Long Beach Lunch: The New Rick and Brian's Cafe
New new new
It's not uncommon in the restaurant world for the same address to house different meal dealers over the years. Oftentimes, the breakfast café becomes a Thai spot becomes a pizzeria, and the locals continue to flock because the location is nearby and sustenance is necessary.
More rare is the business that continues to change hands but doesn't really ever change, like the diner on Redondo Ave. between 6th and 7th streets which has been serving up the same home-style breakfasts, sandwiches and meatloaf dinners to generations of Belmont Heighters under a slew of names like Magnolia, Millie's and Alfie's.
These days, the restaurant is called The New Rick and Brian's Café, a German-run venture that took over the regular Rick and Brian's Café three years ago, tacking on the updated adjective to denote new ownership, but retaining some of the friendly servers and all of the comfort food.
Also unchanged are the campy pastel pink booths and dusty decorations, which continue to pin the interior somewhere in the '80s. And the menu is still filled with typical diner fare like cobb salads and patty melts, unchanged since the '50s.
The only thing "new" about the entire operation is the presence of daily dinner specials which run from all you can eat BBQ pork ribs on Mondays to an entire German-themed menu--think schnitzel and stroganoff--on Wednesdays. But since those don't kick in until 3PM, lunch usually means plates of tried and tested American fare favorites with a step-above-Cisco touch.
As if their approval has allowed it to stay on the menu, most of the house specialties have someone's name attached to them. There's Gore's garden burger, Thelma's gobbler and greens salad, and Pat Potts' roast--even Chef Willy's daily-made soups are attributed to him on the menu and range from a chunky hearty vegetable to creamy clam chowder.
Outside of Wednesday night dinners, though, good ol' Ruth's Reuben is the only way to get a slice of German pride at the New Rick and Brian's, with buttery grilled sourdough holding in salty corned beef and gobs of vinegar-y sauerkraut that doesn't taste anything like the can it probably came in.
Chicken caesar wrap
Beyond the sammies and salads, the unlikely place where Rick and Brian's excels beyond the greasy spoon lunches are their wraps--odd menu additions of contemporary genius that run from your basic turkey club to a cold-ingredient burrito smothered in cheese and verde sauce called a "wet wrap."
With warm pieces of chicken breast tossed among romaine and a light, fishy vinaigrette, the chicken caesar wrap was built for to-go orders. For only $8, it comes with a side of potluck-worthy cole slaw and a strawberry garnish, all of which can easily be enjoyed one-handed from your couch or cubicle.
No matter what name it has carried over the years, regulars have always been able to walk through the doors at 632 Redondo Ave. to grab a burger and fries or snag a cup of coffee knowing that the friendly service and small-town vibe will always permeate the cozy space.
First timers shouldn't be dissuaded from visiting by the boarded up grocery store next door, because even after all these decades, The New Rick and Brian's is alive and well, holding down the shopping center despite market changes and emerging competition, keeping the diner dream alive for residents of the Heights. The New Rick and Brian's Cafe, 632 Redondo Ave., Long Beach, (562) 433-9241, rickandbrianscafe.com
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