As the second biggest city in Los Angeles County, Long Beach is often overlooked and perpetually underrated. It lays claim to L.A.’s only officially sanctioned dog-friendly beach, vibrant nightlife and an increasingly impressive array of restaurants. And it’s only getting better. Rising restaurant costs in the city of L.A. continue to price out fine talent, while the relative affordability of Long Beach is luring them in. Even thriving Angeleno restaurateurs are now eyeing the city to the south to set up satellite enterprises.
There was a time in the recent past when a neighborhood hot spot existed here as a hidden gem exclusively for locals to embrace. But the secret is getting out, and adventurous diners appear willing to trek to Long Beach in search of fine food and drink. The resulting landscape is developing rapidly enough to produce a list of the city’s current best that's different than the one compiled just a few short years ago. So why wait? Taste your way through these 10 best restaurants of Long Beach today (or maybe over multiple days, as your appetite allows). Who knows what tomorrow will bring?
10. BO-beau kitchen + roof tap
BO-beau livens up downtown Long Beach with its outdoor rooftop patio, offering an elegant assortment of small plates, 50 craft beer taps and live music. The “Beer Bites” section of the menu riffs on traditional pub grub (wings, mac and cheese, poutine) with little bits of flair such as Sriracha emulsions, fried artichokes and truffle cheese sauce. Oven-fired flatbreads are topped with shredded pork confit or grilled eggplant. Downstairs, a more wine-focused menu makes the space feel more like a French bistro: stylish but not stuffy.
144 Pine Ave., Long Beach. (562) 983-0056, cohnrestaurants.com.
9. Beer Belly
Re-creating the formula that made it a hit in Koreatown, Beer Belly brings its A-game to Long Beach. In short, this means hyper-local beer on draft alongside unapologetically calorie-dense cuisine. This is where you come when you want your pork belly fried and fashioned into “chips.” Or if you desire Death by Duck — greasy fries drowning in a confit of its namesake waterfowl. Most dishes hover around $10, even the so-called “share plates,” a relative term in a place where the oversized burger requires roughly four hands to hold. You won't find a beer brewed more than 50 miles from your barstool. But leave room for a couple of surprises: The neighborhood newcomer pours impressive cocktails from a concise menu, and it has even been known to assemble the occasional salad or two.
255 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach. (562) 436-2337, beerbellyla.com.
8. The Sky Room
With the best dining real estate in town — perched 14 stories above the city, with unobstructed views of the surrounding shoreline — the Sky Room could easily fall into the trap of many a scenic restaurant. Read: mediocrity. But the staff here works harder than that. Classic American steakhouse selections are thoughtfully executed, befitting the room's throwback art deco decor. But just because it's old-fashioned doesn't mean it can't feel fresh. Homemade pastas have inventive, seasonal sauces, and the meat (which includes game such as bison) is never overcooked. The wine list is exhaustive and the attire business casual — yet the bill will likely be far more sensible than a similar experience further north. Come on Saturdays for big-band dancing.
40 S Locust Ave., Long Beach. (562) 983-2703, theskyroom.com.
7. Thai District
With all the tried-and-true all-stars of L.A.'s Thai Town, it can be hard to imagine traveling from that famous restaurant neighborhood for excellent Thai food. But this comforting, unassuming establishment forges authentic Thai flavors just as well, geography be darned. Standouts here include a superbly spiced lemongrass soup and just about any wok-tossed noodles on the menu. Khao soi, a house specialty from the owner's hometown in northern Thailand, is a sensory overload: Crispy fried egg noodles tower above a rich curry broth infused with citrus zest, herbs and your choice of protein.
149 Linden Ave., Long Beach. (562) 951-7181, thaidistrictrestaurant.com.
6. Tavern on 2
Come for the spicy chicken tortilla soup and stay for … the spicy chicken tortilla soup. Drink a few craft beers in between. This is Mexican comfort food improbably served out of a kitchen masquerading as a gringo gastropub. But this is Southern California, after all. As good as that Tavern burger is — a faithful ode to the famous Father's Office burger, with a triple cream brie standing in for blue cheese — the duck tacos with ginger jam and mint are better. A condensed list of food and drink enables laserlike focus on quality over quantity; there's only a handful of beers on draft (many more in bottles) and it's hard to find a stinker in the bunch. One of the most expensive (and fun) items on menu is a $15 DIY s'mores dessert, flamed tableside. The Belmont Shore fixture is such a hit, it recently expanded after an adjacent tenant moved out.
5110 E. Second St., Long Beach. (562) 856-4000, facebook.com/tavernon2.
Long Beach is home to the largest population of Cambodians outside of that country, and their colorful culture runs rampant along Anaheim Street, with dozens of restaurants, dressmakers and jewelers lining the strip now known as Cambodia Town. Sophy's is one of the few Khmer restaurants that veers off the road most traveled, but its comprehensive menu of Cambodian specialties and Thai dishes (to ease in the timid) makes it an easy place to crash into whichever Southeast Asian country you're feeling like sampling from that day. Trained palates go deep with Sophy's Khmer food, which shares its savory meat marinades with Thai cooking and its herbal reliance with Vietnamese cuisine. A fish paste called prohok is used in many dishes (a Khmer house without it is like an Italian kitchen sans garlic), and a lemongrass-tumeric spice mixture called kreoung permeates the rest. Try the Phnom Penh noodle (a breakfast soup), beef lok lak, or any one of the coconut milk–based Khmer curries. —Sarah Bennett
3240 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Long Beach. (562) 506-2162, facebook.com/sophyrestaurant.
4. Public Beer Wine Shop
This bottle shop/restaurant hybrid only offers sit-down service from Thursday through Sunday. Yet it's well worth adjusting to its schedule for a taste of what Eduardo Ruiz is cooking. The James Beard–nominated chef from Corazon y Miel launched his second project just steps from his living room so he'd have a place to unwind and drink craft beer after work. Long Beach is a more delicious destination as a result. In addition to a tear-inducing queso fundido, studded with spicy chorizo and Anaheim chilies, Ruiz has his way with crunchy yet moist Cubano sandwiches, and a smoked gouda and fried sage–laced mac and cheese worth braving 405 traffic for. Pair any of this with your own $12 beer flight, customizable from a dozen rotating handles.
121 W. Fourth St., Long Beach. (562) 499-0415, publicbeerwineshop.com.
3.) Taste Wine-Beer-Kitchen
As a culinary formula, nothing about Taste is groundbreaking: seasonal, farm-to-table provisions, sized from small to share, with flatbreads out of a wood-fired oven. You've seen it all before. But the wow factor here comes from expert execution. The “snacks” are all winners, start to finish. From the belly-cut “pork and beans” with pickled Fresnos, to bison sliders with blue cheese aioli, you're unlikely to regret a single choice. But the true champion here is a seared duck breast, drenched in ginger pan sauce, with vanilla-scented sweet potato mash and roasted quince. Does it sound like a pretentious preparation? Well, you're not here for what the dishes sound like! Arrive on scene with multiple mouths to fully explore the menu, while contributing to the eatery's boisterous atmosphere.
3506 E. Broadway. Long Beach. (562) 433-1000, taste-wbk.com.
2.) Roe Restaurant and Fish Market
All your seafood dreams are realized at Roe. From seafood towers to sushi and sashimi, caviar to crustaceans, the ambitious menu builds off of well-sourced fish, artfully rendered in a lofty, warehouselike interior. Add to the equation some playful cocktails (Sriracha-tinis and hibiscus-infused whiskey sours) and three hours' worth of daily happy hour specials, and you've got yourself a neighborhood mainstay. If you want to avoid decision paralysis, set your course for the brandy-spiked crustacean bisque; the spicy scallop ceviche with sunflower seeds and black mint; and a gently salted, herb-brined sea bream in salsa verde. The main dining hall is joined by outdoor seating within stone's throw of the bay, as well as a casual to-go dining option.
5374 E. Second St., Long Beach. (562) 546-7110, roeseafood.com.
1.) 4th and Olive
It's hard to believe that a place less than three months young can have such an immediate impact on its surrounding community. Yet here is 4th and Olive, with its well-pedigreed staff (chef from Salt's Cure, sommelier from Bouchon), inspiring Alsatian menu and notable hiring practices making waves in Long Beach. The owner, a Navy veteran, actively employs disabled servicemen and women, who make up about half of the restaurant's current staff. There's even a specially designed bar tap to accommodate a bartender who lost his arm in combat. As for the food, the nascent eatery is a meat-focused affair celebrating the cuisine of northeastern France in dishes such as duck liver, pork rillette, boudin blanc and venison braised in red wine. Thus far, the pork shoulder chop, seared in a deep brown butter sauce, and moules frites, marinated in beer and garlic, have emerged as crowd favorites. A drink list exclusive to beer and wine, most of it sourced from Germany, Belgium and France, never leaves you wanting for anything higher in ABV. By way of approach and ambition, 4th and Olive might well signal Long Beach's arrival to the statewide culinary scene.
743 E. Fourth St., Long Beach. (562) 269-0731, 4thandolive.com.