Orange County staple Georgia’s, which has found a strong following with its soul food served inside Anaheim’s Packing District, has officially opened its second location inside the Long Beach Exchange complex on the east side of the city.
Georgia’s fills a gap in the soul food scene that was once thriving in North and West Long Beach. The city once had a rich history centered around soul food, largely thanks to black residents who brought Creole, Cajun and other Southern cuisines straight to our backyards. But that has, since the 1990s, been slowly dissipating as soul food staples began closing shop with two of the most recent casualties being North Long Beach’s LBJ’s restaurant and Central Long Beach’s Crazy Creole Cafe, which shuttered after nearly a quarter of a century of serving up some of the city’s best fried catfish.
Thankfully, people are no longer solely relegated to the (rather great) Soul Food Renaissance at 6617 Cherry Ave., to get their soul fulfilled with the sweetness of peach cobbler, corn bread and greens.
Georgia’s second location at the massive retail sprawl of Long Beach Exchange, or LBX, joins an already-extensive list of tenants, from Amorcito and Jay Bird’s to Portola and Kroft to The 908 and from the owners of Quarters, Marinate.
First opened in 2014 at the Anaheim Packing District—the shopping district creation of Shaheen Sadeghi, the developer who plans on making his own mark in North Long Beach with Canvas—Georgia’s has proved to be the most successful of all the District’s restaurants. We’re talking some $2 million in sales every year.
But getting to that point wasn’t easy: Owner Gretchen Shoemaker long held a catering business that served the best that soul food has to offer; from black eyed peas to mustard greens to fried pork chops slathered in gravy—all dishes based upon her own mother and grandmother’s recipes being passed on from daughter to daughter.
Part of her passion was inextricably linked to her husband George, who would get her going each and every morning by putting on some “Let’s Stay Together” and, between dredging thighs of chicken in flour and buttermilk, would take her for a spin on the kitchen’s makeshift dance floor.
When George passed, Gretchen was left uninspired and empty—but her daughter and her husband, Nika Shoemaker-Machado and Marlon Machado, had other tricks up their sleeves come two decades later: They wanted to reinvigorate Gretchen and collaborate on a restaurant that would honor all the food that helped form her family and their memories.
In the words of Gretchen herself: “Anyone can cook soul food—they just gotta do it with love.”
Long Beach Exchange is at 4069 N. Lakewood Blvd.
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