We attended a media preview/fundraiser in neighboring LBC (about a mile from its airport) to experienceThe Hangar at Long Beach Exchange (LBX) – it has 11 eateries on the verge of launching in their 17,000 square foot space. When you consider that Orange County not only has a high concentration of food halls, but lent a hand in popularizing them, we took it upon ourselves to see how The Hangar compared to what we’ve come to expect [Editor’s Note: The week we visited, only two concepts were fully operational. This is not a comprehensive dining review, but coverage of its tenants.].
The Tried and True – Restaurants that already built a name for themselves in OC or LA
When we first walked in, OG brand Portola Coffee Roasters greeted us, front and center. Our hit of caffeine was a Breakfast Cold Brew, garnished with a toasty, cinnamon crunch. Georgia’s had a tent outside, serving up the Southern fare they’ve popularized at Anaheim’s Packing House. Also in a temporary spot (and hailing from the Packing House) were reps from the extra Insta-worthy Popbar. Joining our Anaheim-based pack is the deep fried goodness of The Kroft. With their Tustin kitchen recently moving out, this means the Kroft can focus more on their new storefront. Of note is an upgrade to their already hearty chicken sandwich–now on a fluffy potato bun that kept its integrity through every bite.
The Japanese cuisine in this collection is none other than hand roll specialists Temakira. Breaking away from OC, this will be their fourth location. A name that pre-dates everyone listed, Doner G’s Mediterranean eats were the only food option fully operational the entire week. And [Editor’s Note: This is actually a brand new concept.]
driving in from West Hollywood, Bite Mi Asian Kitchen hawks Vietnamese sandwiches and teas. What does that leave with regards to other options?
The Shiny and New – First-time Brands (or From Regions Besides OC/LA).
What we thought was a knock-off of Black Sheep Grilled Cheese Bar in Anaheim (Do we sense a pattern for inspiration?) is actually their sister concept, Plaid Sheep GCB. Housing more prep space than their relative, its menu has a savory hand-cut, double-dipped fries. We spotted Chef Thomas Ortega, best known by us for his Cerritos-based Amor y Tacos. He’s soft opening AMORCITO Urban Taqueria this week with flavorful eats and refreshing aguas. San Diego-based Bottlecraft opened a branch in Virginia before expanding to Long Beach, and the crowds were loving them that night. Being the on-site outlet for mostly West Coast brews (not factoring a listing for Hoof Hearted Brewing’s Rose Gose out of Ohio) certainly helps.
From the gang that brought Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong (and Quarters Korean BBQ, if you frequent K-Town) to Buena Park and Irvine, Marinate is the quick-service restaurant version. Hey, it’s KBBQ without the tell-tale aroma on our clothes! This Chipotle-style setup includes atypical options like a farro base. Last, but definitely not least, Jay Bird’s Nashville Hot Chicken is such a new concept, there’s little else we can tell you except for it’s a first-time brand for Wild Thyme Restaurant Group. With five heat levels, buttermilk waffles, kosher pickles and cage-free, natural chicken breasts in a “comeback” sauce, Long Beach has much to look forward to.
The Theme and The Quote: General Vibe, Plus Something That Made Us Go Hmmm
Sporting an aviation theme only made sense, considering its proximity to Long Beach Airport. Thoughtful quotes, a wall of “Long Beach”-centric clocks, memorabilia and historic photography draw your eyes up to its high ceilings. Seating-wise, The Hangar’s got a decent amount of open tables and chairs smack in the center, plus dedicated stools and nooks at places like Bottlecraft, Plaid Sheep, and we think Temakira– based on the build out thus far. Weekends will always be a concern, as well as the parking situation. With a row of wellness-themed concepts literally next door (plus a longer than needed stroll to the front entrance), expect to walk a bit no matter what.
At the beginning of the preview, there was a statement made by Scott Burnham, CEO & Partner of Burnham-Ward Properties. It went something like this:
“We don’t like to use the term “food hall” because this is much more than that. We have chef-driven venues here, that have people behind them that are putting out a phenomenal product.”
Here’s where we have a disagreement. Food halls are modern day food courts. The major difference being that courts usually housed big name fast food/quick service chains, or one-off groupings primarily open for only lunch service catering to office workers in the immediate area. Social media has elevated this new wave of specialized eateries into halls. Often, these eateries include popular local chefs, former food trucks, or both. The point being that Burnham was describing a food hall. Yes, you had a hand in what we consider the county’s original food hall, The OC Mix in Costa Mesa, blending both retail and restaurants. You also brought established tenants Portola and Temakira from OC Mix to LBX, as well as two others from Anaheim’s food hall. Don’t deny it. You are a food hall too, Hangar at Long Beach Exchange.
Do we like it here? We enjoy the friendly to navigate layout, the theme and your variety of eats. Until we can sit down and have a proper meal at Jay Bird’s, AMORCITO, Marinate and Bite Mi, the verdict is still out.
Long Beach Exchange is located at 3991 N. Lakewood Blvd., (949) 760-9150; www.longbeachexchange-lbx.com.
A contributing writer for OC Weekly, Anne Marie freelances for multiple online and print publications, and guest judges for culinary competitions. A Bay Area transplant, she graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management from Cal Poly Pomona. Find her on Instagram as brekkiefan.