To the too-cool, twenty-something crowd in Long Beach, The Prospector Steak House and Saloon is one of the city's best dark-n-divey bars at which to get a $4 well whiskey and slosh around watching all kinds of grimy local punk bands perform. But to an older-something set of Long Beach day drinkers and meat lovers, the building on the corner of 7th St. and Junipero Ave.–yes, the one entirely covered in paintings of 1800s miners, cowboys and country-camp wenches–is a quality lunch and dinner establishment, home to some of the best steak and lobster around.
After nearly a decade of experiencing The Prospector solely as a member of the former, post-closed-kitchen set, I recently decided to join the day crawlers, lured by the decadent idea of eating a proper steak dinner for lunch.
The first thing that I noticed after entering The Prospector during the day is that the place looks pretty much the same at midnight as it does at noon, thanks to the fact that there are no windows in the bar area and only one long skinny one (which is covered with blinds) in the dining room. The second thing I noticed is that this isn't just another time of day, it's another world.
Not only is the senior-ish crowd and down-home wait staff an entirely different crew than the one usually lurking around the bar at night, but the scene seems so neighborly, casual and friendly that it could have been a slice out of a small-town country diner, with bottles of Bud Light instead of coffee.
Like it's cheap, stiff drinks, Prospector's food is hearty, affordable and unchanged since the '70s. Add in a serious emphasis on good old fashioned American meat and seafood, and you have an all-day menu that includes three cuts of prime rib, five different steaks and eight seafood options–including king crab legs, halibut and deep fried Eastern oysters–all for less than $20.
To understand the full value of these prices, I feel I should clarify that the steaks are pure quality and come cooked perfectly to order (they're not afraid to leave it bloody). Plus, every meal at the Prospector is an actual full meal, meaning it comes with not only whatever item is listed on the menu, but also a side of potatoes (french fries, hash browns or baked potato), a soup or salad, and a little side of pudding for dessert.
This goes for lunch items like the French dip sandwich, "extra specials" like the spaghetti and meatballs and of course the famous $15.99 daily "Steak and Lobster" special, the best offer in the house that comes with a fancy, baseball-cut top sirloin and a fluffy, buttery lobster tail.
Don't let the creepy exterior murals or tacky painted saloon doors fool you: The Prospector is your new favorite steak house. Choice cuts, deep deals and enough butter and potatoes to rot your gut for a week make this popular watering hole a deserving dining destination too.
So forget that corporate lunch at the nearest Ruth's Chris and skip the bougie mid-day crowd at 555, because one of the city's oldest music and meat institutions has got the surf and turf to cover both your stomach and your budget.
The Prospector, 2400 East 7th St., 562-438-3839, prospectorlongbeach.com