Long Beach Lunch: Fox Coffee House

I first heard about Fox Coffee through a friend who lives nearby, which is exactly the sort of word-of-mouth way you’d want to hear about a cozy neighborhood coffee shop like Fox.  These days, news of a new place to get your daily dose of caffeine is more likely to come through social media, where most of the slick, third-wave brands find a visual home far before they’ve even served a customer.

But Fox is a coffee shop in the old-school tradition, where the roaster isn’t the centerpiece (the community is), the specialty drink menu is more than three lines long (it’s okay to go sweet here, too) and most food is vegan by default (not by hipster design). As an added bonus for students and computer workers, you can even sit for hours in either of the large rooms filled with vintage tables or couches and use the free wifi without getting death glares from staff.

Maybe that’s because more likely than not, the staff that day will include owner Mary Gallagher, an experienced twenty-something barista who’s main goal with Fox was to build a buzzing gathering place for residents of Wrigley, which although an adorable hidden ‘hood up against the 710 freeway, was for some reason lacking its own coffee shop.
And so, on a busy stretch of Willow, just west of Pacific—between a Payless Shoesource and a Buono’s Italian restaurant—Gallagher opened Fox in February with enough friendly charm and good food that it already feels like it’s been there forever.

Everything is made in house, from scratch, and is vegetarian without advertising itself as such. In fact, it took a few trips, and a few $6 scrambled-tofu breakfast burritos later, to realize there’s no meat in the whole place. Instead of meat, there’s a sinfully rich vegan pot pie, a hearty chickpea and kale wrap and a selection of melts that are all takes on appetizers, from spicy jalepeño poppers to garlicky spinach-artichoke dip. Even the bagel sandwiches are piled so high with vegetables and grainy house hummus that you’ll need two hands just to get one into your mouth.
A pastry case right inside the front door holds more secrets, like Gallagher’s massive lineup of baked-daily vegan pastries, like chai cake with cinnamon “buttercream,” lavender lemon scones and a sweet, swirled guava pastry that comes baked in its own ceramic cup. Pair pastry with a good old fashioned drip coffee, an iced Nutella latte (in a mason jar) or any of the signature drinks (The Golden Fox is a spicy honey milk tea with turmeric, ginger and pepper) and you’ll rarely spend more than $5.

Though you can follow the store’s Instagram if you need a daily dose of pastry porn, Fox does not get its fans from online. It’s not hoping to be the next pretentious home of latte art or a destination for cold brew on nitro. It relies on the Long Beach tried and true method of promotion: friends telling neighbors telling friends about the cute new coffee shop that pulls a great espresso and also just so happens to be the city’s best new vegan joint.

Fox Coffee House, 437 W Willow St., Long Beach; (562) 912-4200; foxcoffeehouse.com

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