Long Beach Lunch: The Village Grind

Photo by Sarah Bennett

The East Village Arts District has seen its fair share of coffeeshops come and go. From the days when the Blue Nile Cafe occupied the two-story storefront on the bottom of the Broadlind Hotel building to the subsequent years, when the location and its connected corner unit became the Broadlind Cafe, then Sipology and now The Green House.

Around the corner from this seemingly revolving door of buzz-disseminators, however, is the East Village's most stalwart coffeeshop--The Village Grind. And while it may not be as sleek, trendy or bustling as the others with Broadway frontage, this cozy hideout has everything you need for a free-wifi workday or a quick patio lunch.

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Long Beach Lunch: La Ceiba

Sarah Bennett

Despite not having a very large Salvadoran population, Long Beach has been an overall good place to have a pupusa addiction. The city's farmers markets are filled with acceptable $3 versions of the cheese-bean-and-pork-stuffed corn tortillas, and there are even several authentic Salvadoran restaurants at which to properly knife-and-fork ones made with traditional vegetables like the loroco vine and calabaza (squash).

There is, however, only one La Ceiba--that pan-Latin eatery on 7th Street, Long Beach's home of the 99-cent pupusa.

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Long Beach Lunch: The Promenade Café

Sarah Bennett

Going to the Queen Mary just to eat lunch these days is a hassle. It used to be that you could park the car, walk onto the ship and sit down at your chosen eatery as if it were any restaurant in any strip mall in any town. Buying tickets to board was a chore reserved for those who wanted to pay for tours, special events or see the exhibits on the historic hunk of steel.

The powers that be, however, realized at some point in the last few years that certain scumbags (not this one) were wandering onto the moored vessel for free and not spending money, but instead raising hell, which pisses off tourists and doesn't do much good for profits.

So today, parking will run you $17 unless you get your ticket validated, in which case it's $6 (don't lose the ticket or it'll be $38). Then, in order to even get on the ship, you have to stand in a winding ticket line in the parking lot and pay $15 up front for a non-refundable voucher that can be redeemed for food or drink anywhere on the ship (this doesn't apply if you buy a tour or something).

Then, and only then--with promissory notes in hand--are you allowed to take the elevator to the upper decks and dine at the best value on the whole ship: the Promenade Cafe, a restaurant with food and a view that's thankfully worth all the inconvenience.

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Long Beach Lunch: The Auld Dubliner

Sarah Bennett

One of the greatest joys about eating in Long Beach is finding that unassuming, unexpected and surprisingly authentic ethnic fare; and this column has proved that you can easily wander your way through the cuisines of El Salvador, Cambodia, Trinidad and Peru, all without ever leaving city limits.

But on the West Coast, where "Irish bars" are more likely to be Bud Light-slanging dives with a tacky green touch than actual public houses slathered in dark wood, it's hard to find a place that serves true Irish fare in a Dublin-reminiscent setting.

Thankfully for Long Beach there's The Auld Dubliner, which opened 10 years ago directly across the street from the Convention Center to bring traditional and modern Irish food to locals and tourists alike. And don't let Auld Dub's location in the heinous concrete mistake that is The Pike at Rainbow Harbor fool you: this is not Irish Disneyland, designed to reflect what Americans think a Dublin pub might look like.

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Long Beach Lunch: The Prospector

Sarah Bennett

To the too-cool, twenty-something crowd in Long Beach, The Prospector Steak House and Saloon is one of the city's best dark-n-divey bars at which to get a $4 well whiskey and slosh around watching all kinds of grimy local punk bands perform. But to an older-something set of Long Beach day drinkers and meat lovers, the building on the corner of 7th St. and Junipero Ave.--yes, the one entirely covered in paintings of 1800s miners, cowboys and country-camp wenches--is a quality lunch and dinner establishment, home to some of the best steak and lobster around.

After nearly a decade of experiencing The Prospector solely as a member of the former, post-closed-kitchen set, I recently decided to join the day crawlers, lured by the decadent idea of eating a proper steak dinner for lunch.

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Long Beach Lunch: The Breakfast Bar

Sarah Bennett

I've said it before and I'll say it again: in Long Beach, breakfast is such a religion, we'll even eat it for lunch. We'd much rather grub down on an omelet smothered in Hollandaise sauce than sit in a church pew or eat another standard sandwich--and the constant lines outside of the city's most well respected breakfast spots each weekend prove it.

But the real sign of a town obsessed with breakfast is that there's always room for more. Despite the presence of at least a dozen egg-specializing, open-until-2 p.m. restaurants within bike-riding distance, The Breakfast Bar opened on Atlantic Ave. earlier this year and is already a mainstay, with Sunday lines that rival institutions like Coffee Cup Cafe and Potholder.

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Long Beach Lunch: England Fish & Chips

Sarah Bennett

Have you ever ordered a meal only to have every hue in it be a crispy golden brown? Have you ever had so much deep fried batter that your gut begged you to stop and eat a salad? Have you ever eaten at a restaurant where the closest thing to salad is the cabbage inside of the deep fried egg roll?

I have. Because I went to to England Fish and Chips, a not-so-British strip mall fry-by somewhere between Wrigley and Bixby Knolls that serves a bizarre but delicious assortment of crispy seafood, vegetables and poultry with nods to fried traditions from around the world.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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