And this is just the start
And this is just the start
Photo by Dustin Ames

Five Reasons to Make the Drive to Long Beach (Even Though It Ain't OC)

I know you guys get a little riled up when we spend too much time talking about Long Beach, but come on, it's closer to most of Orange County than most of Orange County is. And really, it's a very nice city with a lot of great food (as now LA Weekly Food Editor Sarah Bennett reviewed in her wonderful column of old, Long Beach Lunch).

So, to make it easier on all of you, I've shoved five of the best things about LBC consumables into one little list. Hopefully, you'll see it's worth making the drive.

5. Seoulmate

Also try their stew!
Also try their stew!
Photo by Christina Bryson

Edwin-approved, Seoulmate is some of the best Korean-Mexican fusion in Southern California, in my opinion trumping Kogi easily. The secret's in the flour tortilla that hugs each burrito. It's one of the best I've eaten, pliable and durable while still soft and crispy in all of the right places. And that's very important because the burritos can get obscene, especially after adding extras like avocado and fried eggs.

We're talking burritos that top Chipotle's gargantuan offerings, but also burritos that won't leave any leftovers, because they're just so damn good.

4. The Big Catch

Smells like the ocean
Smells like the ocean
Photo by Dustin Ames

Orange County's got the whole Vietnamese-Cajun thing on lock, but if there's one thing that Long Beach's Big Catch has going for it, it's the happy hour specials. Yes, the shell fish is fine, and the pasta and fried rice are wonderful, but just take a look at the happy hour menu.

There's only two things on it: the requisite "Draft Beer & Wine 4", of course, but more importantly, "Oyster 1.25". And they're the best dollar-twenty-five oyster you'll ever eat. They're not the giant ocean boogers you get on "power hour" at Morton's. They're petite, with a mellow sweetness that's delightful to slurp. Edwin calls them Paradise and Fanny Bay. I call them delicious. 3. San Pedro Saturday Morning Fish Market

Early Saturday morning at the #SanPedro Ports O'Call fish market

A video posted by Gregory Yuen Yee (@gregoryyyee) on

Okay, this one's just outside of Long Beach, but it's worth the trip 3:00-a.m.-Saturday-morning trip. It's an odyssey to the building at the corner of 22nd Street and Signal Place , but you'll find yourself at one of the best real fish markets in Southern California. There, between 3 a.m. to about 7 a.m., you'll score some of the best deals on seafood you've ever seen.

I'm talking sashimi-grade tuna and endless amounts of shellfish and mollusks for close to half the price you're used to seeing in grocery stores. The only problem being, you can't really predict what's going to be there. Oh, and don't wear flip flops -- the floors always got some fish gunk on 'em.

2. Beachwood Barbecue

That's a beautiful sign
That's a beautiful sign
Beachwood Barbecue

You shouldn't be coming to Beachwood for the barbecue. It's fine, but it's like going to the Bruery for the food trucks that are parked outside; yeah, it's good, but there's better stuff right there.

The reason you should make it out to Beachwood, which won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival, is because its beer selection is one of the best samplings of California beer.. anywhere. You can get close at Native Son Alehouse in Santa Ana, but apart from that there's nothing.

And while you could just go to the Seal Beach location, you'd be missing out on some fancy special events like Beer Paper LA's anniversary. Now, to wait for their spontaneous fermentation facility to open...

1. Robert Earls Barbecue

Just look at that
Just look at that
Photo by Brian Addison

Now this is where you should be going for barbecue. This is the best Texas-style I've found in Southern California, with really good ribs to boot. It's a drive, sure, but this is the most worth-it of all the drives on this list.

And now, our 2014 Best Of blurb:

It may be kind of far from most of Orange County, but the inclusion of Robert Earl's BBQ in Long Beach on this list is necessary because of one thing: It's the best damn Texas-style barbecue you can get in a less-than-hundred-mile radius (possibly even more, honestly). The brisket is the main draw, cooked for hours in a backyard setup, which rests permanently behind the building. The smoke pierces so far into the meat that you may not realize a smoke ring even exists. The ribs--both pork and beef--are also great, especially when you peel the meat off the bone and dip it into the sauce that you can and should get on the side. But protein aside, what holds the food together is the stellar sides you get with each meal. Surprise: They're vegetarian, but the mac and cheese (Earl's wife's recipe) is full of love, the greens are tender and savory, the beans spot-on, and everything else just perfect. Heck, you don't even need napkins--that's what the slices of white bread are for.

Follow Stick a Fork In It on Twitter @ocweeklyfood or on Facebook! And don't forget to download our free Best Of App here!

You can also follow Charles Lam on Twitter @charlesnlam and Instagram @charlesnlam. He's less sardonic there, we swear.

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