Unless we’re headed to the beach or accidentally miss our turn off Ocean Boulevard onto Bay Shore Avenue, most of us don’t often venture to the Peninsula, a long, narrow belt of land lined with waterfront houses we’ll never afford. But with this new little spot, that may change. (Trust me: It’s worth finding parking for.)
Vibes Beach Cafe opened in December, taking over a space that previously held a handful of different eateries, but had been vacant for years. In fact, 62nd Place, a miniature side street, is the only commercial area on the entire Peninsula. There’s a liquor store and a laundromat, but walk closer toward the docks, and you’ll find Vibes, the only restaurant on the strip. Bright and breezy, the café specializes in cuisine that’s organic, locally sustained and plant-based. (Though there are some meat dishes on the menu, they may be prepared as vegetarian, and many items can be made vegan.)
Owned by mother and daughter Cindy and Makenzie Hendrix, who both live on the Peninsula, Vibes Beach Cafe is the first venture into restaurant ownership for either of them. But this is one heck of a first run: Makenzie has an evident talent for design (Vibes is one of the prettiest restaurants in the city, large or small, with each tabletop seemingly chosen as an Instagram-perfect background), and family friend/Food Network chef Hugo Sanchez brings his culinary skills to the kitchen.
The day Vibes debuted its breakfast service (I went at 9:30 a.m. on a Wednesday), the restaurant was packed—not that there are many seats anyway. This is a cozy venue, with a coffee counter at the entrance and a few tables in the dining area, which leads to a tiny open-air patio complete with a wall fountain. Look up, and you’ll catch a glimpse of a petite rooftop garden. “We grow everything you can’t get from a tree,” Makenzie says. “Our ingredients are about quality over quantity. If it’s not organic, it’s local.”
Breakfast choices range from traditional (the Peninsula Plate is a classic eggs-toast-potatoes-meat combo) to more contemporary (the Breakfast Pizza comes with ham, sunny-side-up eggs, mozzarella and chile peppers). The Breakfast Tacos, which Makenzie calls “a game changer,” feature two soft blue-corn tortillas, a queso fresco spread, roasted sweet potatoes, sunny-side-up eggs, toasted walnuts, fennel and two different salsas. One taco has a stripe of fresh pico de gallo, the other a zesty green tomatillo sauce. “You shouldn’t have to compromise taste to be vegetarian,” she adds.
The tartines on the menu are actually dressed-up toast options. The Avo Smash starts with the ubiquitous brunch standard of avocado toast, then adds heirloom tomatoes and a poached egg. My personal favorite is the Honey and Ricotta Tartine, an inch-thick slice of toasted sesame-seed bread smothered in ricotta, with pools of honey and a topping of even more sesame seeds. Salty, sweet, creamy, crunchy—get this one to-go on days when breakfast must be eaten during your commute.
Vegan nutrient bomb the Blue Bowl is a frozen slushie mix of almond milk and tart-sweet tropical fruits that’s made bright turquoise by blue algae powder, then topped with sweetened granola, chia seeds, and a mix of perfectly ripe berries and flowers. Because everything here is beautiful.
As of press time, Vibes Beach Cafe serves coffee every day starting at 6:30 a.m. and breakfast service at 7 a.m. Lunch is offered in the afternoon, and the place closes at 3:30 p.m. Come summer, hours may extend and introduce a dinner menu. “Everything we’ve done, we’ve done in stages,” Makenzie explains.
Peninsula locals will no doubt be the first to know about any changes, though. “The sense of community is really heartwarming,” says Makenzie. “I love seeing neighbors run into each other here.”
Vibes Beach Cafe, 76 1/2 62nd Place, Long Beach, (562) 343-5572; www.vibeslb.com.