The space at 121 W. Fourth St. has long appealed to bar geeks. Sitting on the ground floor of the historic Walker Building in Downtown, it was home to one of the first shops in the city, Public Beer & Wine, that catered to crowds that both drank on premises and bought bottles to take home.
But, there have been two failed iterations in that space since Public. Now, a group of four beer and pizza-loving spirits hope the fourth time is a charm. Welcome to the 4th Horseman, a concept the group believes will click with Long Beach crowds and cement one of Downtown’s most unique spaces as a viable, community-driven hangout.
In other words, Chuck-E-Cheese for horror-loving adults that have the taste and tact to avoid, well, Chuck-E-Cheese.
Owners Ryan Hughes and Martin Svab, formerly of craft brewery Phantom Carriage, have joined with Dark Art Emporium owner Jeremy Schott and Chef Adam Schmalz, who helped open Gabi James in Redondo Beach as well as handle the kitchen at Phantom Carriage.
“Ryan and Martin approached me like, ‘Wanna do something fun?’ And how am I supposed to turn that down?” Schott said.
Eschewing Public’s more exclusive vibe where expensive, rare beer bottles were paired with equally expensive wines, The 4th Horseman goes from high-brow—quality local brews running a gamut of styles—to low-brow: The bar is home to a dedicated Miller High Life tap handle, one of only three in the city, a constant source of pride for Hughes.
“The vibe is already so Long Beach,” she said. “We’ve had every craft beer crew imaginable already stop in: The guys from Ten Mile were here yesterday and then the Liberation [Brewing Co.] guys were here the next and half the staff of Beachwood stopped by. Everybody has each other’s backs. We work to help one another down here and that’s creating an aura here that is just really Long Beach.”
Much of that aura and vibe is distinctly their own creation.
“It’s like all three of our brains on the walls: horror movies and dark art and taxidermy … ” Schott said, trailing off and gesturing with his hands toward the purposefully excessive decor that feels more creepy, carny museum than it does hipster watering hole.
Long gone are the empty walls and open-air refrigerator as well as the awkwardly-placed check-out near the front. Instead, you’ll find tables 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. Art, much like Schott’s fantastic Emporium, is everywhere: 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.
Still, first and foremost, outside of getting the vibe right, they want the culinary offerings to be solid.
“Our kitchen has limited infrastructure,” Schmalz said. “So, right now we’re working out of a small, two-deck oven. We’ve done everything from our testing to our serving out of that thing and while it works, for now, we’re awaiting a much larger oven to come in from Italy.”
Schmalz will tell you that anything that is a sandwich can be a pizza and his creations are impressive, given the space he’s working from. Not Neapolitan-style, not New York-style, his pizzas are odes to the Californian culture of fusion; a chewy, not-too-thick-not-too-thin crust that comes with an abundance of options.
Sure, you’ll find pizza classics—his Death to Piggy creation is your classic meat lovers pizza slathered with Italian sausage, pepperoni, house-made meatballs and bacon—but it’s his more odd creations that are the standouts.
I already touted his vegan pizza, dubbed “Frailty,” as the best in Long Beach and I stand by that. With a vegan seitan sausage that took him six months to perfect and a house made vegan parmesan that is actually better than the milk version, it is a pie that appeals to meat eaters and herbivores alike.
Then there are Schmalz’s clash-of-the-culture slices that are wittily and decadently crafted. “Memento Mori” is pizza that starts with some a house-made tomato sauce that uses gochujang paste—the Korean sweet-meets-spicy fermented condiment—and is then topped with mozzarella, a smoky beef bulgogi, sour kimchi, and sweet bits of roasted pineapple. The result is a dizzyingly wonderful array of flavors and textures that are as equally addictive as they are scrumptious.
A personal favorite is his Pastrami Dearest, a creamy ode to the almighty Reuben sandwich: chunks (not slices) of peppery pastrami and sauerkraut bits are thrown onto a mix of Swiss and mozzarella cheeses and drizzled with 1000 Island dressing. Gooey, rich, and surprisingly balanced.
Of course, The 4th Horseman won’t stop at just pizza and beer, though they be at the epicenter of any well-lived life. Svab has plans to turn the joint into an all-out haven for “strange, fun shit” that will skip the sports in favor of …
“Shit Show Bingo. It’s run by my friend, a magician named Christopher Wonder and, honestly, it’s just going to be amazing. I mean, I feel like we’re always going to be changing, always adding things, always creating things. This feels like we’re at 70 percent as far as the walls go.”
Bingo. Beer. Pizza. Life is complete.
The 4th Horseman is located at 121 W. Fourth St.
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.
Editor’s note: This article originally states that there were three previous iterations of Public Beer & Wine; there were, in fact, two.