For six glorious weeks at the end of 2015, the best Korean restaurant in Long Beach turned into the city’s best new breakfast cafe, meaning you could sit inside the underutilized third room at Sura on Atlantic Avenue most mornings and order a daily single-origin cold brew, a cardamom spice latte or a winter goat cheese and persimmon tartine from Wide Eyes Open Palms. The cozy, pop-up cafe setting suited the WeOp concept well, and gave owners Kat McIver and Angie Evans a chance to prove what’s possible when given access to simple amenities like running water, electricity and a full kitchen.
Over the last three years, Wide Eyes Open Palms has built an impressive following through curated events and weekly appearances at several local farmers markets, where they served everything from pour-over coffees to tisanes to pastries to toasts with little more than hand-labeled jars of homemade drink blends and a camping stove. Yet from under their little white tent, Evans — the barista behind the specialty coffee and tea selections — and her longtime partner McIver — a chef who makes nourishing seasonal food from local ingredients — were quietly building something greater.
Last week that something greater finally opened: the Wide Eyes Open Palms cafe, a real living, 10-seat storefront just off Retro Row teeming with good vibes and even better product. Both women have an extensive history of service in their respective arenas, all of which are on display at the bright and airy new space. McIver spent the better part of a decade cooking her way through the region’s best market-driven community kitchens, working at everywhere from Canelé in Atwater Village to Sqirl to Mother’s Market’s in-store restaurants in O.C. Evans, originally from the Bay Area, is a well-informed coffee and tea nerd who worked at Belmont Heights favorite Viento y Agua for eight years, managing the local shop for six of them.
At their new cafe, McIver still makes her spiced cookies, fruited scones and muffins from the farmers market days, but the menu focuses even more on turning local bounty into frittatas, tarts, and eggy breakfasts. The small selection of hot food includes several popular dishes — like a soft-boiled egg paired with buttered bread and a Sqirl-esque jam and ricotta toast — that were pulled directly from the Sura pop-up days (a quinoa egg-bowl special on opening day was also made with Farm Lot 59 sorrell).
Evans’ drink menu remains just as expansive and creative as before. Brewed coffee from Four Barrel, Ritual and Kuma hold down the traditional brewed-coffee side, and her signature lattes include house syrups like rosemary, molasses agave and cardamom. All six of WeOp’s herbal tisane blends (perhaps you’ve seen them for sale at MADE by Millworks or Rainbow Juices?) are available as hot or iced drinks, too, or you can get your herbal kick in the form of a matcha-honey latte, a white peony tea cold brew or a masala-blended chai.
The cafe is the culmination of Evans and McIver’s inspiring relationship and a fitting combination of their two lifelong passions. But WeOp is also an ode to their community, which has followed the queer-and-proud couple through a lot of iterations, attending pop-ups at juice bars and Korean restaurants, showing up each week at the Bixby Park farmers market and waiting, patiently, for the day when WeOp would be blessed with a few simple amenities like running water, electricity and a full, high-tech kitchen.
Wide Eyes Open Palms Cafe, 416 Cherry Ave., Long Beach, (562) 225-2957; wideeyesopenpalms.com
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.