The sleeper brunch spot with no line, no waiting

While sitting at Steel Cup Café near the Traffic Circle—where Stearns Street intersects with Lakewood Boulevard—there was only one question in my mind: Why didn’t I have to wait in line?

After nearly three years (Steel Cup opened in May of 2019), it’s not like people haven’t heard about the food, right?

The walk-up counter is tidy and lined with delicious-looking pastries made right in their kitchen, each covered with a spot-free clear cloche. The dining area is clean and tastefully decorated with long hanging green plants framed against smoky dark-painted walls the color of steel.

At the suggestion of the person tending to the counter, I ordered the blackened chicken wrap ($13). The wrap arrived on a black plate without so much as a thumb smudge—not even a single stray crumb—an attention to detail I have yet to see in even the fanciest of restaurants in Long Beach.

The chicken was smoky, with a soft heat and just enough pepper to tingle but not overwhelm, dressed with house-made chipotle aioli, and wrapped in a grilled whole wheat tortilla stuffed with avocado, mixed greens, roasted red pepper, balsamic marinated tomatoes and pickled red onions.

For the non-meat eaters, there’s a veggie sandwich ($11) that can be made vegan. Toasted whole wheat bread spread with house-made ricotta on both sides, marinated portobello mushroom, pickled red onions, roasted red peppers, tomatoes and topped with alfalfa sprouts.

The marinated veggie sandwich at Steel Cup Cafe in Long Beach. Photo by Matt Miller.

The sandwich gets damp on the side with the mushrooms making it a little soggy, but it’s still quite satisfying, not at all like other vegetable type sandwiches. The seasoning is what makes it work here, the mushrooms burst with enough tang and savory flavor bringing life and balance to the rest of the sandwich.

Another notable item on the lunch menu is the Beef & Blue sandwich ($11): rosemary roast beef with a house-made blue cheese spread, on toasted sourdough.

Assuming that maybe the big crowd comes for breakfast, I returned Sunday morning. As I drove there I noted the lines outside of places like The Breakfast Bar, and Coffee Cup Café on Fourth Street, and readied myself for a long table wait, but when I arrived at Steel Cup Café there were only two other tables taken.

The Brunch Burrito ($13) seemed like the best place to start; a breakfast burrito can either be a great start to your day, or it can be a disappointing lump that reminds you of a poor morning decision all day long.

Stuffed with chorizo (vegan sub available), white cheddar, crisp breakfast potatoes, black beans, and pico de gallo, with perfectly cooked scrambled eggs right down the middle—which is a mark of true skill.

Scrambled eggs should never be dense or even remotely rubbery, which is what happens when they are quickly cooked over high heat. These scrambled eggs were so soft and delicate they almost seemed baked. How often is the scrambled egg inside the star of a breakfast burrito?

Topped with a house-made rojo sauce and an avocado sour cream, if you’re a breakfast burrito fan, the Brunch Burrito at Steel Cup Café is worth the trip.

Another notable item on the breakfast menu are their banana bread French toast sticks ($7). The baked goods are so delicious looking it’s nice to not have to choose between breakfast and indulgence.

Dusted with powdered sugar and served with real maple syrup, these are perfect for those with a sweet tooth who don’t have a huge appetite, as the portion size isn’t much to fuel you up for the day.

Brunch burrito and the banana bread French toast sticks at the Steel Cup Cafe. Photo by Matt Miller.

Breakfast and Lunch Cafe

Cost: $

Two people can eat for under $30

Vibe: neighborhood, walk-up counter with seating.

Go-to Dish: Brunch Burrito ($13)

Drinks: Drip coffee (light or dark roast), espresso drinks, teas, Bundaberg soda, kombucha.

Steel Cup Café: 2201 N. Lakewood Blvd. steelcupcafe.com 562-342-6116 Instagram: @steeelcupcafe

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Melissa has been a journalist for over two decades, starting her career as a reporter covering health and religion and moving into local news. She has worked as an editor for eight years, including seven years at the Press Telegram before joining the Long Beach Post in June 2018. She also serves as a part-time lecturer at Cal State Long Beach where she teaches multimedia journalism and writing.
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