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The Seven Best Places To Eat On the West Side of Long Beach

Although the west side is considered to be one of the poorest neighborhoods in Long Beach, it houses some of the most unique places to eat, from pink noodles at a Buddhist temple to shrimp pupusas and wine-cured salami sandwiches.

Lomo saltado at Casa Chaskis, photo: Casa Chasksis

As a child I remember seeing the sign in front of St. Lucy’s Church on Santa Fe Avenue offering services in English, Spanish, and in Tagalog. Though I no longer know if this is still the case, it was always an indicator that my Long Beach neighborhood was diverse.

School potlucks at Garfield Elementary consisted of a panoply of snacks and cuisines: Mexican, Soul food, Filipino, Samoan, Salvadoran...

One of the last vestiges of a once thriving Japanese population on the west side existed right in front of Cabrillo High: Nagahamas, a quick-bite eatery that catered to students and staff alike before the entire building was demolished many years ago to make way for an extension of Admiral Kidd Park.

The neighborhood is bordered by Anaheim Street, the 405 Freeway, and the L.A. River, up until the Terminal Island Freeway (the 103) on its western end, which is shadowed by the ever-present refineries slightly beyond Long Beach city limits. Pacific Coast Highway separates the west side’s industrial zone and residential area, a symbol of the west side’s blue collar history and identity.

Although the west side is considered to be one of the poorest neighborhoods in Long Beach, it houses some of the most unique places to eat in the city. One of  its claims to gastronomic fame is that it houses the oldest operating Taco Bell in the world (Taco Bell #2), where a plaque once commemorated that fact, before its last major remodeling.

The following are just some of the many restaurants and eateries to check out while in the neighborhood, or while heading over to Tambuli Market for your Filipino fix.

photo: Birrieria Tepechi

Birriería Tepechi

You could almost miss this restaurant near the west side's outer extremities if it weren’t for the giant sign towering over it. Tepechi, short for Tepechitlán, a town and municipality in Zacatecas, Mexico, reflects the westside's small Zacatecan population, who come for its specialty: Zacatecan birria. Calm during the week, the L-shaped dining room and patio fill with locals nursing their hangovers or having post-Mass meals with their families.Servers rush about, replenishing everyone's refreshing aguas frescas, micheladas, or caffeinated pick-me-ups. The must-haves from this extensive menu include the massive portions of birria, available in, or alongside, consomé, and available with both lamb or goat. The birria en adobo is a thick, paste-like birria that's bright red in color. Birria can also be ordered in tacos or burritos, a perfect excuse for ladling on their homemade salsa.

1440 Santa Fe Ave. Long Beach, CA 90813. Closest Metro line and stop: Bus Line 232 - “Anaheim/Santa Fe.”

Santa Fe Importers Italian Deli and Market

Operating since 1947, Santa Fe Importers is a popular lunch destination for industrial and refinery workers during the week, a living monument to the Greek and Italian working class that once widely filled the west side. The line at this old school Italian deli is now more diverse, wrapping around the counter for one of the many cold cut sandwiches or steaming hot pasta plates, pizzas, or hot sandwiches. You can't go wrong with their saucy meatball sub, pastrami with mustard and pickles, or special cold sandwich composed of imported ham, wine-cured Italian and cotto salami, and Swiss cheese. The deli is home to an impressive assortment of imported Italian foods, including cheeses, cured meats, pastas, sauces, and wine, plus other Italian desserts and delicacies for home. We prefer sitting on the old bar stools, stuck in time and dining in while scanning the newspaper clippings, accolades, and old family photographs that immortalize its rich history.

1401 Santa Fe Ave. Long Beach, CA 90813. Closest Metro line and stop: Bus Line 232 - “Anaheim/Santa Fe.”

Wat Buddhavipassana Food Court

Every Sunday behind the large, nearly hidden Buddhist temple by Hudson Park, you'll see monks, temple members, and neighbors amass at Wat Buddhavipassana's food court. One enters through an alley, soon greeted by the sounds of volunteer karaoke emcees and temple attendants singing Thai ballads and Frank Sinatra. The otherwise serene parking lot environment finds a gathering of stands serving pad thai, pad see ew, pink noodles, skewered meats, and refreshing Thai coffee and iced green tea, all obtainable with tokens you trade your cash for (all proceeds go to the maintenance of the Buddhist temple.). Grab one of the few tables, adorned with containers holding pepper flakes, sriracha, or pickled green peppers. If you're not a fan of amateur ballads, take your meal over to Hudson Park for a tree-shaded picnic with views of Sunday soccer or local league baseball. Currently running at minimum capacity due to construction and remodeling of the temple, the food court is set to run at full speed again in September 2023.

2015 W. Hill St. Long Beach, CA 90810. Closest transit lines: Long Beach Transit Lines 191 and 192 - "Santa Fe/Hill."

Chaufa de mariscos photo: Casa Chaskis

Casa Chaskis

Over many years of seeing the west side transform, mostly for the better, I count this restaurant amid one of the improvements, not just in the local dining scene, but in improving the whole west side community. Casa Chaskis serves food, of course, but also provides a community garden in its parking lot, once an empty lot littered with trash. Volunteers work this garden through the week, providing some of the harvested produce back to Casa Chaskis. This goes into excellent dishes, like the kicking/cooling ceviche de pescado and ceviche mixto, as well as in heartier dishes, like the lomo saltado and chaufa de camaron. Their drinks are also made with fresh produce from the garden, including a strawberry lemonade. A tempting gambit. But we still recommend the Peruvian purple corn agua fresca known as chicha morada.

2380 Santa Fe Ave. Long Beach, CA 90810. Closest transit lines: Long Beach Transit Lines 101, 102, 103, 104 - "Santa Fe/25th" or Long Beach Transit Lines 191 and 192 - "Santa Fe/23rd."

Tambuli Supermarket

Here we have a two-for-one, as there are two great places on site to grab bites to-go. On the market's right hand side is a location of Luisa and Son, a bakery empire that originated in Manila and is now spreading around California. One can grab traditional Filipino pastries such as buko pie, similar to a coconut pie, ube and mango rolls, baked siopao buns stuffed with longanisa sausage, amid a variety of sweet and savory treats to take home or on the go. 

pancit malabon at Lusia and Son, photo: Luisa and Son

A few feet past the registers, you'll find Chow Fun Express, which operates like a deli where you can pick and choose your entrees and sides. These include amazing traditional Filipino dishes, like chicken adobo, lechon kawali, and hearty beef kaldereta. There are plentiful seafood options, too, like sweet-and-sour fish, seafood kare-kare, a stew made with a savory and thick peanut sauce, and on occasion, ihaw-ihaw (meaning “grill-grill" and comprising an assortment of grilled skewered meats). While it offers stellar catering, the best individual order at Chow Fun is a combo meal with one or two entrees, rice, or pancit. An assortment of canned and bottled Filipino beverages can found inside the market to wash everything down.

2520 Santa Fe Ave. Long Beach, CA 90810. Closest transit lines: Long Beach Transit Lines 101, 102, 103, 104 - "Santa Fe/25th" or Long Beach Transit Lines 191 and 192 - "Santa Fe/23rd."

photo: FialaRose/Instagram

Pupuseria Salvadoreña Restaurant

The single southeast corner of Easy and Willow offers a great representation of the west side's diversity. Sandwiched between the Li Hoa Fish Market and Boba Tea House, Pupuseria Salvadoreña offers fresh pupusas and other traditional Salvadoran dishes. The blue and white interior reflects the colors of the Salvadoran flag, interspersed with brightly painted murals representing scenes of the Salvadoran countryside. Pupusa recipes range from revueltas (made with a blend of chicharron, beans, and melty cheese), calabasa (squash) and cheese, those with spinach and the herb loroco, plus, get this, shrimp pupusas. Adding additional flexibility to your orders, the pupusas can even be made with rice flour. There are also hardy huevos revueltos con casamiento (vegetable-scrambled eggs, black beans, queso freso, Salvadoran-style sour cream, and a large fried plantain), among other great breakfast choices. Other customary options include fried yucca,pan con pollo, and tamales. End the meal with the Salvadoran pan dulce known as a quesadilla, or the nuegados con miel (nugs of fried dough bathed in honey) with a cafecito, ensalada, or Kolashampan, El Salvador's sweet and invigorating fruit-and-cola soda.

1336 W. Willow St. #102 Long Beach, CA 90810. Closest transit lines: Long Beach Transit Lines 41, 101, 102, 103, 104 - "Willow/Easy" or Long Beach Transit Lines 191 and 192 - "Santa Fe/Willow."

Boba Tea House

After those pupusas, you'll find Boba Tea House right next door. If another full meal is out of the question, pick up one of their many snacks for home. The fish or squid balls are both great deals, each portion offering 10 balls for under $4.00. Their fresh and crunchy spring rolls are also always a good bet as is the more filling banh mi, served on fresh, flaky baguettes with crunchy carrots and jalapeños. I like those with BBQ pork or Korean-style beef, though the veggie option is similarly wonderful. And don't even question it, add the pate for extra protein and savory flavor. They offer additional entrees embracing southeast Asian recipes such as pho, pad thai, fried rice, and vermicelli. Milk teas, slushies, smoothies, and coffees abound, with add-ons such as boba or colorful fruit jellies for texture, flavor, and just to keep cool.

1336 W. Willow St. #103 Long Beach, CA 90810. Closest transit lines: Long Beach Transit Lines 41, 101, 102, 103, 104 - "Willow/Easy" or Long Beach Transit Lines 191 and 192 - "Santa Fe/Willow."

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