Anne Chua used to have a traditional view of breakfast: pancakes, waffles, a plate of bacon and eggs. But not long after turning 21, she was taken to brunch and discovered the popular Mexican dish chilaquiles. “It’s like breakfast, but also like nachos,” the now-26-year-old Long Beach native says. “Brunch is my favorite because there’s such a wide variety of food. I don’t necessarily order what I thought breakfast was. It’s the best of both meals.”
For the past five years, Chua and three of her best friends (all of whom have known one another since elementary school) have spent their weekends exploring the growing number of restaurants in the city that now offer the boozy, in-between meal. They discovered the morning burrito at Padre, mascarpone French toast at Starling Diner, whatever veggie-filled hash was in season at Restauration and, of course, the bottomless mimosas at Riley’s in Belmont Shore (their definitive go-to).
On Saturday, the group share their love of brunch with the rest of their hometown at Brunch Life Fest. The inaugural event, held at Rainbow Lagoon Park, features at least 15 restaurants and food trucks—from Babe’s Kitchen to GD Bro Burger—plus nine beverage vendors, including Steelhead Coffee, Salud Juice, and local michelada-mix maker Micho & Mary. “A lot of people think brunch is only an LA thing and don’t know that Long Beach has all these great brunch spots, too,” Chua says. “We wanted people to know that Long Beach has that vibe.”
For Chua and her squad, brunch is a lifestyle. After spending all week being disciplined at a day job, going somewhere to eat and day drink with friends is a low-effort way to decompress. When you factor in the inevitable post-brunch walks, bike rides and beach trips, it’s a commitment that can easily take you into dinnertime. “I think brunch is about being with your friends, celebrating a day out close to the beach and feeling carefree energy,” Chua says. “My friends and I eat family-style; we order a bunch of things and enjoy food and one another’s company.”
Brunch Life Fest hopes to re-create those carefree outdoor days in one location. Admission gets you access to food samples, an open mimosa bar, bloody Marys and beer tastings, all with a view of the harbor. Organizers liken the event to a “big picnic in the park with your friends.”
Long Beach has always been a solid breakfast town, and from Egg Heaven to Blackbird Cafe, we still treat pancakes and omelets as a religion (have you seen the line outside Potholder on Sunday mornings?!). But now, places that historically only served dinner are opening early and curating a special food-and-drink menu that’s served, at most, only two days a week. The newly renovated La Traviata, for example, will debut its first brunch menu at Brunch Life Fest.
Why does Chua think more restaurants are serving up brunch vibes in Long Beach?
“My friends and I love eating out and trying new places . . . and I’d totally rather go to brunch than dinner,” she says. “Maybe it’s a millennial thing.”
Brunch Life Fest at Rainbow Lagoon Park, 400 E. Shoreline Dr., Long Beach; brunchlifefest.com. Sat., VIP admission, 10 a.m.; general admission, 11 a.m. $49; VIP, $65. 21+.
Sarah Bennett is a freelance journalist who has spent nearly a decade covering food, music, craft beer, arts, culture and all sorts of bizarro things that interest her for local, regional and national publications.