I admit it: since it began in 2014, I avoided Long Beach’s version of a restaurant week, Eat LBC. Not because it wasn’t a well-intentioned effort on behalf of a few local publicists to promote the local food scene (because it totally was!), but because whenever I looked up the list of participating restaurants, I always saw the usual suspects. And by that, I mean the places I’ve already been to hawking the same food I’ve already eaten, albeit with a value-oriented prix fixe deal. As a perpetual food explorer in this city, the chance to enjoy a three-course dinner at L’Opera or Open Sesame or Lucille’s Smokehouse BBQ — regardless of the price point — just never was enough of a draw.
But now that the two founders of Eat LBC have split off to organize their own competing Long Beach restaurant weeks, things are getting interesting. We’re talking the “fried alligator, shrimp and grits, braised rabbit croquettes and rare apple dessert cider” kind of interesting. Last year was the debut of Dine LBC and Dine Out Long Beach, Restaurant Week 2.0, both held within a few months of each other in early 2016. This year, Dine LBC is moving to the end of summer, leaving Dine Out Long Beach, with about 40 participating restaurants, to usher in a new year of, well, dining out in Long Beach.
Dine Out Long Beach kicks off Saturday with a free afternoon of cooking demos and tastings at Friedman’s Appliance Center. Meal deals are available by dining in (no tickets or reservations necessary) starting Sunday through Feb. 25.
What finally caught my attention about this year’s first restaurant week is the continual expansion of the offerings into $10 and $15 lunchtime deals, as well as the impressive amount of exclusive dishes from restaurants that don’t even need to participate in such marketing strategies. At Chianina, for example, it’s hard to go in for a meal and spend less than $50 per person, especially if you’re trying one of their high-end steaks, including those from pricey namesake Chianina cows, which they raise and butcher themselves. During Dine Out Long Beach, the $50 prix fixe dinner includes never-before-served items like Dungeness crab pasta, a pesto topped prime strip loin and, for dessert, a raspberry, white chocolate and lemon fennel cake.
Punk rock bar The Pike, which has no problem attracting a crowd for its better-than-a-dive-bar food (the cheap well drinks help too), has a $35 dinner-for-two option for the week, which includes your choice of an appetizer (choose ceviche!), two mains (make one of them the fish and chips!) and the underrated house-made cheesecake for dessert. Sweet Dixie Kitchen in the East Village is expanding its Southern-fried menu for Dine Out Long Beach, cooking up chicken and waffles (part of their $15 brunch) and shrimp and grits ($20 lunch), while downtown newcomers Great Society Cider and Mead and Beer Belly are getting in on their first restaurant week ever with one-off menus that will disappear Feb. 25.
Beer Belly’s is themed “Fried & Fancy” and includes choices like braised rabbit croquettes (fried) and duck confit ravioli with foie gras cream (fancy, natch). Great Society has gluten free and vegan options for all three courses, as well as an option to select from a few rare ciders hand-delivered by the cidermasters at Wandering Aengus and EZ Orchards.
I’m also excited for the chance to try a few restaurants that have slipped under my radar in the last few years, including: Louisiana Charlie’s, a Creole restaurant hiding inside Shoreline Village (fried alligator legs!); Ocean Market Grill, a casual fish spot down by the marina that cooks everything over an open flame; and Belmont Height’s Taste Wine-Beer-Kitchen, which is cooking up a Belgian beef carbonnade for the occasion.
Head over to the event’s easily searchable website to sift through the remaining Dine Out Long Beach menus and you’ll find everything from burgers and beer to Italian fine dining — more worthy meals than I could ever fit into one article. Whatever you do, learn from my mistakes. It’s time to take advantage of Long Beach’s restaurant weeks!