Communal Outdoor Dining Concepts!
By Gina Ramsey
Summer is the perfect time to try a new restaurant with friends an family. So grab a friend, so pack up the kids, and head out to eat, drink, and relax at some of the city’s outdoor venues.
2ND & PCH
A relative newcomer to the Long Beach scene, having opened in October 2019, “2ND & PCH” offers upscale indoor and outdoor dining, shopping, and health and beauty services. Located at the corner of, well, 2nd Street and Pacific Coast Highway, the place has several restaurants and shops encircling a spacious open-air dining and recreation area that features plenty of lounge seating and fire pits designed for comfort on those cool So Cal nights.
From sushi at Otosan, homemade pasta dishes from The Italian Homemade Company and plant-based vegan meals from Hungry Angelina, to classic rotisserie chicken from Noble Bird and Mexican comfort food from Ola overlooking the marina, there are over a dozen eateries to satisfy all palates. There are plenty of options for dessert as well, like Ample Hills Creamery and Tuesday’s Sweet Shoppe. Or pick up an artisanal boba drink from the Boba Guys or a cup of the Chef Series coffee from Caffe Luxxe and do some window shopping at some of the specialty retailers such as Paper Source, Lululemon, and Johnny Was.
When Melissa Ward was pregnant with her son Liam, she had a routine that involved going to the Long Beach Exchange. After her yoga class at Ra Yoga, she headed into The Hangar for an Acai bowl from Blue Bowl. Now with Liam ready to munch on more than baby food, they enjoy strolling to Jay Bird’s for chicken strips and fries. “We love this place,” Ward said.
"[The Hangar] is a great place to bring friends for the variety of eateries.”
Bringing people out and about was a main focus when designing the Exchange, according to Steve Thorp, partner with Burnham Ward Properties. “We live in an incredible area,” Thorp said. “We wanted to make sure there was plenty of open area for people to enjoy eating outdoors in the beautiful weather.”
Long Beach Exchange, or LBX, opened in the Spring of 2018 and features several shops, services, and restaurants, as well as two acres of communal open space. Located on the corner of Lakewood and Carson near the airport, LBX comprises three separate yet integral areas: McGowen’s Approach (described as the LBX’s Main Street), The Landing (a central plaza) and The Hangar (a 16,800 square-foot ‘hangar’ which features an assortment of eateries).
Because of its proximity to the airport and history of aviation construction in the neighborhood, the LBX theme is all about airports and planes. Plane motifs and vintage airline posters decorate the outdoor patios while black-and-white photographs of planes, airline equipment, and women hard at the assembly lines spruce up the inside of The Hangar. When walking in through the front entrance of The Hangar, you’ll find a large classic split-flap departure board hanging above Portola Coffee Roasters listing the vendors available within. Just like arriving for a flight, pick up a cup of their Rose & Cardamom Latte, and take a walk around the world as you decide on Vietnamese (Bite Mi, serving up traditional banh mi sandwiches), Mediterranean (Doner G’s Turkish and Mediterranean Grill), Mexican (Amorcito Urban Taqueria), Korean (Marinate Korean BBQ), Chinese (Morning Nights plant-based dim sum), or Canadian (The Kroft, reinventing poutines). Or perhaps you’re in the mood for some American comfort (Plaid Sheep Grilled
Cheese Bar; Jay Bird’s Nashville Hot Chicken; Blue Bowl Superfoods). End with a delicious gelato treat from Popbar for the kids and a nice cold one for the grown-ups at Bottlecraft
Once you’ve decided on your destination, take your meal outdoors to a lawn chair and appreciate the view. If you’re there on a Wednesday or Saturday evening, enjoy the live music. Bon Voyage and Bon Appetit!
Located in the Bixby Knolls district, SteelCraft brings a trendy yet homey atmosphere to its wide array of clientele. Whether you’re looking to enjoy a pint (or two) with friends or a full dinner with the whole family, SteelCraft has just the thing for everyone.
SteelCraft, which features exclusively outdoor picnic-table dining, is a collection of restaurants constructed out of shipping containers with a variety of different tastes. “Our customers really show the DNA of the city,” founder Kim Gros said. If you’re in the mood for Italian, step right up to Desano Pizza. Hankering for a juicy cheeseburger and loaded crisscut fries instead? Then Hangry Belly is for you. And for all us street taco lovers, La Taqueria Brand offers homestyle recipes including Birria Tacos with house-made salsas. If you prefer something sweet and savory, head to Waffle Love for fried chicken and waffles.
“One of our values has always been about community,” Gros said. “From the neighborhood to our vendors, it’s about bringing people together.”
Smog City Brewing offers 20 taps of draft beer, including Coffee Porter and Hoptonic IPA, by the glass or in take-home growlers. Save room for dessert from Rori’s Artisanal Creamery or chocolatier Romeo Chocolates, both of which boast hand-crafted flavors. For that afternoon pick-me-up, grab a freshly brewed cup at Steelhead coffee, which also offers tap-poured Kombucha.
Summer plans include continuing their live music evenings, as well as other events such as pop-up shops, artist events, trivia nights, and kid classes. “We want people to make and share memories over a meal,” Gros said.
At the busy intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Artesia Boulevard in North Long Beach, a novel concept has taken root. Much like the open-communal eating space of SteelCraft, Uptown Commons has arrived with four established brand eateries.
Across the street sits Jordan High School, and like many other urban neighborhoods with a large public school, fast food joints surround the area. And although there are traditional authentic delicious ma-and-pa restaurants too, the idea behind Uptown Commons was to bring some new flavors to the district.
“Sometimes people just go to what they know and are not very adventurous with food,” said Erwin De La Cruz, owner of Oi Asian Fusion. “We hope after someone tries it, they come back with friends for more.” Along with Oi Asian Fusion, Main Chick hot chicken - both constructed out of shipping containers - opened in August 2020 amid the pandemic. Since then, Shomi Noods ramen bar and Portside Fishery joined the family. While the patio is large and airy with colorful long picnic-style tables, its four surrounding eateries give the space an intimate feel. Portside also offers indoor seating with tables and a bar, and an outdoor bar area.
For those days when you’re in the mood to try something new and want to support this amazing venture, head to Uptown Commons. If you’re unsure about what to try first, De La Cruz suggests trying something familiar but with a twist, like their Oi Burger made with truffle shiitake mushrooms. Or stop by on a Tuesday for their $1 off delicious pork belly jicama tacos, because on Tuesday everyone should celebrate all things taco.
Saunter over to Main Chick for their loaded MC chicken sandwich and a side of mac and cheese. On cooler evenings, a good Tonkotsu ramen bowl from Shomi Noods always hits the spot. If it’s fresh seafood you’re craving, order a Michelada and the ortside’s San Pedro Platter to share on a warm summer afternoon.