Photos by Asia Morris.
Long story short, Seabirds Kitchen owner Stephanie Morgan wondered if there was a vegan food truck in the world. There wasn’t, so she created one. From street tacos and seasonal salads to rice bowls featuring farm fresh produce, since 2010 Seabirds Kitchen has been churning out plant-based goodness from, first, a food truck then a permanent location in Orange County and now, right across the street from a McDonald's in Long Beach.
A few years ago when Morgan moved here, she realized what most vegans, vegetarians and local foodies have been lamenting for a while, its lack of vegan eateries. Other than Under the Sun Cafe, the first ever raw vegan eatery in Long Beach that opened in May, The Grain Cafe and an occasional vegan food pop-up here and and there, the pickings are pretty slim.
“For the last few years it's been pretty apparent to me that Long Beach was the next up and coming area. It seemed like all the cool kids were moving here,” Morgan said. “I really wanted to put a Seabirds in to help feed the large (and awesome) vegetarian/vegan Long Beach community and to get established before Long Beach really blew up.”
Compared to their first non-food-truck establishment in Costa Mesa at The LAB, there’s a lot that’s special about the Long Beach location, other than the fact that it’s, well, in Long Beach. First off, the restaurant has more kitchen equipment and kitchen space, including a Woodstone pizza oven, that will allow Morgan and team to start pushing out some expectedly delicious vegan pizzas. Seabirds Long Beach also boasts a few more menu items than what they typically offer Orange County patrons, including the Ranchero Tamales that just rolled out this week.
The Burnt Brussels Sprouts with lime, dijon, cayenne and fried garlic.
There’s also a mural on the side of the restaurant that was done by Brooklyn artist Kevin Lyons during Pow! Wow! Long Beach, who painted massive vegetable-like monsters that now face Bonito Avenue.
After eating at Seabirds, it’s hard to imagine Morgan dishing out the simple stuff when she first began her culinary career (think hummus, veggie wraps and smoothies). Since the vegan food truck pioneer first became enamored with vegan cooking circa 2007, her desire to create unique dishes has pushed her and her team past what most patrons expect from vegan establishments.
The Beer Battered Avo Taco with fried avocado, Seabirds sauce, cabbage, red onion, lime.
“With the addition of each new seasonal menu, I've been able to test a lot and I’ve kept things around that I really liked and gotten rid of things that were outdated or bored me and my crew,” Morgan said. “So now, things in our kitchen are a lot more labor intensive and can take a few days to make even. For instance, we ferment a lot of items and that can take a week or two. And it takes an embarrassing amount of hours to make our veggie burger patties.”
The Beets Me Burger is a drool-worthy example of those “embarrassing amount of hours” well spent. It may look like your typical veggie patty on a bun, but the savoriness and crunch of the shiitake, beet and chia patty, followed by the surprising (and subtle) sweetness of the almond butter, and other bursts of flavor you wouldn’t expect to go so well together, make the entree a must try.
The Beets Me Burger with house-made shiitake, beet and chia patty, almond butter and herb mayo.
Other popular menu items regulars know well include the Beer Battered Avo Taco with fried avocado, Seabirds sauce, cabbage red onion and lime, as well as the Chaffle, a churro waffle topped with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and chopped walnuts. The Ranchero Tamales, unique to the Long Beach location, are stuffed with ranchero jackfruit and topped with red chile sauce, fermented cauliflower, frog hollow plums and hatch chiles.
“Summer is the best month for produce,” Morgan said. “There is just no debating that! The peaches this season have been incredible so we are featuring them in a kale salad. We are using hatch chiles and frog hollow plums in a fresh salsa that garnishes our tamales.”
Seabirds Kitchen is located at 975 East 4th Street.