In today's fancy food world of duck fat fries and $15 casual chain burgers, a simple, cheap sandwich shop is a welcome respite. Hand-sliced meats, fresh vegetables and a baked-this-morning French roll are all that's needed to make this girl swoon, but On Broadway--located in an unassuming corner store that looks more like a donut shop than a full-scale sandwich joint--goes far beyond what $5 should afford.
Owned by a sweet Asian couple that seems to recognize everyone that walks in, On Broadway offers a massive selection of familiar and imaginative deli items that keeps the tiny ice-cream-and-chips-selling storefront from being just another a mediocre snack shack.
Scan the menu of nearly 100 different salads, subs and breakfast options and you'll find everything from traditional hot pastrami and ham 'n' cheese to more off-kilter creations like the California Roll Sub (crab salad, wasabi mayo, cucumber and avocado) and Lemon Pepper Veggie Bagel (cream cheese, avocado, tomato and lemon pepper).
Sandwiches run from $2.75 for a 5" of the daily special sandwich (only $3.50 otherwise!) to a whopping $6.25 for the most expensive 10" subs--unheard-of recession-proof prices that allow the addition of house-made sides ($1.95 each) like the red-skin potato salad or sweet creme macaroni salad. Order from the husband at the register, grab a Mexican Coke out of the fridge and wait no more than five minutes for your meal to arrive.
Even scarier than On Broadway's massive selection of goods is the quality of everything that comes out of the tiny one-woman kitchen. Whether ordered to-go or eaten at one of the storefront's 10 indoor seats, the sandwiches and salads put Subway to shame. The secret, I discovered, is the bread. Sure, the plain white and wheat rolls might not look too special just sitting there, wrapping sandwich fillings without amenities like exterior sesame seeds or baked-in Parmesan cheese, but On Broadway's fluffy baked goods are so soft that they melt in your mouth like cotton candy.
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Like so many things in Long Beach, On Broadway's quirkiness is also part of its charm. The interior furniture is a series of handmade wooden tables and chairs that were either imported from Southeast Asia or lifted from a Big Bear cabin. The only reading material is Lesbian News and Frontiers Magazine (granted, one of the LBC's main chick bars lived next door until a few years ago and the place is on the eastern end of what is often called the Rainbow Corridor). And there is always some new expertly doodled sign hanging in the door (this week's tells of Mother's Day hours), handmade by the husband-owner who once told me he used to draw political cartoons for a Chinese newspaper.
A true local spot that keeps brave beachgoers stopping by on their way to the sand and former Belmont Heights residents coming in long after they've moved away, On Broadway's breakfast bagels, sammies, salads and sides satisfy lunch cravings with hand-made goods at fast food prices.
On Broadway, 3350 E. Broadway, (562) 434-2724.