Best of O.C., Long Beach Lunch Edition!

Best Falafel, The HipPea
Following the wisdom of places like In-N-Out (do one thing and do it right), The HipPea stakes its reputation on its falafel — a crispy-crunchy gluten-free mass of chickpea fritter that once bitten into, reveals a soft green, parsley-and-herb-mashed interior. For falafel fanatics, it’s a hearty take on the Middle East snack that’s Edenic, especially when served inside a deep pita pocket or in boxes of various sizes with a salad and a side of garlic-free hummus. The recipe, Trochez will tell you as he hands you a sample (which he will inevitably do if you stare at the minimal menu with any confusion), is made the way Azari’s grandmother used to cook it, based on an Egyptian flavor profile but served Israeli style. 2023 E. 4th St., Long Beach; (562) 343-7722;

Best Place to Eat Raw
Under the Sun

Without really knowing it, Long Beach’s Under the Sun is the city’s first purveyor of humanese, the term Au Lac’s chef once gave to his raw, animal-free food, all prepared at temperatures under 118 degrees in order to maintain key nutrients, enzymes and vitamins. The restaurant has no affiliation with Au Lac nor its O.C. roots, and yet it manages to present raw food in a similarly approachable way by crafting impressively-seasoned dishes in a thoughtful space. The secret to Under the Sun’s growing menu of activated-almond toasts, zucchini pastas, cold brew coffee elixirs and turmeric tonics is the power couple ownership team of Chrissy Cox and Dawna Bass, who have been positive fixtures in the city’s health food scene since they launched Rainbow Juices together in 2011. Rainbow opened a storefront in downtown in 2015 and expanded with the restaurant earlier this year, attracting all types of diners and proving you don’t have to be raw or vegan or even vegetarian to eat raw Just human. 244 E 3rd St., Long Beach; (562) 912-7500;

Best New Brewery
Long Beach Beer Labs

With backgrounds in the biomedical industry and French pastry making, the husband-wife team behind the new Long Beach Beer Labs makes it one of the most unique new brewery concepts in the region. Mainly, because it’s not just a brewery with an on-site tasting room, but also a restaurant and bakery as well. Levi Fried grew up in Long Beach but left at 17, eventually brewing his own beer while doing a residency in the Middle East. Wife Harmony Sage worked in fine dining kitchens around the world before they moved the family back to the U.S. a few years ago to build their own personal laboratories — a kitchen with a room-sized imported oven for her and a 10-barrel brewery filled with Kosher wine barrels for him. Sage cultivated wild yeast from local fruit for her sourdough starter, which is found in all breads and the pizza crust; Fried has a similar obsession with airborne bugs and uses them to make uniquely funky, tart beers that take months to mature. 518 W Willow St., Long Beach;

Best Mariscos
Cheko El Rey

For most of the modern era, L.A.’s reigning king of Mexican mariscos has been Niyarit native Vicente “Chente” Cossio, whose family’s small empire of seafood restaurants (and his legendary pescado zarandeado recipe, improved upon by Sinaloan son-in-law Sergio Peñuelas) have their own cult following. Another wing of the Cossio family brought Peñuelas down to Long Beach, where he helped open Cheko el Rey Del Sarandeado on Market Street last year. Yes, there is the famous pescado zarandeado, which takes over 30 minutes to prepare. But there’s also more. While you wait for the butterflied snook to arrive, graze through the menu’s other mariscos, from traditional expressions of spicy camarones a las diablas and head-on shrimp aguachiles to cheese-oozing tacos stuffed with smokey pink marlin and shrimp and grilled veggies. The Tostaditos Locas a party-ready appetizer so impressively stacked with sea life that it’s fated to end up bastardized in a Bon Appetit issue someday. Mariscos heaven in a single bite. Cheko el Rey Del Sarandeado, 343 E Market St., Long Beach; (562) 422-4888

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