Too big to be a suburb of LA but TFC (look it up!) to be OC, Long Beach sits between the two, siphoning off Orange County youth who are too afraid to move away to an actual large city. But hey, Long Beach is a pretty cool place to be, so how can you blame them?
Want to be nouvelle hip? Hang out in the East Village (www.eastvillagelongbeach.com), with its galleries, art spots, even a museum to check out. Each month, the Second Saturday Art Walk brings musicians, performers and artists out of their studios and into the public, showing up on every corner south of Sixth.
If you want to do some hip eating, grab a coffee, beer and lunch from Berlin Bistro (420 E. Fourth St., 562-435-0600; www.berlincoffeehouse.com). Of note is the bruschetta, featuring a thick, wonderfully fresh helping of tomatoes and garlic dolloped onto crostini lovingly blanketed with goat cheese. If you can, order a bottle of Monkish Brewery beer, one of the best breweries in the South Bay and home to what may be the only Vietnamese American brewmaster, well, anywhere.
After lunch, don't even leave the building. Just cross over to Fingerprints (562-433-4996; fingerprintsmusic.com), a loving collection of vinyl, books and media—browse and buy away. From here, you can head east and enter downtown proper, where you can imbibe on The Promenade with everyone from old punks to new transplants. Beachwood Barbecue (210 E. Third St., 562-436-4020; beachwoodbbq.com) has one of the best beer selections in Southern California. Congregation Alehouse (201 E. Broadway, 562-432-2337; congregationalehouse.com)? Same story. If you're sick of the beer, head to The Stave (170 The Promenade N., 562-612-4750; www.thestavebar.com) for some whiskey. Looking for cocktails, check out The Federal Bar (102 Pine Ave., 562-435-2000; lb.thefederalbar.com). Feeling a little peckish? You've got Michael's Pizzeria (210 E. Third St., 562-491-2100; michaelspizzeria.com), Pier 76 (95 Pine Ave., 562-983-1776), Broadway Pizza (120 E. Broadway, 562-901-9690; broadwaypizzalb.com) and a whole mess more restaurants to choose from. Even Congregation has a pretty great menu—try the sausage platter or the pretzel.
Now, head east of the East Village on Fourth for a little bit, and you'll hit Retro Row. Some people say it's for hipsters, but that's a lie. Retro Row is really a step into the sorta-punk-y, sorta-rockabilly past. Grab some fish and chips at the Pike Restaurant and Bar (1836 E. Fourth St., 562-437-4453; pikelongbeach.com), owned by Social Distortion drummer Chris Reece. Don't forget to check out the kitsch and knickknacks in the numerous vintage stores.
Is it nighttime? Then you're surrounded by the best concentration of dives in Southern California. First, go to The Stache (941 E. Fourth St., 562-606-2529; thestachebar.com) for an organic cocktail. Then head to The V Room (918 E. Fourth St., 562-437-4396) and get a ridiculous $6 Boilermaker. After that, stop by The Red Room (1227 E. Fourth St., 562-432-4241; redroomrocks.com) and get whatever you want. Finally, end up at Fern's (1253 E. Fourth St., 562-436-6694), order a drink, and take a swing at the boxing machine. Don't get into a fight; instead, stumble across the street to Holé Molé (421 Obispo Ave., 562-439-2555; holemole.com), an exceedingly adequate Mexican chain that's going to taste amazing right about now.
But there's no Long Beach without North Long Beach. Take a day from the hip-ness of the East Village and old-school cool of Retro Row and visit Robert Earls BBQ (703 E. Artesia Blvd., 562-726-1116). It's basically on the edge of our coverage area, and the barbecue there is some of the best you'll ever eat. Better than any in Orange County proper, that's for sure.