There aren't very many old-school restaurateurs left in the world, the kind who are the face of the business, who greet customers by name when they arrive, and who become cheerleaders for their neighborhoods and community. But Luis Navarro is exactly that. The owner of Long Beach's Lola's Mexican Cuisine, which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary, has become known as one of the city's greatest boosters, with massive involvement in charitable initiatives and community projects. But he's also a familiar, smiling face who still greets guests every day at one of his restaurants (he owns the Social List as well).
Navarro was excited to share with us his favorite places to eat in Long Beach (and one in Costa Mesa), displaying the same enthusiasm for the restaurant community that he brings to everything he does. From coffee houses to fresh-pressed juice to comfort-food classics, here are his 15 picks:
15. Poké Etc.
“With the poké craze going on, this place has been doing what they do for years. Hawaiian-owned and -operated, this is the truest and most fresh and delicious poké in town. Don't expect any frills, just down-to-earth fresh fish and delicious Hawaiian poké. I get it spicy every time!” 1442 W. Willow St., Long Beach. (562) 426-8717.
14. The Coffee Cup
“For breakfast this is my place. It's a neighborhood joint that gets busy, but the food is hearty, homestyle cooking. I get the Baja burrito with soy chorizo.” 3734 E. Fourth St., Long Beach. (562) 433-3292. coffeecupcafe-lb.com.
13. Joe Jost's
“This is a Long Beach institution. It was a speakeasy during Prohibition and still stands in its original location. This is where I come to get away, watch a game or shoot some stick. Order a Joe special, a couple pickled eggs, roasted peanuts and an ice cold beer. You don't know who you will run into here in any given day.” 2803 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach. (562) 439-5446, joejosts.com.
12. Portfolio Coffeehouse
“You will find me here most mornings after a long night for some really good coffee. Best coffee in town, hands down.” 2300 E. Fourth St., Long Beach. portfoliocoffeehouse.com.
11. Ma 'n' Pa Grocery Store
“Nestled in the neighborhood in Belmont Heights, this grocery store is old-school as old-school gets. They make fresh, handcrafted, ready-to-go food and sandwiches. It's my go-to spot when I need something quick and delicious. Make sure to grab some of the house-made beef jerky.” 346 Roycroft Ave., Long Beach. (562) 438-4084.
“This is the best, most authentic Italian in Long Beach. This is my go-to Italian spot with one of my best friends, pro cyclist Tony Cruz. Everything on the menu is awesome and a must-try.” 2945 E. Broadway, Long Beach. (562) 438-1235, laparolacciausa.com.
9. Kafe Neo
“The best Greek food! Everything is made fresh, in-house and, of course, I can get Zeus fries and they are zero calories! Just kidding, the Zeus fries are locally famous and are shoestring fries with Greek seasoning and a secret spicy sauce, topped with feta.” 2800 E. Fourth St., Long Beach. (562) 987-1210, kafeneolb.com.
8. Jongewaard's Bake and Broil
“If you want comfort food, this place is it. My go-tos are the meatloaf, pot pies and fresh baked goods.” 3697 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach. (562) 595-0396, thebakenbroil.com.
7. Salud Juice
“When I'm not at Portfolio Coffeehouse, I'm here nursing my liver. Fresh-pressed juices to get my day started, and it's right down the street from both of my restaurants.” 1944 E. Fourth St., #6, Long Beach. (562) 528-8444, saludjuice.com.
“I have been coming to this restaurant since 1993. This is a traditional-style Mongolian restaraunt where you order your thinly shaved protein of choice, and pile as many veggies on as you can! What makes this place different is that they give you these fresh-baked pita pockets that you stuff with your just-sautéed mixture. It is as close to heaven as it comes! The same family is still operating it to this day.” Westport Square Shopping Center, 369 E. 17th St., #12, Costa Mesa. (949) 646-4644.
5. 39 Degrees
“This is our favorite sushi spot in Long Beach. Order the Extreme Crunchy Roll and the Lynn Special. That's all I'll tell you.” 665 Redondo Ave., Long Beach. (562) 439-4025, sushiby39degrees.com.
4. Long Beach Creamery
“Best ice cream around. All ingredients are made in their own kitchen. Freshly baked brownies for chocolate brownie ice cream? Yes please!” 4141 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach. (562) 513-3493, longbeachcreamery.com.
3. Canadian Pizza
“This is our go-to for quick, easy pizza. I love the cornmeal crust and add extra garlic to every pizza!” 1241 E. Fourth St., Long Beach. (562) 980-7605, mycanadianpizza.com.
2. Thai Silk
“I've been coming here with my mom since my Long Beach College days. Super low-key, no frills, just straight-up good Thai food.” 1506 E. Broadway, Long Beach. (562) 628-2424, thaisilklbc.com.
1. Beachwood BBQ and Brewery
“BBQ and beer? I'm there! This brewery won best brewery in the world, and it's right in my backyard, so I frequent it all the time. Great, authentic BBQ and excellent beer.” 210 E. Third St., Long Beach; (562) 436-4020, beachwoodbbq.com.