Hiccups is a new kind of Asian tea house, smartly located in the buffer zone between the Cal State Long Beach food court that is the outer Traffic Circle and the Long Beach bedroom communities beyond.
Like the Chinese-based chain Cha for Tea and Little Saigon’s Tra Teahouse, there is a dizzying selection of brewed ice teas, iced slushies and milk teas that can be gussied up with add-ins like boba, grass jelly and aloe vera. There are also even the standard tea house snacks like popcorn chicken and calamari, which students can inhale as they park themselves at tables for hours, pouring over textbooks surrounded by a splay of papers and multicolored pens.
But Hiccups isn’t just a place for study snacks like Cha for Tea. Nor is it a dessert spot like Mio in Garden Grove, nor a bakery like Taiwanese chain 85C. It’s a locally bred alternative (with a new second location in Carson) that’s secretly a full-on restaurant, with a menu of filling Thai, Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese dishes that draws in families, office workers and more than its fair share of non-Asians.
If their most popular drinks are any indication of the diverse clientele, look no further than the chamoy mango — basically a mangoneada with big chunks of mango in it — and horchata mocha, a blended chocolate rice milk drink with whipped cream and cinnamon shake. Both can come served in a half-gallon mason jar for $12 (refills get charged for a large).
The Long Beach location is small and gets busy during lunchtime, so expect a small wait before you order at the register. This should give you plenty of time to browse the multi-page menu filled with pictures and decide on whether you’re going to get a plate of egg-topped kimchi fried rice, a basket of Cajun fries, a bowl of hot and sour tom kah soup, or a dozen spicy Hiccups wings. Keeping it classy, Hiccups might also be the only place where you can get your boba with a side of filet mignon; the pricier beef cut is available bo luc lac-style (aka shaking beef) with a plate of buttery garlic noodles or in a big bowl of approachable (aka not too aromatic) pho.
Closer to the counter, there’s a flat screen TV on a stand flashing the day’s lunch specials ($9 with a tea included) and with any luck, what you’d already decided to eat is on there.
Once you order, you’ll be given a coffee shop milk steamer filled with chopsticks, napkins and silverware along with your number. Find one of the wood tables in the small dining room and let the friendly Hiccups staff take care of the rest. One employee is always assigned just to handle the floor, and they’ll run your food, bring you water and come by to check on you as if there was full table service all along.
With sugary drinks for every palate, food ranging from bar snacks to filling pan-Asian comfort food, and customer service that doesn’t stop at the counter, could Hiccups be the future of American-bred Asian tea houses?
We can only hope.
1946 N. Lakewood Blvd, Long Beach; (562) 597-5099; hiccupsteahouse.com