The last time we spoke with the Kroft team was in 2014, not long after its flagship location opened inside the Anaheim Packing House. The Santa Ana-based duo of Stephen Le and Matthew Tong had ambitious plans to expand, with their second spot, in Tustin, set to open within a few months. Flash forward to now, and it’s clear the Kroft guys made some changes to that plan. Namely, closing the Union Market Tustin locale to focus on a brand-new space in Long Beach.
The most recent addition to Long Beach Exchange’s Hangar food hall, the Kroft celebrated its official grand opening last weekend, handing out free grub and restaurant swag to the first 100 customers in line. The menu here mirrors previous installments, with sandwiches, sides, drinks, dipping sauces and a section dedicated solely to poutine. “We fell in love with poutines when we traveled to Canada,” Tong says, “and felt Southern California needed a place that specializes in poutines.”
Among the new items are the tikka masala poutine, East Coast dip sandwich, Cubano sandwich and cheeseburger eggrolls. Though I was excited to try them all, on the day I went, just prior to the grand opening, the kitchen was out of the East Coast dip. I was disheartened, as it promised a combination of braised pork, broccoli rabe, pork au jus, provolone and horseradish sauce, but I soldiered on.
The Cubano sandwich comes on a sweet brioche-type bun, stuffed with tender, shredded pork, marbled slices of ham, thick pickle rounds, a smear of mustard aioli (which was more mustard than aioli, thankfully), and melted, gooey Swiss cheese. Grab some napkins—from the residual-butter shine of the bun to the cheese and fillings sliding out the side, this sandwich is fairly messy business.
The tikka masala poutine, on the other hand, comes neatly contained in a paper box (though if you are handed a to-go bag, be careful, as that box is not closed inside, presumably to keep contents from oversteaming themselves). A spectacular Canadian drunk food, poutine traditionally consists of French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy, plus any number of additional toppings. Here, a heaping portion of fries is doused in a deeply rich, spicy tikka masala sauce and a quick drizzle of crema. Start digging, and you’ll find hearty pieces of roasted chicken and marble-sized white cheese curds that render soft and sweet to the bite. It’s huge and heavy—and if the Kroft were open past midnight, this poutine would for sure be a late-night top seller.
The rest of the menu features the same over-the-top cheat-day items that made the Kroft’s concept so popular (and also nab our Readers’ Choice award for Best Fries in 2018), including Flaming Hot Cheese Curds and the braised beef poutine, which features gravy, mushrooms and, of course, braised beef—“one of our favorites,” according to Tong. The Loco Moco version finds the same massive mound of fries topped with meatloaf, brown gravy and fried onions, all crowned by a fried egg.
There’s also a porchetta sandwich that comes with three kinds of pork: pork belly, brined pork loin and cracklings. And if you really need a vegetable, you can get a side of Brussels sprouts or jalapeño coleslaw for just a few dollars each.
“It’s like a fast casual gastropub,” Tong says. “The Kroft definitely adds some hearty comfort food to the Long Beach scene.”
The Kroft, 4150 McGowen, Long Beach, (562) 420-5097; www.thekroft.com.