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FOOD HALLS OF FAME

Don’t miss these award-winning dining destinations

in OC and Long Beach

By Sarah Mosqueda | Contributor

MAR-APR 2021 ISSUE

Behold, the food hall concept. A concentration of eateries, usually anchored by a bar or coffee shop, all in one hip place. But don’t mistake these marketplaces for old-fashioned food courts. Southern California food halls feature high-quality eats in a casual setting that favors the artisan bread maker or independent brewer and aims to create community. There are always new friends to meet and new flavors to discover. Choose your own culinary adventure at The Hangar at Long Beach Exchange in Long Beach, at the OC Mix at SOCO in Costa Mesa, and at one of three SteelCraft locations in Bellflower, Garden Grove and Long Beach.

THE HANGAR

AT LONG BEACH EXCHANGE

The Hangar at the Long Beach Exchange is a 17,000-square-foot structure reminiscent of an aviation hangar. The site is an homage to the Boeing days when military and commercial aircraft were constructed on the site. Now it’s home to 13 small, artisanal food vendors and a hub for the local community and beyond. The Hangar is one of three distinct and complementary zones that make up Long Beach Exchange (LBX), which is a popular lifestyle destination for dining, shopping, and fitness in East Long Beach.

MORNING NIGHTS

Photo credit courtesy of Morning Nights

Vegan dim sum is probably a phrase you never thought you’d hear. But thanks to Stephen Le, owner of The Kroft, you’ll find vegan versions of Chinese dim sum staples like xiao long bao and siu mai at Morning Nights. Created to contrast the comfort food of The Kroft, Morning Nights’ vegan menu is a welcome reprise. Besides dim sum, you’ll also find Chinese American classics with a plant-based twist, like battered honey walnut shrimp, dan dan noodles, and vegetable fried rice, along with a selection of craft beer and sake. MORNINGNIGHTS.COM/ORDER

BLUE BOWL

Blue Bowl is an acai bowl concept that indulges your desire to be “extra.” Bowl prices are fixed, so you can choose your size and get anything you want, without paying any additional fee for toppings. Start with a base of acai, pitaya, or chia pudding, then add granola, fruit, nut butter, seeds, and honey until your heart’s content. You’ll also find hand-crafted cold brew and seasonal kombucha.  MYBLUEBOWL.COM

Photo credit courtesy of Blue Bowl

Photo credit courtesy of The Kroft

THE KROFT

The Kroft is famous for the Canadian comfort food, poutine, traditionally a dish of crispy french fries, savory gravy, and cheese curds. But in owner Stephen Le’s hands, poutine turns into a vehicle for international flavors like Chicken Tikka Masala poutine with chicken, jalapeno masala gravy, crema, and cilantro, or Chicken Katsu Curry poutine with panko-crusted chicken, golden curry, cheese curds, pickled radish, green onions, and togarashi. The Kroft has reimagined other comfort foods like the Porchetta sandwich, which gets an upgrade with the addition of cracklings and salsa verde or mac and cheese with chili, bacon, and gruyère/cheddar cheese sauce. They’ve also taken the time to hand-selected draught beers to match. THEKROFT.COM

JAY BIRD’S NASHVILLE HOT CHICKEN

The hot chicken trend has delivered Nashville’s heat to SoCal and Jay Bird’s is one restaurant that is really spicing things up. With five levels of heat that range from Plain Jay (no heat) to Extra Hot (think ghost peppers) to Fire (Carolina reaper territory), you’ll definitely find something to get your temperature rising. Jay’s uses natural, hormone-free chicken for their sandwiches, tenders, and chicken & waffles and offers homemade sides and sauces like smoked tomato ketchup and loaded potato salad.

JAYBIRDSCHICKEN.COM 

Photo credit courtesy of Jay Bird’s Nashville Hot Chicken

OC MIX AT SOCO

SOCO and The OC Mix is home to some of the best culinary offerings available in Orange County. The 300,000 square feet of retail, dining, and design space in Costa Mesa includes more than 15 restaurant concepts and specialty food and drink retailers, and even a weekly farmers market. Whether you’re hoping to enjoy a delicious dinner or find the ingredients to create your own, you’ll find it here.

SUNRIGHT TEA STUDIO

If you want a regular, run-of-the-mill boba tea then you go to a tea shop. If you want a one-of-a-kind beverage experience, then you go to a tea studio. Sunright Tea Studio offers delicious drinks with high-quality ingredients sourced from Californian and Asian purveyors. Their unique menu includes toppings like Oreos, pudding, and cheese foam. Just remember to shake your drink 17 times before enjoying. This method ensures the perfect blending of flavors and textures.  

SNRTEA.COM

Photo credit courtesy of Sunright Tea Studio

RICH ELIXIRS

Fermentation is having a moment and we are here for it. Rich Elixirs founders, Jesse and Brooke Rich, are here for it, too. This husband-and-wife duo transformed their passion for kombucha into a full-fledged business. Jesse handles the brewing while Brooke develops seasonal flavors for their rotating menu, like blackberry lavender and cranapple cinnamon. Besides kombucha, Rich Elixirs also serves bone broth and brews ginger beer in flavors like guava dragonfruit and mango lime. 

RICHELIXIRS.COM

Photo credit courtesy of Rich Elixirs

BIRDIE BOWL AND JUICERY

Photo credit courtesy of Birdie Bowl and Juicery

Birdie Bowl and Juicery serves acai and pitaya bowls, cold pressed juices, smoothies, oatmeal and more. A majority of the shop’s menu items are vegan and gluten-free and its ingredients are fresh and sourced locally. Give your brunch routine a healthy make-over with a Blueberry Almond Date Shake or Sunshine Acai bowl. BIRDIEACAI.COM

THE CHEESE SHOP

The Cheese Shop is staffed by a team of expert cheesemongers and husband-and-wife duo, Naveed and Nushin Anwar. They keep the shop fully stocked with domestic and imported artisanal cheeses, charcuterie, fruits, chocolates, plus rustic cheese boards and accessories. The Cheese Shop also serves breakfast and lunch, offering an assortment of sandwiches, salads, and in-house charcuterie boards to go. Take your next socially distanced cocktail hour or outdoor picnic to the next level with a board of perfect pairings from The Cheese Shop. CHEESESHOPOC.COM

Photo credit courtesy of Rich Elixirs

PORTOLA COFFEE LAB

Portola Coffee’s flagship location at the center of the OC Mix is credited with launching Orange County’s coffee renaissance. Owners Jeff and Christa Duggan are dedicated to delivering the perfect cup of coffee and have traveled internationally to build relationships with coffee farmers. They found the best beans available and committed themselves to the appropriate roasting and brewing methods for each that makes a difference you can taste in every cup. PORTOLACOFFEE.COM

Photo credit courtesy of Portola Coffee Lab

SHUCK OYSTER BAR

You’ll be hard-pressed to find oysters fresher than the half-shells at Shuck Oyster Bar. Oysters are delivered daily from over 60 farms, none more than one day out of the water. Their impressive beer and wine list is equally impressive. If you’re looking for more substantial fare, they offer a menu of seafood classics like clam chowder, crab Louis salad, seared ahi tuna, and fish and chips.

SHUCKOYSTERBAR.COM

Photo credit courtesy of Shuck Oyster Bar

PARAGON CAFE

Photo credit courtesy of Pargon Cafe

During Shuck Oyster Bar’s off hours, you can find Chef Dean here cracking eggs instead of oysters. The Paragon Cafe pop-up brunch experience includes dishes like chicken and waffles, avocado toast, and chilaquiles. Chef Dean utilizes seasonal ingredients from local farmers markets to make everything on its menu in-house. Try pairing your breakfast with a Boozy Coffee of Paragon Blend, Irish cream, chocolate bitters, mint whipped cream, and shaved chocolate.

PARAGONCAFEOC.COM

TACO MARIA

From humble food truck beginnings to prestigious Michelin star recognition in 2019, Taco Maria has truly changed the way Southern California eats Mexican cuisine. Since the restaurant shifted to take-out only during the pandemic, Chef Carlos Salgado has graced the menu with specials that may not have made their way to their usual tasting menu format. Dishes like beet and blood orange tarragon sorbet or Valentina buttermilk hot wings are limited time offerings you have to savor while you can. And, don’t forget to stock your pantry with jars of their salsas negras and caesar dressing from their “Taco Maria at Home” menu.

TACOMARIA.COM

Photo credit courtesy of Shuck Oyster Bar

WE OLIVE & WINE BAR

Photo credit courtesy of We Olive & Wine Bar

We Olive is known for their specialty olive oils, wines, and balsamic vinegars, with EVOOs certified extra virgin by the California Olive Oil Council.  They have recently expanded and added a new 200 sq. ft. retail space where you can purchase your favorite olive oils, balsamic vinegars, 38+ varieties of domestic and international wines, and more – while shopping the finest olive wood products, delicious jams, bruschetta, crackers and more. WEOLIVE.COM

STEELCRAFT

The SteelCraft concept is one of true placemaking. This outdoor urban eatery is made up of repurposed shipping containers, a nod to Long Beach’s busy port. The addition of an agricultural-inspired open-air roof structure and a commitment to community makes SteelCraft a truly unique, communal dining space. Each of their three locations in Bellflower, Garden Grove, and Long Beach offers a variety of kitchens, craft beer, coffee, ice cream, and more.

DARK HORSE COFFEE ROASTERS

Dark Horse Coffee Roasters takes coffee seriously, but not too seriously. The vibe is fun and approachable at their SteelCraft Garden Grove location, where the mantra is “relax, it’s just coffee.” You’ll find drip coffee and cold brew on nitro, plus some non-coffee options like kombucha on tap and matcha lattes. Besides cafe drinks, they’ve got donuts, whole beans, and cold brew cans. Try their signature espresso drink, “The Champ,” an undisputedly delicious honey and cinnamon latte. 

DARKHORSECOFFEEROASTERS.COM

Photo credit courtesy of Dark Horse Coffee Roasters

SOFTIE HAUS

If you need a reason to visit Long Beach Creamery’s Softie Haus, we have just two words for you: Dole Whip. Softie Haus offers a version of the classic Disney treat along with other soft-serve ice cream made with real California milk. Located at SteelCraft’s Bellflower location, unique Long Beach Creamery ice cream flavors, like Midnight Oolong, are deconstructed into soft-serve sundaes with every jam, cookie, and flavoring made in shop. You’ll find four soft-serve flavors and two twists on tap daily, (including Pineapple Dole Whip) that can be customized with house-made toppings and sauces LONGBEACHCREAMERY.COM

Photo credit courtesy of Softie Haus

HANGRY BELLY

Photo credit courtesy of Hangry Belly

Thanks to Chef Kat Vacharabul, you can always find something to fill your belly at Hangry Belly. Specializing in gourmet burgers and loaded fries, Hangry Belly opened at SteelCraft’s Long Beach location amid the pandemic and they’ve been serving burgers and “pig me ups” since. Chef Kat’s signature We Be Jammin’ Burger is a sweet and savory symphony made with a 1/3-lb. beef patty, Swiss cheese, prosciutto, arugula, and tomato on a potato bun with house-made onion jam and garlic aioli.  HANGRYBELLY.COM

DESANO PIZZA

There is pizza, and then there is authentic Neapolitan pizza. DeSano Pizza identifies as the latter, with wood-burning ovens and master pizza makers following the guidelines of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. They’re preserving the centuries-old craft of Neapolitan pizza making by flying in ingredients from Napoli and Campania to their location at SteelCraft Long Beach. Their Margherita DOP is made with real San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and basil and, like every pie on their menu, spends just 90 seconds in their wood-burning pizza ovens. This ensures a perfectly charred crust without compromising the fresh toppings. Don’t forget to try their other traditional Italian dishes like meatballs, calzones, and homemade cannolis. DESANOPIZZA.COM

Photo credit courtesy of DeSano Plaza