The Ordinarie Goes All-American

Rock lobsta! Photo by Erin DeWitt.

Located on the north patch of Long Beach’s downtown promenade, next to Congregation Ale House and Harvelle’s, in the space that once housed the legendary Blue Café, a new eatery opened last month from the creative minds behind Irish-pub standard Auld Dubliner. But even among the city’s flourishing population of trendy gastro havens, the Ordinarie is singular.

So what exactly is an ordinarie? It’s basically a legally required tavern, a law put in place some 400 years ago. Every community is required by law to build an ordinarie for the receiving, refreshment and entertainment of travelers and strangers. “That’s where the name came from,” explains owner Christy Caldwell.

Caldwell defines his new restaurant as “an American tavern,” saying the menu “pays respect to American hospitality throughout the years [with] comfort food, regional specialties and tavern food.” And to chefs Albert Kim, Chelsea McNeill and Sarah Harrington, that meant creating a contemporary menu flush with distinctively American fare.

Bet you can’t just have one. Photo by Erin DeWitt.

For starters, there are Virginia ham and Vermont Cheddar popovers, which come four muffin-shaped disks per order. The sharp cheese and julienne-cut pork make the airy bread dish hearty and substantial enough to be an entrée on its own, rounded out by a scoop of citrusy maple butter on the side.

The New England-style lobster roll features a freshly toasted brioche roll holding massive chunks of lobster, including several pieces of fully intact claw meat, tossed in a light dressing of tarragon, celery and citrus. No mayo here, thank God. On the sides, you have a choice of either French fries, wrapped in a decorative newspaper-print cone, or a simple green salad in a light vinaigrette with red onions and thin slices of beets.

Also offered are such regional, history-soaked culinary contributions as Carolina-style barbecue chicken wings, a Waldorf salad, short-rib beef-dip sandwiches, patty melts and Apple Brown Betties. Though the menu is meat-dominant, there are vegetarian options such as zucchini fritters and a fig-and-apple salad.

Those looking to quench their thirst can delight in the Ordinarie’s alcoholic-beverage book, double the length of the food menu and featuring an extensive selection of cocktails, beer and wine, each section introduced by jaunty illustrations of drunken pilgrims. The skillfully composed list of “Cock-Tails” includes imaginatively named drinks such as the Somewhere In Massachusetts, made of rum, maple, lime, birch beer, mint and maple candy. The Junius Collins mixes vodka, pear-cranberry shrub and pistachio orgeat. If you’re feeling brave, order the Goat’s Delight, a perilous combination of brandy, cream and absinthe. Patrons can watch their libations being stirred and shaken at the restaurant’s sizable bar, constructed of rich, ornately detailed wood and taking up one entire length of the venue.

With partners David Copley and Eric Johnson (both from Auld Dubliner), Caldwell took on an extensive remodel of the vacant-for-years prime spot, ripping out any signs it was once a live-music venue. The result is a retro-modern combination of industrial exposed beams; high-top wooden stools with curvy backs and brown, black and wine-colored cushions; mirrors with placed-just-so age spots; tiny black-and-white checkered tiles; and framed prints of centuries-old oil paintings. Nearly the entire front-facing wall slides open to incorporate an outside patio into the dining area.

If colonial Boston chic is a thing, it’s here at the Ordinarie. And be sure to take home the little, red-white-and-blue, star-spangled box of matches that comes with your bill.

The Ordinarie, 210 The Promenade N., Long Beach, (562) 676-4261; www.theordinarie.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *