It’s easy to think the plebeian public isn’t allowed inside Plunge, the new restaurant, wine bar, mini grocer and all-around chill spot with panoramic views of the ocean within the 18-story 1900 Ocean Beach Club luxury apartment building.
In fact, when I told a friend to meet me there for lunch, she checked back with me several times to ensure I’d given her the correct address. Even after we were buzzed into the lobby by a friendly security guard, walked ourselves up a flight of stairs that took us past the residents’ mail room, made our way down a hardwood-floored hallway lined with meeting and activity spaces and emerged into the open floor plan of what serves as the building’s common room, she kept asking, “Are you sure it’s cool we’re here?”
“Of course it’s cool,” I assured. “It’s even cool if we open our laptops and use the free wifi for a few hours. Or if we decide to move from the tables to those bean-bag chairs. Plus, there’s self-serve wine.”
But only after being greeted and seated at a table against one of the floor-to-ceiling windows does it really become clear why those of us more accustomed to Long Beach’s many low-lying vintage apartments might feel out of place here.
For starters, the views are unparalleled. From this second-floor perch along the bluff, you can see all the way from the Queen Mary to the Orange County coast—a view usually reserved for those who can afford such luxuries.
Then there’s the food, which Plunge calls American cuisine but is far more interesting than just that. A $13 turkey, bacon and avocado sandwich beats out any average lunchbox version with a tower of thick-cut turkey meat, wide ribbons of applewood-smoked bacon and a hearty layer of green avocado between two slices of buttery grilled bread that crunches into dissolution with each bite.
The $13 bowl of upscale macaroni and cheese (appropriately dubbed “Bringing Sexy Mac”) isn’t from a blue box, but instead a mound of corkscrew noodles drenched in a combination of cheeses I’ve never encountered elsewhere: California Cheddar from the Fiscalini farm, smoked gouda and Parmesan.
And since the menu was designed by the owner of vegetarian shack Steamed, it also includes many meat- and animal-free dishes—from vegan chili to lentil-and-strawberry ceviche to the chickpea-based “Happy Tuna,” none of which is treated as an afterthought.
As you settle in, any hesitance about your own presence drifts away as residents casually drop in and out of what is essentially their building’s clubhouse: relaxing to take in the scenery or watch TV after a workout, sitting on a couch to take a phone call, meeting for an impromptu salsa class, or stopping into the small grocery store for an onion to cook with or an energy drink for the afternoon slump.
Friends gather daily at the rounded bartop for happy hour, which always includes a decent $5 glass of wine. On one visit, it was around this time of day that I first discovered the perks of Long Beach’s only self-serve wine bar, another big draw for Plunge that’s also its least obvious amenity. Since there’s no advertisement or explanation for the system (I only realized it existed myself after watching people from another table get up a few times and return with wine glasses refilled), you’ll need to flag down the manager, who will give you a reloadable card and walk you through the process of inserting it into the machine, selecting your pour size and more. On return visits, just ask for a wine glass, use your card and drink up.
Even if you can’t afford to live in the building, 1900 Ocean lets you pretend you deserve to live on the water. Isn’t it time you took the plunge?
Plunge at 1900 Ocean Beach Club, 1900 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, (562) 373-7164; plungelbc.com.
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.