If you have to eat breakfast for lunch and need it down your gullet in under ten minutes, Long Beach locals know to hit up Jerry's Place, a shabby storefront along a residential stretch of 4th St. that has been making quick-and-tasty hash brown-stuffed burritos, French toast platters and double bacon cheeseburgers for the last 60 years.
Even though I once lived just a few blocks from this tiny neighborhood hole in the wall, its early close time (2 p.m.) and obscuring frontage (bars cover the only windows, preventing anyone from seeing inside) meant I never actually knew the place was in still business.
Not helping my assumption was the fact that the sign bearing the restaurant's former name, Tony's Breakfast Place, had been ripped from the façade, the letters of its original namesake leaving ghostly dirt shadows on the exterior stucco. After I moved, though, I began noticing that the painted scenes on its doors were being changed seasonally (“Happy Easter!” they currently say), and an informal survey of my friends led to raves about their breakfast burritos.
How had I never even walked inside this place?
Jerry's is everything quaint and greasy spoon you'd expect out of small town diner with all the urban flair of a Long Beach institution. Open either of its two front doors and you enter a room so small, it's hard to conceive of how it holds an entire restaurant operation.
And yet, there it is–an eight-seat counter on one side and a few cramped tables on the other, and in the middle of it all, a grill, a fryer, a prep area and a drinks station, all manned by two friendly members of the new owner's family. Put the place on wheels and it could easily live another life as an office-park lonchera.
With limited cooking resources, Jerry's menu is stocked with simple cravings, all of which are cooked to order, right before your eyes, by the same young dude who spray-painted all the murals that enclose the dog-friendly back patio. Juicy hamburgers and standard Mexican favorites line the lunch half of the menu, but most people stick to the breakfast burritos no matter what time of day it is.
Starting at $6 for the vegetarian one, Jerry's breakfast burritos are girthy masses of cheese, eggs and hash browns that are delicately layered to ensure the perfect proportion of flavors with each bite. Adding meat–options include bacon, sausage, asada, chicken or chorizo–just means the protein gets chopped up and cooked with the eggs before the whole scramble is folded around a solid core of shredded potatoes.
Eat your handheld masterpiece on site or let them put it in a brown paper bag for the road, just don't forget the rammekins of house salsa (warning: the green is habanero, not tomatillo!) or the to-go menu, which will come in handy when you feel like having your lunch delivered (which you will).
After years of being oblivious to Jerry's existence, there is a lot of lost burrito time to make up for. Thankfully, the breakfast specialty from this homey brick-and-mortar lonchera is a meal worth devouring any time of the day.
Jerry's Place, 1537 E 4th St., Long Beach, (562) 436-3323
Sarah Bennett is a freelance journalist who has spent nearly a decade covering food, music, craft beer, arts, culture and all sorts of bizarro things that interest her for local, regional and national publications.