4th and Olive Provides Jobs for Disabled Vets, Boasts the Best Food in Long Beach

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Photos by Asia Morris. From background to foreground, the Bacon & Leek tarte flambee, Duck Liver Mousse with pickles and toast, the Coq au Riesling and the Venison Hunters sausage.

Partners Dan Tapia, Alex McGroarty and Adam Grimm last week celebrated the grand opening of their restaurant, Fourth and Olive, a new culinary destination in Long Beach’s East Village neighborhood that serves Alsatian cuisine.

Tapia, whose culinary resume and libations certifications are extensive, chose this seaside city after a lengthy search for the right place, describing the warehouse-turned-restaurant at 743 East 4th Street as a building that looked like it had been “picked up out of the Alps[…] and set here in Long Beach,” and because he was struck but how welcoming the community was.

“[…]I was like wow, you have all the amenities of the city of LA, with just, a third of the assholes,” he said of his initial reaction.

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But there’s much more to the story than a love for French and German food combined, the wines and beers served with it and the decent people of Long Beach.

Tapia is a disabled veteran, a recovering and high-functioning quadriplegic with palsy in all four of his limbs. You would never assume this, unless you saw him walking with the cane he uses often for support, and even then it would be difficult to tell, as he walks around the restaurant chatting with patrons. Despite his over 20 years of experience in the culinary industry, Tapia was pushed out of a job over his use of the cane.

He channeled that frustration not into spite, but into motivation to start his own culinary establishment, one that would, without a doubt, make it a point to provide jobs for the disabled and take their full range of needs into consideration.

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Fourth and Olive also activates what used to be a car garage located within a ghost-like section of Fourth Street, suspended between Alamitos Avenue, where on the other side a slew of dive bars and a bustling Retro Row have plenty to offer, and Linden Avenue, where Fingerprints and Berlin Bistro mark the start of a busier downtown.

“With Cameron, we designed the restaurant such that a person with any disability can work here,” said Tapia.

Cameron Crockett, Principal at Ultra-Unit Architectural Studio, who worked with Tapia to design the space for employees with disabilities, also designed a single-hand tap so that Jon, Fourth and Olive’s bartender and a vet who lost the use of his right arm, can pour a draft beer without creating too frothy a foam collar.

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The Coq au Riesling.

There’s also a veteran who works in the kitchen who sustained traumatic brain injuries, which inhibit his ability to focus for long time periods, so Tapia and staff make sure he’s moved from station to station to keep him from losing concentration. The area behind the bar is non-traditionally spacious, while the layout of the restaurant allows anyone who uses a wheelchair to work as a server.

Currently, about half of Fourth and Olive’s staff are vets.

“We’ve had to make a few modifications, but by and large, we’ve been reaping rewards for it,” said Tapia. “We’ve had a bunch of guys and gals in here that really want to work and no one’s really giving them a chance, so by providing them that chance it really lights a fire under them.”

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Fourth and Olive is just the start of Tapia’s initiative to provide work and accommodations for vets. Once he figures out the logistics for his first couple of restaurants, he envisions establishing an off-site garden, to not only give the restaurant more control of its produce, but to be used as a halfway house for vets trying to transition back into the working world.

“If you have PTSD and you think everyone’s trying to kill you, then hang around a bunch of carrots,” said Tapia. “No one’s going to hurt you there, it’s going to be the safest place for you to heal.”

In the nearer future, the rooftop of Fourth and Olive will soon be home to a hydroponic system, so that they can grow their own cabbage, tomatoes, leafy greens and pretty much anything aside from root vegetables and tree fruit, enabling Chef Alex McGroarty to experiment with different hybrids for their sauerkraut, which is currently fermented in-house.

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McGroarty letting the Post in on the cheese-making process.

“I’m not a food connoisseur, but it’s a unique food experience for me,” said Crockett. “I eat everywhere in Long Beach, but the stuff he does with bacon, like bacon is like a whole different thing, it’s not bacon, it’s like these crunchy bits, it’s fluffy, it’s different, but they’re thick chunks.

“All the ingredients are super simple,” Crockett continued. “It’s not a competing palate, it’s always a background to a feature element.”

The cheese, the main ingredient of the Fresh Cheese Dumplings—keyword being “fresh”— is also made in-house, the sausages, including the housemade Boudin Blanc, not to mention the crust of both the Bacon & Leek and Clam, Bacon and Roasted Garlic Tartes Flambée is made from scratch from a sourdough starter McGroarty cultivated for six months. He wanted the crust to be perfect, to reach a point where he wanted to serve it knowing it couldn’t get any better, McGroarty said.

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Tapia digging into the Bacon & Leek tart flambee. 

“It’s definitely an art, and like any art, you can tell the people that do it for the love of the work as opposed to the ones that are doing it just to make a bunch of money,” said Tapia, nodding to McGroarty’s culinary expertise.

Such is the Pittsburgh native and Salt’s Cure alumnus’ way of perfecting every dish before it’s ever introduced to the palate of any patron, most notably the Pork Shoulder Chop, set in roasted apple, fennel, cipollini, mustard seed and brown butter. It’s likely to be unlike any pork chop you’ve ever tasted, a high quality cut cooked to medium or medium rare.

“It’s just something completely different,” said McGroarty. “The first time I tried this pork I was just- it’s just so much better than any other pork I’ve ever had.”

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The Pork Shoulder Chop.

McGroarty traveled to the individual ranchers and farmers who provide their meats, ensuring the poultry live their lives out fully and that the pigs and cows they select have the opportunity to enjoy their time on Earth. The results are meats that taste more like they did when, say, your grandparents tasted it, before industrial standardized cattle factories became the norm for production, churning out what Tapia said his team calls “plastic meat.”

“It’s a marriage between pork and butter,” Tapia said of the pork chops.

“There’s a lot of fat in it, but the fat just melts,” McGroarty added.

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From left to right: partners Dan Tapia, Alex McGroarty and Adam Grimm.

“There’s nobody in Long Beach who has this level of commitment,” said Tapia. “There’s nobody. This is the best food in Long Beach. And I don’t say this as a prideful restaurant owner, I say this as somebody who has been working in restaurants since he was 14. I’m 37 now, so 23 years of doing this, I know exactly what we have.”

For more information about Fourth and Olive, visit the Facebook page here. You can also follow the restaurant on Instagram @fourthandolive

Fourth and Olive is located at 743 East Fourth Street.

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.