Photo by Jessica CalkinsThree and a half years ago, Billy Long was working at a construction site in Signal Hill—when he wasn't surfing at Seal Beach, that is—and he noticed that his favorite grub spot, Juice for You, had a "For Sale" sign in the front window.
"I always dug the place," Long now says. "So I bought it."
Long no longer works construction. He spends most of his time cooking food and listening to reggae at his miniscule restaurant. And when he's not cooking, he's surfing. So I wasn't too surprised when I stopped by on a Thursday just after Labor Day for my favorite meal—a Berry Blender smoothie, a garlic veggie-turkey wrap and a shot of wheatgrass—and realized that nobody was home. Long and the rest of his employees were all out surfing, and from the door hung a simple but somewhat misleading sign that read, "Gone Fishin'."
That sentiment accurately sums up the unpretentious, laid-back atmosphere that makes Secret Spot a perfect beach restaurant, the kind of place where you can get served without shirt or shoes, with the sand still stuck between your toes. And the food also exhibits a no-ego taste that's alien to Huntington Beach's generic, grease-heavy heartland food scene.
When it first opened, Juice for You served juice and not much else. But in May, Long gave the restaurant a new name, Secret Spot, which makes sense because most people outside the Huntington Beach/Seal Beach area have no idea the place even exists. "Seventy-five percent of our customers live on top of that hill over there," Long said, waving toward the western edge of Huntington Harbor. "And lots of surfers come in, too."
On any given day, customers can slurp down their smoothies and stuff tacos down their throats to the soothing sounds of Miles Davis or Prince Buster. Besides the new name, Secret Spot also boasts about a hundred times as much food to choose from as the original Juice for You, all exhibiting the same excellence of the restaurant's founding items. The menu is composed primarily of health-conscious cuisine, though not with the blandness that is endemic in similar restaurants.
Although just about every item on the is meat-free—the veggie-turkey meat is as close to the real thing as you can get—you can always ask for chicken, scallops or mahi. For seafood lovers, there's the Nuuhiwa scallop wrap, named after surfing legend David Nuuhiwa. It features tender scallops cooked in garlic and marinated in Billy's own special hot sauce along with mushrooms and pico de gallo. This cornucopia of comidais nestled inside a hot wheat tortilla.
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Some of the most popular and tastiest creations are the tuna wrap, the HB Surround Sound burrito (a culinary cluster bomb of grilled veggie-turkey, sweet onions, hash-brown potatoes, pico de gallo, romaine lettuce and barbecue sauce), and the homemade Cojo carrot soup, which coats your palate with a healthy orange color. For those with more audacious taste buds, there's always the Geeky Meeky Burrito From Hell—grilled serrano chiles, mushrooms, onions, Secret Spot-seasoned beans, a ton of melted cheese and da kine (Hawaiian pidgin for "great") homemade salsa.
Perhaps the best thing about Secret Spot, though, is that just about every meal on the menu will keep you full all day long and nothing costs more than $5.25. Smoothies cost a little less—between $3 and $4 and there are more than 30 recipes. They've got names like LALAYAYA (blueberries, peaches and vanilla soymilk), Thor's Hammer (carrot, apple and parsley juices blended with bananas), and—shameless self-promotion for us—the Commie Girl, a mixture of soymilk, cranberries, strawberries and raspberries, with a shot of wheatgrass on the side that was created by and named after the Weekly's own Rebecca Schoenkopf.
"She wanted a drink named after her," Long explained. "So I told her to make something up, and she did. It was her recipe."
Secret Spot, located at 3801 Warner Ave., Unit B, Huntington Beach, is open Mon.-Fri., 7:30 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun., 8 a.m.-6 p.m. (562) 593-4494. No alcohol. Lunch for two, $11, food only. Cash only.