Best Of :: Long Beach
Best New Food Court: SteelCraft
From Grand Central Market to the Santa Monica Food Truck Lot to Smorgasburg, Los Angeles has always found a way to assemble a curated crop of upstart food concepts in one simple location. SteelCraft takes that tradition one step further. A new-wave food court that has few local precedents in design and scope, SteelCraft used nothing but a few metal shipping containers and an acre of Astroturf to turn a former dirt patch in suburban Bixby Knolls into a permanent home for eight food and drink vendors, including East Hollywood's Neapolitan pizza stars DeSano and Torrance's award-winning Smog City Brewery. A third-wave coffee counter and a shaved-ice shack are accessible from the curb; a cozy outdoor dining space is lined with stalls selling neighborhood rarities such as bacon-jam burgers (Pig Pen Delicacy), sugary pastries (Waffle Love), ramen (Tajima) and more.
Part casino, part Long Beach history museum, Looff's Lite-A-Line is named for the family that made the city into a reveler's shoreline destination way back in the early 1900s. When you walk in, you must get your photo taken for a little card you can refill with money to play the games. Unlike most casinos with blackjack tables, slots and roulette, this one solely carries a pinball-like game of skill, where you must shoot little silver balls into holes, kind of like a Plinko-meets–Connect Four thing, with bingo elements — don't worry, they'll show you how to play. When your butt goes numb, try looking at the glass cases of memorabilia from the early days of Long Beach. There's even an original Cyclone racer car from one of the old boardwalk coasters, along with a carousel horse, though don't expect to ride either of them. Old historical photos show the bustling carnival the Long Beach shoreline once was, which is truly incredible, especially when you know it was all started by one adventurous family. Looff's Lite-A-Line is all that's left to carry on that legacy, and it's a lot of fun.
There are clubs that promise to spin funk and soul records and then there's the Good Foot, the monthly Long Beach dance night that has set the standard for nearly two decades. Founded by resident DJs (and serious crate diggers) Dennis Owens and Rodi Delgadillo in 1998, the all-vinyl affair, formerly held at dive bar Que Sera, amassed a legion of regulars with a sweat-inducing mix of familiar favorites alongside deep cuts from their personal collections of experimental jazz and Latin funk. Even when Delgadillo moved to Japan for a while and Owens put the club night on hiatus for two years, the annual Christmas installment of the Good Foot continued to draw crowds. Now, Owens and Delgadillo (their obsessions with rare vinyl no less intense) are back at the tables every third Friday of the month, this time taking over Alex's Bar, a much larger venue that has allowed them to make Good Foot even better. Expect guest DJs like Bobby Soul from Boogaloo Assassins and Jacob Peña from San Francisco's Sweater Funk, plus occasional live performances from bands holding down the genre, such as The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble and Brazilian funk group Os Zagueiros.
Beach Streets0x2029In 2010, Los Angeles launched CicLAvia — the city's now-quarterly open-streets event, which makes miles of car-clogged roads accessible to cyclists and other human-powered transportation for a single day. It took five years but, in 2015, Long Beach obtained a grant to launch its own. Dubbed Beach Streets, the first iteration took over a large chunk of Atlantic Avenue in public space–starved North Long Beach and turned it into the biggest block party the neighborhood had ever seen. In addition to drawing out more than just bicycles (pedestrians, skateboarders and rollerbladers are less common sights at CicLAvia), Beach Streets activated choice intersections along the route with family-friendly hubs, educational seminars, action-sports demos and, to top the afternoon, a headlining performance in the park from hip-hop legends The Pharcyde. Over four more Beach Streets (next up: Oct. 28), Long Beach's winning formula for getting people out of their cars and into the road has not waned. From downtown to Cambodia Town, it remains the only event of its kind, one that not only promotes active transportation but gives participants alternative ways to explore, learn, listen and create new memories along the way.
The best part about the Beer Belly in downtown Long Beach isn't the sudden south-county availability of the decadent Death by Duck fries, or even the location's addition of an equally indulgent brunch menu, something the original Beer Belly in Koreatown could never churn out of its tiny kitchen. It's something much more simple: the beer. Beyond the artery-clogging art of chef Wes Lieberher (a lure, to be sure), the original 12-tap gastropub earned its iconic status thanks to the beer-curating prowess of owner Jimmy Han, who has a knack for procuring special kegs of the latest beers from small, independent breweries across the county (think: Highland Park Brewery, Phantom Carriage, Ladyface and more). In Long Beach, a growing craft beer destination in its own right, Han has twice as many taps to play with — along with a liquor license that allows for both traditional and beer-infused cocktails. The result is a consistent lineup that reads unlike anything south of the 10 freeway, filled with a mix of hard-to-find stalwarts, such as Smog City's Little Bo Pils, Mumford's IPAs and rare sours from Pasadena's Craftsman Brewing.
Runner-up: Silver Lake