VIDEO: You’re a Democrat and you’ve got issues; here’s where to eat
The California Democratic Convention, in case you haven’t heard, is coming to Long Beach—and bringing with it thousands of the most dedicated Dems this side of the Mississippi (do they have Democrats in Mississippi?), including presidential candidates ranging from Bernie Sanders to Kamala Harris.
If you are one of these folks, you know that while there is much unity under the Democratic banner, you and your fellow Dems also have your own particular concerns, interests and differences; all of which should not only be celebrated but served. To that end, here are places to eat which fit your own particular political views, caucus, interests or, ahem, hidden secrets.
The Pro-Immigrant Advocate: La Esperanza
1626 Orange Ave.
Surely, California’s largest brown population is connected to Mexico, but the rest of the Latin American world should not be ignored as we see workers and business owners come from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala…
Which is why La Esperanza is so perfect for those who value and celebrate the many contributions of our immigrant population.
When you bite into the creation of Adriana Moran’s tamal, you are transported. Unlike the smaller, heartier Mexican version so ubiquitous throughout California, tamales guatemaltecos are bigger, much bigger and come wrapped in banana leaves, giving the masa a hint of grass and earth.
Having opened her first location in Torrance in 1994, her story is one that exemplified the beauty of the immigrant—and how their food, though foreign in a rudimentary sense, is key to American culture.
Moran’s creations come with hints of pumpkin seed and cinnamon and, on the larger plates she serves, she adds a tamal as a side. With Adriana’s mix of Guatemalan, Mexican and Salvadorian food—make sure to get a pupusa, topped with a wonderfully tart and crunchy slaw known as cortido—this spot is not only a hidden gem but a wonderful break away from the dominance of Mexican cuisine in regards to the array of Latin American food.
The LGBTQ Caucus: Wide Eyes Open Palms
416 Cherry Ave.
While there is no doubt that the late-night crowd will be hitting up Hamburger Mary’s, Wide Eyes Open Palms, owned by powerhouse couple Kat McIver and Angie Evans, has a menu of edible offerings that is genuinely great and speaks to the inner Italian and Californian of many—all in a space that feels homey, nostalgic, and comfortable.
Their olive oil cake? A perfect pairing of olive oil’s earthiness and the sweetness of a cake, all held together with a grainy polenta.
Their jam and ricotta toast? Almost on the level of Los Angeles’ Republique: a thick slice of rustic country loaf slathered with housemade ricotta and jam—is nothing short of addictive. My suggestion? Get the half-and-half if they have two jam flavors because I guarantee you that you’ll love both.
Add to this frittatas, cocottes (cream-baked egg), granola, and more, and you’re set.
The Arab American Caucus: Ammatolí
285 E. Third St.
The Levant is a region rich in food culture, encompassing Israel, Cyprus, Jordan and, particularly important for this discussion, Lebanon and Palestine—and the members of the Arab American Caucus know this more than most. But what Ammatoli achieves so beautifully is introducing foods, flavors, and combinations that, though they might initially go against the grain of the American palate, are accessible because they’re wonderfully created.
Ammatoli highlights Levantine cuisine in a way that is not only accessible—you’ll find a divinely spicy hummus along with other staples like baba ghannouj and tabbouleh—but entices patrons to dive deeper into the restaurant’s ambitious menu.
Owners and chefs Dima and Sam Habibeh have mustered—in a little over a year, no less—the strongest sense of the cuisine in their cozy Downtown spot. They throw down plates of perfectly crafted ground beef kafta, a meat skewer that rolls with hints of clove, coriander, onion, and all-around addictiveness. They bring in bowls of foul, beautifully pale fava beans mixed with garbanzo beans and mashed with garlic, lemon juice, tahini and a heavy pour of olive oil.
On weekends, you’ll find the city’s best shakshuka, a labor-intensive, brightly red tomato dish with poached eggs as its star. Warmly enveloping, wonderfully layered, it is a dish that is worth visiting every weekend.
The Couldn’t-Be-a-Rockstar-So-Politics-It-Is, or The Beto: The 4th Horseman
121 W 4th St.
Beto might have gone into full DGAF-mode toward the end of his campaign, but we know there are plenty of wannabe rockstars in the party that just, well, can’t make it on a world tour.
The 4th Horseman is the place to feel like a rockstar without actually needing the talent because the talent of its owners and Chef Adam Schmaltz cover that for you.
Here, your eyes will feast on the artistic gems of horror-core fans. Tables are adorned with cut-outs of old horror and sci-fi comics like Eerie and Famous Monsters. Shrunken heads of the four owners line the pathway to the restroom. Vintage NYC Monsters Convention posters and creepy analog televisions showing nothing but static are paired with paintings of Poe’s raven clinging to a piece of pizza while constant streams of horror flicks play on a small projection screen near the bar.
But the true stars of the Horseman are its pizzas. The creation of chef Adam Schmaltz, these pies are not Neapolitan-style nor New York-style. Rather, they’re odes to the Californian culture of fusion; a chewy, not-too-thick-not-too-thin crust that comes with an abundance of options.
The Closet Republican: Joe Jost’s
2803 E. Anaheim St.
Hey, our mayor Robert Garcia founded the Young Republicans Club at Cal State Long Beach before he came out of the closet and signed on with the Democrats, so we know there are plenty of moderates—hey there, Mayor Pete!—as well as right-leaning politicos that mask their conservative beliefs with liberal social values.
Joe Jost’s is just for you: Filled with mostly older white men who like to banter about things that largely pertain to themselves, it is also the city’s oldest watering hole.
Opened in 1924, it has served as the beer-soaked, pickled-egg hangout for the thirsty and hungry. While the food is mediocre, the vibe is not—in fact, you’re likely to get a hearty pat on the shoulder should you espouse some right-leaning ideologies.
The Irish Caucus: The Auld Dubliner
71 S. Pine Ave.
Yes, there is an Irish Caucus and yes, there is a mighty space for them to warm their wee bums that harken back to the Motherland: Long Beach’s (and one of the region’s) most respected Irish pubs, The Auld Dubliner.
The sad redundancy with which “Irish” bars across the States have been created is really a dishonor: hang some green, white, and orange decorations, slap a Celtic-sounding name on it, plaster as many televisions as possible on the walls, get a menu of fried finger foods and—key thing here—make sure there’s a touch of wood paneling to tie the room together.
Here’s how owner David Copley, who’s actually from Ireland (Limerick), describes it:
“There are lots of Irish bars out there and there’s nothing wrong with a bar if you’re going for a bar experience. But a pub in Ireland is truly a pub—it’s a different feel and different atmosphere the minute you walk in. A bar is where you get a drink and a pub is where you go to socialize. That’s what the Auld Dubliner is.”
The Former Cop: Tracy’s Bar & Grill
5511 E. Spring St.
In honor of Kamala Harris, how could we not pick a place for those who love to rule by law and order and punishment?
The spot for cops is an East Long Beach staple that opened in 1994 by former LBPD officer Mike Tracy and his wife Suzi and currently is operated by a trio of sisters.
My suggestion for food? Keep it ‘Merica by getting the Basic Bacon burger, a classic burger smushed between doughy, bright-white bread. But, of course, you can always go for the monster pictured, Denise’s Damn Good Burger, a breakfast burger of sorts topped with bacon, fried egg and ham, on top of the regular accouterments.
Fun fact: Tracy’s still has its Hot Dog Show menu, an entire and exact replica of the menu from the famed Hot Dog Show joint on Broadway near Alamitos in the 1950s and 60s. The menu ranges from the classic Mutt Dog to the Chow Dog, an array of sliced dogs on a hamburger bun with cheddar cheese, bacon and good ol’ 1,000 Island dressing.
Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or on social media at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
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