Long Beach unfurled its TED banners along Ocean Boulevard last week to once again welcome the TED Conference to Los Angeles County's second city. TED 2010, which kicked off on Tuesday, February 9th, boasts an impressive list of speakers and panelists: Bill Gates is in attendance, along with an eclectic mix of artists, inventors, musicians and cooks, too--Dan Barber and Jamie Oliver are in town--who have taken over the hotels and convention halls of downtown Long Beach this week. Even if the immediate experience for Long Beach residents is limited, due to TED's hugely expensive tickets and lack of public events, the city has plenty to offer the conference in the way of food. We're sure Dan Barber could offer some solid recs for Los Angeles dining, but Squid Ink thought we'd offer a more local list of great eats that TED goers could enjoy, encouraging them to reach beyond the corporate-leaning restaurants concentrated around the downtown area. Be it tacos, traditional Cambodian food or pickled eggs, Long Beach is waiting to share a meal with you, TED.
Dan Barber on ethically raised foie gras, from TED 2008
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10) Bouchees Bistro
Located in the midst of Pine Avenue's restaurant ghetto and around the corner from the hotels where many of the TED luminaries are likely staying, Bouchees is the restaurant on this list with the highest chance of hosting Bill Gates this week. And he'd have a solid meal here, their menu of creative burger riffs and haute sports bar snacks supplying plenty of salty excuses for another beer.
Bouchees Bistro: 144 Pine Ave, Long Beach; (562) 437-7700
Angelo's Italian Deli: 190 La Verne Ave., Long Beach; (562) 434-1977
7) The Pike Bar and Fish Grill
The oft imagined soundtrack to life in the LBC is dominated by a short list of artists--Snoop, Sublime, maybe some Cold War Kids?--but at this Retro Row dive bar-cum-seafood restaurant, another nearly local punk act is well represented: Social Distortion. Owned by drummer Chris Reece, the walls are covered in vintage Social D posters, fisherman kitsch and various Long Beach memorabilia. The bartenders are steely eyed and heavily inked and the kitchen is open late, serving up super-crispy steak fries, a McDonald's inspired (in a good way) fried fish sandwich and a corn tortilla-wrapped take on a New England seafood stand classic, lobster tacos. Bring some quarters to feed into the exceptional jukebox, which runs the gamut from classic punk to rockabilly and 1950s rock n' roll.
The Pike Bar and Fish Grill: 1836 E 4th St., Long Beach; (562) 437-4453
6) Roscoe's House of Chicken & Waffles
Driving down Broadway through Long Beach on a weekend morning, there is nearly always a crowd amassed on the sidewalk near the corner of Alamitos, breakfast and brunch goers drawn in by the smell of grease, breading and bronzed chicken skin which hangs heavy in the air. Order a wing, a breast, livers or a quarter, half or whole chicken, but don't skip out on the waffles. The two dishes may seem world's apart to many, but somewhere in the plastic Dixie cups of syrup--a necessary condiment for both protein and starch (and the protein's starch)--the twain shall meet and make perfectly salty-sweet sense, much to your cardiologists dismay.
Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles: 730 E. Broadway, Long Beach; (562) 437-8355
Number Nine: 2118 E. 4th Street, Long Beach; (562) 434-2009
4) Siem Reap
It not quite clear if the "world famous" tagline for this Little Phnom Penh eatery refers to this Anaheim St. location or the Angkor Wat-adjacent city it takes its name from, but it definitely has cache with the Cambodia expat community, who eat here in droves--never a party of less than five, it seems. The menu is bloated with faux Chinese and the less than obscure flavors of mainstream Thai dishes, but there is traditional Khmer cooking hidden in there as well. Cambodians don't have the strongest culinary pride, worried that the bitter herbs and fermented fish funk that lend a particular accent to a palette which otherwise shares many similarities to other Southeast Asian cuisines. A salad of cold, cooked fish shot through with slivers of raw chilies--packing incendiary heat--and garnished with exotic herbs like sadao, lending the dish a clean, bitter taste--show that Cambodians should be proud of and promote their cooking.
Siem Reap: 1810 E Anaheim St; Long Beach; (562) 591-7414
Joe Jost's: 2803 E Anaheim St., Long Beach; (562) 439-5446
2) At Last Café
There's more kitchen than dining room at this local hole-in-the wall, but don't be put off by the more than friendly proximity you might have with the table to your left or right, because chef John McLaughlin is putting out wonderfully simple comfort food that would be worth tracking down if it were served evening the tight confines of a closest. From meatloaf to brick chicken to a flat iron steak, each dish is perfectly prepared, served with At Lasts ubiquitous smashed potatoes, mixed veggies and rich, full-bodied sauce. Finish things off with a slice of fresh cheesecake--the flavors rotate daily--made by the chef's wife.
At Last Café: 204 Orange Ave., Long Beach; (562) 437-4837
1) El Taco Loco #3
This isn't the first time we've mentioned Long Beach's preeminent taco spot on Squid Ink, but its well worth a revisit. The meats they fold into their thick handmade tortillas certainly aren't of the same immaculate provenance as those Dan Barber serves (and raises) at Blue Hill, but there is definitely a similar sense of respect and thrift, with every little bit of a pig or cow--head, stomach, intestines, tongue and beyond--on the menu. Topped with raw white onion, cilantro and splashed with an intensely red salsa and a pile of radishes on the side, these are tacos that can hold their own with the best LA has to offer.
El Taco Loco #3: 1465 Magnolia Ave., Long Beach; (562) 437-6228