your door, but surprises with edible pies and standard meatball subs. To a number of particularly adventurous diners, though, 2507 Long Beac is also home to Arya, the only certified Halal Persian restaurant in the city and the only place to get pecular-sounding dishes like kashk o'bademjan, moust o'mosier and fesenjoon.

I say "adventurous" because it takes some serious guts to order even steamed rice from a place that has for decades spooned out basic Hawaiian pizzas and orders of chicken alfredo and just a few years ago decided to add kebobs and other exotically spiced goodies to its menu. And it takes even more cojones to wander into the perpetually empty dining room of an almost exclusively take-out-and-delivery place and sit down for a proper cornish hen kabob like it's your neighborhood Iranian bistro.

More »

Now Trending

From the Vault