BY: DEVIN UGLAND
Ever get tired of the same old restaurants that you frequently visit? Many of the popular chains that people go to for lunch and dinner offer food and drinks that can be found all over the country. The three places featured in this article can help you break out of your typical routine while each providing you with a unique dining experience. One thing remains true throughout these places: great food and tasty craft beer. Beachwood BBQ and Brewing 201 E. 3rd Street Long Beach, CA beacwoodbbq.com
Unparalleled love for BBQ and beer unite at Beachwood BBQ and Brewing -- the sister location of the famous Beachwood BBQ in downtown Seal Beach.
It opened in July bringing along the same approach to the menu, while making one great improvement from the original Seal Beach location. It's all in the name: Beachwood BBQ and Brewing. It's exactly that, the original Beachwood BBQ but with an added full scale on-site brewery, which provides customers with their choice of eight custom beers.
As for the food, Beachwood BBQ and Brewing takes a simple approach to creating its menu and putting out quality BBQ while still providing something different. General Manager Justin Evelyn said that they want to allow the meat to shine on its own. "We're basically Memphis-style BBQ with a twist," said Evelyn. "We do dry rubs, we don't slather everything in sauce, and we try and have the true flavor of the meat come through."
Not only do they have amazing pulled pork, brisket (with a choice of sauces the customer can mix and match for themselves) in addition to the normal BBQ items one would expect to find, but they also take appetizers and sides to a new level. A must-have starter is the "Smothered Steak Fries" -- thick cut french fries cooked to perfection, topped with melted cheddar and bleu cheese, and finished with a healthy sprinkling of bacon, green onions, and spicy buffalo sauce. "We have some creative appetizers and sides," said Evelyn. "Gabe Gordon, our owner and chef, has a fine-dining background, so he's taken the menu and approached it from a fine dining outlook."
For the person who may be a bit iffy about their beloved BBQ being approached from a fine-dining background, have no fear. Chef Gordon does a masterful job of keeping the BBQ integrity intact, while interjecting subtle fine-dining touches.
Evelyn is not only the general manager of Beachwood BBQ and Brewing, but also the beer buyer of the casual, laid-back BBQ and beer joint. He is both a certified Cicerone and a certified Sommelier and has been sharing his passion for the craft all over Southern California for the past ten years. Evelyn chooses each and every beer served in the restaurant from craft breweries. "I seek out all craft beers; we don't do any macro-breweries," he said. "I try and find the greatest beers I can and try to have a varied selection so that we have a well-rounded beer list."
The on-site brewery is run by award winning home-brewer Julian Shrego. Each craft beer available is featured chalkboard style up on the wall, while the house beers are on a separate menu. Shrego puts out eight house beers -- "He does mainly American focused beers, very hoppy and intense beers, as well as European styles," said Evelyn. Aside from the great food, Evelyn said he encourages people to come in and help create the ‘regular' vibe that is felt at the Seal Beach location. "We've got a knowledgeable staff that definitely focuses on creating relationships with our customers," he said. "In Seal Beach, 90-percent of the time the customers are in there once a week (if not more) and we're starting to develop the same thing here."
If there are still questions in your mind about whether or not to make your way down to Beachwood BBQ and Brewing, hesitate no more. A knowledgeable and friendly staff, delicious food, and an amazing choice of beer encourages a relaxing time with friends and an opportunity to engage in great conversation with the staff.
Brix Brews and N.Y. Deli 16635 Pacific Coast Hwy Sunset Beach, CA brixsunsetbeach.com
Let the fresh, salty ocean air lead you into Brix Brews and N.Y. Deli. Located just steps from the Sunset Beach sand, Brix offers a couple things the other two featured places do not: a full scale wine bar and authentic New York deli sandwiches.
Brix is a cozy beach side Restaurant, Bar and wine bar featuring a vast choice of craft beer's and custom wines. Don't be surprised if you see owner Rick Reich behind the bar engaging his regular and also new customers in a wine tasting. Reich feels that a casual family atmosphere is the only way to run the business. "We follow the premise, like in England, where everybody will be hugging each other and screaming at each other," said Reich. "But the bottom line is it's all about getting away from life with some enjoyment."
There are two sides to Brix Brews: one side focuses strictly on wine and the other caters to beer lovers. The wine-side was the first opened about six years ago; the beer-side, which Reich likes to refer to as the "dark side," has been open for just over a year now. Reich makes it a point to try and meld the two sides together to create an "adult amusement park." "We opened the wine side six years ago, and the beer side a year and two months ago and now we call it an adult amusement park," said Reich. "The people on the 'dark side' don't want anything to do with the people on the wine side, but somehow we get them mixed in together."
The food is also quite different from the choices that can be had at Beachwood and Congregation. Being from New York, Reich brought something with him that may be hard to come by in Southern California - authentic New York deli sandwiches. The idea behind the menu is simple: introduce the people of Southern Calif. to real pastrami, as well as a few twists on your regular bar food. "Out here people really think they have pastrami; they don't," Reich continued. "This is the real pastrami and this place is based on a real New York deli."
The deli meat is all made in-house. When he first opened Brix, Reich had his meat shipped in fresh from New York's famous Katz Deli. He decided that to best offer the official New York deli experience, he would start doing everything from scratch. Reich also does something special that you wouldn't normally come across when enjoying authentic pastrami. "The last thing we do -- that nobody else does -- is we grill it at the end," he said. "Instead of having all the meat steam all day and losing all of its flavor, we turn around and throw it on the grill (before finishing the sandwich)."
If deli sandwiches aren't your thing, Brix will be sure to change your mind. They also offer a variety of other options, including the amazing Brix burgers (I recommend the ‘Meshuggeneh). And if burgers aren't your cup of tea, Brix offers soups, salads, appetizers (Posh Lavash is highly recommended), and pizzas.
When asked what he would say to someone who was on the fence about Brix, Reich simply mentioned Brix' famous dish. "Well first of all, our signature dish: the ‘FughedAboudIt.'" Shortly after, Reich was quick to mention the atmosphere at Brix, and why people keep coming back. "I'd tell people to come see what everyone else has seen," he said. "People say ‘did that just happen to me?' because this is supposed to be about the experience."
Reich also explains that what his pride-and-joy offers is a rarity in this area.
"The difference between us and everybody else is, yes we have great beer; yes we have great food; yes we have great wine, but we make it an experience," said Reich. "Everybody in here talks to everybody else, just like the beer pubs across the way. Every one of my people is basically required to build a relationship with the others here."
Like Reich said, Brix serves great beer, wine and food, but the experience is second to none. He has truly taken ownership of Brix Brews and N.Y. Deli and treats it as his livelihood. If you're looking for a place to escape the grind of your daily life, allow Brix and Reich to give you an unforgettable experience. I guarantee this place is nothing to "fughed aboud ".
Congregation Ale House 201 E. Broadway Long Beach, CA congregationalehouse.com
If a unique assortment of craft beer and upscale bar food with a curveball thrown in are your thing, then Congregation Ale House is the place to be.
Located just a short walk from Beachwood BBQ and Brewing, Congregation Ale House provides its customers with quite a different vibe. As you walk into the dimly lit, wood-lined restaurant, you get the true feeling of what an upscale bar would feel like.
The manager, Carly Harris, said that Congregation is looking to draw in anyone who has an affinity for craft beer and good food. "We're really trying to bring a stronger craft beer presence to not only Long Beach, but the whole L.A. area," she said. "We're just trying to market [this idea] to anybody who is interested in learning more about it, and not only that but enjoying good food and good company."
Congregation has everything from burgers made with ground rib-eye to exotic sausages. Also offered is the normal beer steamed bratwurst, but they also have some interesting choices of sausages for their customers, including the duck and bacon, pork and goat cheese, and vegan apple sage sausages.
Harris said the style of food is pretty simple, but taken to the next level with some of the interesting choices they offer. "It's upscale bar food," she said. "We have burgers, fries and pretzels, and instead of the hot dog we offer exotic sausages, some stuff you've never heard of."
Similar to Beachwood BBQ and Brewing, Congregation showcases their beer list on chalkboard squares on the wall. You won't find any macro-breweries here either, as each beer served is hand picked by certified Cicero Eli Wilson, who tries to create a well- rounded beer list for customers. "Eli is our certified Cicero and he does a great job picking all of the beers that we have available," said Harris. If beer is not your thing, Congregation does offer a wide array of mixed drinks for the customer's enjoyment.
Congregation has been open in Long Beach for just over a year and offers quite a different dining experience that doesn't take a huge hit on the bank account. Instead of ordering your food from your table, Congregation offers a more informal, café-ordering style. Customers place their order at the cashier and are given a number. Patrons are free to sit wherever they like -- at the bar top, tables, out on the patio, or wherever they can find an open spot.
Congregation Ale House is a melting pot of Long Beach residents, visitors and working-class people. There are people drinking and dining from all walks of life: businessmen and women fresh off a long workday, local Long Beach residents, and even tourists just looking for a good place to satisfy their taste buds.