By Gina Valencia
One of the great pleasures of traveling is trying local cuisine. In a city as large and diverse as Long Beach, known as the International City, one is only minutes away from quality and authentic foods from around the world. We can travel the globe through our tastebuds in our own backyard.
(North America: Caribbean)
The first thing you will notice when walking into Grilled Fraiche located in the North Los Altos Shopping Center is its ambience. Bold
colors of orange, yellow, and blue metal chairs; lush green plants and bamboo on the tables; bright white frames featuring inspirational quotes. Most importantly, the warm welcome and greeting from the team. “I’m the type of person who cannot stand quietly in an elevator with other people,” said the owner, Peace Love Reedburg. “I’m saying ‘hello’ wherever I go.”
Peace Love, who absolutely embodies his name, opened this Long Beach location in late 2021 with an aim to educate his community about healthy and delicious meal options that nourish body and soul. Grilled Fraiche is a place where customers are encouraged to slow down and be still. “We care about the whole well-being,” he said. The advice/motto printed on their menus speaks for itself: “Love one another, the time is now.”
Long Beach head chef Jeanette “Netty” Harvey gathers amazing food: plant-based vegan and vegetarian; kosher; gluten-free; and of course, meat plates for fellow carnivores like myself. Be sure to try one of Chef Netty’s savory bowls! The oxtail and vegan crab cake bowls were my favorites.
Grilled Fraiche / @grilledfraiche
2210 N Bellflower Blvd, Long Beach 90815, (562) 431-2499
(South America: Colombian)
A soccer game on the flat screen television, upbeat Spanish music playing in the background, bright Latin American casual decor hanging on the walls. With the scent of delicious spices permeating the room. El Paisa is like walking into a relative’s home. For owners of El Paisa (Spanish for ‘fellow countryman’) restaurant, their ‘secret ingredient’ is passion, which is evident in everything they serve up, from the hearty family style portions to the homey atmosphere.
Growing up with Colombian and El Salvadorian parents who loved to cook, owner Melvin Henriquez was destined to work in the restaurant business. Conversing in Spanish over strong coffee and warm Empanadas Colombianas con salsa aji (one of the tastiest salsas I’ve ever had), Melvin and his mother, Señora Julia, talked about his childhood in El Salvador, where Señora Julia sold homemade food and market products from their house. “Melvin always had a head for business,” she said. “He’d run all over town and get prepaid orders.”
As is common in Latino cultures, Melvin and his siblings were so accustomed to being in the kitchen that when the family moved to New York from El Salvador, most continued to work in restaurants. Noticing the lack of quality Colombian restaurants in Southern California, they made the move to Long Beach about 8 years ago and opened El Paisa. While Melvin runs this location, his sister runs a Salvadorian restaurant, La Guanaquita, just minutes away. “These recipes are what our abuela used,” Melvin said.
Enjoying mounds of savory meats and potatoes, warm cheesy corn cakes, fried sweet plantains, and an enormous mango margarita all while talking and laughing with Melvin and Señora Julia felt like spending the afternoon with familia.
El Paisa / paisacolombiano.com
1640 Orange Ave, Long Beach 90813,
Rasselbock Kitchen & Beer Garden (Europe: German)
Opened in 2016, in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood, Rasselbock is a quaint eatery serving up mouthwatering traditional German fare with a twist. “We take a modern approach to German cuisine,” said co-owner Bjoern Risse. “It’s not just the heavy meat and pork plates. We have vegetarian and vegan options. Even vegan schnitzel.” Named after a mythological animal with the body of a jackrabbit and antelope antlers, Rasselbock is one of four restaurants run by Bjoern and his business partner.
When he moved to California in 2008, Bjoern missed the authentic German food and camaraderie found in a traditional biergarten. With a business and marketing background, he and his business partner decided to open a beer garden in Hollywood. Later, while visiting Long Beach, Bjoern and his wife discovered Bixby Knolls and fell in love with the neighborhood. Not only did they open Rasselbock, they eventually moved into Bixby Knolls and opened another restaurant, Wood & Salt Tavern, just down the street.
Rasselbock serves appetizing sausages with house-made mustards; schnitzels with red cabbage and spätzle; and an impressive selection of German and Belgian beers, German and Californian wines, and house-made Sangria.
Starting in mid-September through the end of October, Rasselbock hosts family-friendly Oktoberfest specials along with live music. When you’re ready for a filling meal and a tall das boot filled to the brim with cold, golden beer, head on over to Rasselbock. Eend the night with an order of apple strudel. Lecker!
Rasselbock Kitchen & Beer Garden / https://www.rasselbocklb.com/
4020 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach 90807,
Sumptuous African Restaurant
Sumptuous African Restaurant is famous for its high quality and authentic Nigerian dishes. Truck drivers heading to and from the Long Beach port make a stop at this little restaurant off Atlantic on routes to pick up homemade fufu (mashed yam made daily by chef and supervisor Linda Bolongo), egusi soup, and jollof rice with meat. “We get a lot of pick-up orders and walk-ins,” said Linda, who has been a chef ‘all of her life.’ Every morning she stirs up batches of the popular fufu for her clientele in search of genuine Nigerian food, so much so she considers it a workout for her arms.
Sumptuous Long Beach opened in early 2022, and is one of very few authentic African cuisine restaurants in the city. The bright orange walls and beautiful tiled counter is a casual ‘hole in the wall’ place that is becoming more well-known through word-of-mouth. They offer a buffet-style selection of beef, chicken, fish, and plant-based options.
Sumptuous African Restaurant / sumptuousafricanrestaurant.com
1909 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach 90806, (562) 606-2772
CaliChilli (Asia: Indian)
If you haven’t tried Indian food, “You’re missing out,” said CaliChilli general manager Vijay Rajput. “Most people think Indian food is spicy,” he said. “There are spices, but it’s flavorful, not spicy.” CaliChilli, described as an ‘unauthentic Indian cuisine’ offers a unique blend of ‘signature Indian flavors’ paired with contrasting ingredients, such as their Tellicherry shrimp served with buttery grits, and their take on eggplant lasagna layered with paneer cheese.
Michelin Star chef Mural Manjunath, who oversees this location as well as two restaurants in Singapore, is the brains behind most of the menu at CaliChilli. The exceptional dishes offered with an international flavor include traditional North Indian cuisine mixed with flavors such as Italian (Pesto Paneer, and Calamari & French Bean), French (Truffle Chicken Tikka - Vijay’s delicious inspiration that has become a personal comfort food), Middle Eastern (Gilafi Seekh Kebab), and Mexican (Cali Quesadilla and CaliChilli Nachos).
Vijay, whose father was a trained chef in India, has been in the restaurant business his ‘whole life,’ opening his first restaurant at age 21 in Bloomington, Indiana. The business of running a restaurant is “brutally difficult,” he said. “Sometimes, things go wrong, or very wrong,” he laughed. “There’s a science and an art to it. It takes a village to make a restaurant happen.”
CaliChilli / www.cali-chilli.com
4111 N. Viking Way, Long Beach 90808,