After spending most of its existence living in the shadow of L.A., Long Beach's food scene is slowly getting its culinary due. From Trinidadian cuisine at Callaloo to the award-winning barbecue at Robert Earls and Big Mista's to affordable modern Mexican available at places like Thomas Ortega's Playa Amor and Eddie Ruiz's Public Beer & Wine, Angelenos already have more than a few reasons to make the trek down to the International City for a meal.
But ask former Fundamental L.A. executive chef Philip Pretty where he eats in his hometown and you'll get a list of locals-only spots only a native son could know. After traveling around Los Angeles for the last nine years — where he worked as chef de cuisine with Gordon Ramsey at the London and sous chef at Michelin-starred Joe’s in Venice — Pretty is back in the LBC, helming 2-year-old staple Restauration, a small cafe with beachy garden-patio vibes, a steadfast dedication to seasonal dishes and an always-killer brunch.
When he's not in the kitchen (or picking vegetables at a local urban farm), here's where Pretty eats in Long Beach:
1. Taqueria La Mexicana #2
"This place has THE best asada and is a staple for Long Beach residents. Tacos are my favorite food group, and truly, nothing compares to the ones here." 3270 E. Fourth St, Long Beach; (562) 433-6389.
2. Sushi Kinoya
"One step in and you're immediately greeted with smiles and salutations. The seafood is fresh and you can't go wrong with anything on their menu. I recommend sitting at the sushi bar to get the full experience. Go early, the place fills up fast any night of the week." 5521 E. Stearns St., Long Beach; (562) 598-8169.
3. Manaow Thai
"This restaurant is fairly new and doesn't disappoint. They do a really great job putting a spin on street Thai food. I'm on a mission to try everything on their menu." 3618 E. Broadway, Long Beach; (562) 433–2574, manaowthai.com.
4. Kafe Neo
"I remember when the building was an auto repair shop. After it was renovated, curiosity is what originally got me through the doors. What keeps me going back is their Greek-American food and incredibly friendly service. Breakfast, lunch, dinner ... I've had it all. Dine in, take out, you really can't go wrong." 2800 E. Fourth St., Long Beach; (562) 987-1210, kafeneolb.com.
5. Starling Diner
"On the weekend, prepare to wait, but for good reason. Their French toast is amazing and the vibe is friendly and quaint. It's situated right in the middle of a residential neighborhood, so it feels like you're stepping into a friend's home for brunch." 4114 E. Third St., Long Beach; (562) 433-2041, starlingdiner.info.
6. Natraj Cuisine of India
"Go here. If you're a fan of authentic Indian food, this restaurant is a must. It's right on Second Street in Belmont Shore, so you can devour delicious cuisine and people watch at the same time." 5262 E. Second St., Long Beach; (562) 930-0930, natrajlongbeach.com.
7. Golden Burger
"Sometimes you just need some straightforward comfort food from a burger joint. Enter Golden Burger. One: There's a drive-thru. Two: There's something for everyone on the menu. Three: Man, does it hit the spot when you need it." 2301 E. Fourth St., Long Beach; (562) 434-2625.
8. East Coast Bagels
"This has been a morning go-to spot for me for years. They're consistently delicious and their bagels are Harvey Specter–worthy." 5751 Pacific Coast Hwy., Long Beach; (562) 985-0933.
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9. Number Nine
"I'm a newer patron of this restaurant, but their BBQ pork noodles hooked me. It's a great place to introduce yourself to Vietnamese food. Their mission is to serve high-quality, fresh ingredients, which is something I strongly support." 2118 E. Fourth St., Long Beach; (562) 434-2009, numberninenoodles.com.
"Most people I know have been to at least one Simmzy's location. It's casual and high-energy. It's a place you can enjoy with the kids or kick back solo with a good beer. Simmzy's, to me, is summertime in the LBC." 5271 E. Second St., Long Beach; (562) 439-5590, simmzys.com.