Long Beach Lunch: The Marketplace Grill Cafe
Sometimes, the Long Beach suburbs births a concept eatery so needed, it doesn't even bother the hopeless nostalgics that it replaced the city's last remaining car-hop diner.
Eight months after its opening, The Marketplace just outside the Traffic Circle off Los Coyotes still features the sweeping open kitchen and slick-for-roller-skatin' floors of its former inhabitants. But an updated interior, counter-service concept and newsletter-sized menu of classy paninis, juicy burgers and Greek-inspired lunches defines it as a restaurant built for the 21st Century.
With its stocked wine cellar and wooden bar loaded with craft beers and booze, it might be temping to take a seat and wait for table service, however, the hustling staff at Marketplace makes these sit-down amenities casual again with register service of both food and drinks that's quick enough for those 30-minute meals.
The menu is an overwhelming selection of dishes just light enough to not drag you into a post-lunch coma. Salads come in bowls big enough to sit in, wraps are forever snuggled in giant spinach tortillas and the burgers can be made with a fibrous whole-wheat bun on request.
Philly-style paninis and cheese-draped pastas are among the few diet-unfriendly pieces, with the rest of the menu suggesting low-fat meats like salmon and chicken for Marketplace's chunky salads, savory melts, and dorado-roll sammies so big that leftovers are inevitable.
Chicken breast sandwich with sides of hummus and salad
And to hammer home the healthy-comfort-food theme, every dish comes with two sides, a Greek salad (with un-pitted olives and a scoop of fresh feta) and a side of fries (which are actually oval-cut potatoes, lightly fried in veggie oil). Not feeling a salad or fries? No worries--Marketplace has a cadre of unique sides to choose from, like grilled veggies, risotto and house-made hummus and pita.
It's these type of endless mix and match possibilities that prevents this relative newcomer from being what otherwise may have been a basic American food joint like its predecessor.
Often packed with Cal State students, local families and cops on their lunch break, The Marketplace is a restaurant as diverse as the city in which--an upscale cafeteria with an informal bar atmosphere that relies on its attentive staff and imaginative grub to make every visit a new adventure.
The Marketplace Grill Cafe, 4750 E Los Coyotes Diagonal, Long Beach, (562) 498-3663
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Orange County dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.