Before Uber Eats and DoorDash and Postmates made every restaurant in the city deliverable, there were two order-in options in Long Beach — pizza and Thai food. With their placement often right across the street from each other (see: the corner of Broadway and Falcon) it almost seemed as if these restaurants thrived on the binary competition, poised to pick up the next order when our palates fatigued from the other.
I know I’ve said this before, but for most of my life in Long Beach, having dinner brought to your house meant toggling between places like Big E’s Pizza and Thai Charcoal Pit, Canadian Pizza and Bangkok. An anomaly among this dichotomy was always Dean’s Thai Curry Pizza, the only place smart enough to bring Long Beach’s two delivery loves into one kitchen, a marriage that (as the name now suggests) resulted in at least one signature dish combining the two cuisines.
Let’s be real about this though: Dean’s makes neither the best pizza nor the best Thai food in Long Beach. It’s also not the worst examples of either by any stretch, and it’s for sure the only one that is doing both of them well enough (and has been doing it for long enough) to become a bonafide neighborhood institution.
For starters, there’s Dean’s namesake invention, the Thai curry pizza, which attracts curious diners all the way from L.A. Instead of red marinara sauce, this one uses a peanut-y red curry sauce under its cheese and tops it with tofu and onions and green peppers and basil, like a Panang curry morphed into pizza form. Nix the cheese and it becomes the best vegan pizza in the city. Also worth a try is the tom yum pizza, Dean’s other custom mash-up, which is less known, but equally as interesting with all the pungent lemongrass and chili flavors of the hot and sour Thai soup plus mushrooms, chicken and a handful of herbal cilantro on top.
But it’s not all cross-cultural fusion tricks at this old-guard Long Beach pizzeria. Trek farther down the list of pies and you’ll be surprised by an Italian pizza with creamy garlic alfredo sauce, a classic California-style barbecue chicken pizza and a more traditional supreme pizza, made with Dean’s chunky East Coast-style sauce. There’s also a lineup of hearty pastas, nearly a dozen sub sandwiches to choose from and, for some reason, really good burgers and fries, which I discovered in person by chance one day while walking around the area with a hunger that pizza could not fill.
The Thai menu is also an unappreciated secret at Dean’s, much more than just styrofoam containers of pad Thai (sweet and bright orange) and combo fried rice (piled high with lots of meat). Sift past Americanized dishes like teriyaki salmon and orange chicken and take a chance on Dean’s Thai noodles, curries and seafood dishes. The Catfish Delight came crispy, fried and coated in an aromatic red curry paste (a different one than the pizza) just like at Spicy Sugar. When not on a pizza, the curries are served in big portions with large chunks of vegetables in creamy, savory broths. Rad na noodles, pas see ew and pad woon are good ways to get out of the pad Thai rut, though know that spiciness levels here definitely skew on the milder side, a holdover probably from Dean’s early days, when Long Beach was still adjusting to the weak spice in Baja Sonora’s salsa roja.
With so many other options for delivery in Long Beach now, people might scoff at Dean’s gimmicky trademark dish, but know that the tiny restaurant on the corner of Redondo and 10th was fusing its city’s two delivery loves long before it was cool, letting you put pizza and Thai food on the same order so you never have to choose between them again. Respect the legend!
929 Redondo Ave., Long Beach; (562) 987-3295; thaicurrypizzalb.com