With the Olympics finally over and Long Beach athletes earning more medals that most countries, it seems appropriate to start off Long Beach Lunch at MVP's, a sandwich and burger stand built right on Fourth Street with a menu full of sports-themed items such as the “Patty Day Melt” and “The Mean Joe Green” that are more than their kitschy names.
The concept of naming food items after athletes, coaches and other sports celebrities might get a little hairy (Harry Caray, perhaps? Sorry, but I'll be here all week!), but MVP keeps it clever by creating dishes that manage to make sense with their namesake.
The “Greg Louganis,” for example, is a pita bread filled with chicken, lettuce, tomato and tzatziki sauce–a reference to the gold medal swimmer's adoptive Greek-American parents. The “Shaq” burger, meanwhile, includes double meat, double cheese, double bacon, avocado and dressing — presumably for Shaq-ish-level hunger.
There are also salads named after skater Dorothy Hamill and a burrito called “Jorge Campos” (somebody please tell management that the current Mexican soccer player that thrills Mexis so is Chicharito), but it's MVP's standard line of 1/3 pound burgers (called George Foreman I through VI) and sandwiches piled high with a variety of fresh meats and veggies that make the best mid-day fare.
I tend to go for “The Ditka” (“For Bear-ish appetites!”), which is basically a turkey sandwich with a bunch of greens, on squaw bread. If I'm feeling particularly adventurous, I'll get it on sourdough and ask for the Cajunaise sauce from the burgers on the 'wich instead of mayo. You can also get it on the side for dipping MVP's Cajun-seasoned fries into.
And yes, there are MVP's fries: last year's Best Of OC choice and a crucial add-on to anything on the menu. The plain fries are decent here, but it's the aggressively Cajun-seasoned ones that are worth eating too many of in one sitting and dealing with the burnt-taste-bud consequences later. Five Guys' Cajun-style fries are no competition for MVP's homemade goodies, but beware that a “half order” at MVP's is plenty for two people (lest you end up with a greasy brown bag full of them in your fridge for a week afterwards).
Also keep in mind that this place is literally a shack in the owner's front yard that can only fit three employees max, so be prepared for heavy wait times during busy hours and a street parking situation to match. Ordering to-go is a common practice, too, but why would you want to do that when you can eat on one of MVP's two outdoor patios and people watch the hell out of Fourth Street?
MVP's Grill & Patio, 3701 E. 4th St., Long Beach. (562) 439-0809. Cash only.
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.