One of the nice things about having worked in Long Beach for a year was being able to check out restaurants that may either be known primarily by locals or I may have heard good things about, but didn't want to make the drive from the Eastside to check it out. One such restaurant which actually fit both categories was Jongewaard's Bake 'n Broil. One of the first things I did on the job was to Google Bake 'n Broil to see how far it was from my office and lo and behold, it was a short two-block walk away. It was fate.
The little I knew about Bake 'n Broil at the time was that they were known for their chicken pot pie, dessert pies and red velvet cupcakes. I also read that it wasn't a fancy place and more like a diner/coffee shop. I've never been much of a pie or red velvet cake kind of person and although I did want to try the chicken pot pie, I didn't have any overwhelming desire to visit until 3 months later when I was craving soup. In my head, a diner went hand in hand with good soup, so off I went to Bake n' Broil.
When I walked in, I noticed a large counter top area with stools to the left and booth seating to the right and behind the counter. At the time, I didn't know that there was also a small back room area. After reading through the menu, I opted for a half roast beef sandwich on squaw bread with a cup of navy bean and ham soup. With everything I heard about the pies, I knew I wanted to see what the fuss was all about and went all in with a coconut cream pie. For my first time at the Bake n' Broil, I'd say 2/3 of my meal was pretty good.
The 1/3 that was disappointing was the roast beef sandwich. A sandwich is only as good as its fillings and unfortunately, the roast beef wasn't up to par. It was chewy and it was hard biting a piece out of it and making sure that the whole thing wouldn't come out of the sandwich and hang from your mouth.
As for the soup, the bowl was a little messy in that the soup was just sloshed into the bowl. I think the edges of the bowl could have been cleaned off a little bit because while I prefer good tasting food over pristine presentation, the soup didn't look that appealing to eat when I first saw it. However, it hit the ball out of the park when it came to everything else. It was thick, hearty and with beautiful chunks of ham that imparted a subtle smoky flavor to the soup. I could have easily done without the sandwich and just ate a big bowl of this soup as my entree.
The meal ended on a wonderful note with the slice of my coconut cream pie. I mentioned earlier that I'm not much of a pie person because often times I don't like the crust. It's either too hard and/or too thick and most times, I'll eat the filling and leave the crust behind. After taking my first bite out of my pie, I could definitely see why people rave about the pies at Bake n' Broil. The crust was wonderfully light and flaky, unlike any pie crust I've ever had. I also appreciated that the pie filling wasn't overly sweet and that it tasted fresh and almost custard-like. Other than the roast beef sandwich, my first dining experience at Bake n' Broil was a thumbs up.
I even brought back some red velvet cupcakes to share with my co-workers. Those cupcakes were wonderfully moist, even after sitting in the fridge for a couple days since I had forgotten I put them there.
With Bake n' Broil being so close by, I definitely made subsequent visits and tried a few more menu items. When I went for a second vsit, I noticed the "Specials Board" that I missed from my first visit and saw the chicken pot pie along with some other options. It was one of those other options that caught my eye and it was the baked spaghetti. Who in their right mind could resist that? It's comfort food at its best and it didn't disappoint. They even cut the spaghetti so that you wouldn't have to be slurping these long strands and without a doubt, all the gooey melted cheese on top of the noodles was really what did it for me.
Of course, I had to have a slice of pie and this time it was the Lemon Lush. Again, the pie crust was just as good as the first time. The meringue was light and fluffy and the lemon filling was the right balance of sweet and tart.
At my last visit to Bake n' Broil, I started with a cup of their split pea soup. I liked how they used different types of bread as the croutons, but they were really hard, even after mixing them with the soup. As for the split pea soup, I thought it was good, if not really memorable.
This time around, I ordered the chicken pot pie. When it arrived, just its sheer size meant it could have been easily shared by two people. I ended up taking half of it home. While a little thicker than the dessert pies, the crust for this savory pie was actually still pretty flaky and even puffed up like a puff pastry. I mention the puffing up of the pie shell because when I broke my spoon into it, it was interesting to note the empty gap between the pie shell and the filling which settled towards the bottom.
When I had my first taste of that filling, I enjoyed the chunky vegetables and the thickness and creaminess of the soup. One thing that I would have changed was the cut size of the chicken. They were a little big. You either had to fork it and bite a piece off or cut it with your fork in the soup itself. That ruins the whole idea of a chicken pot pie for me. If the chicken were in smaller pieces, they would be enjoyed better when part of a spoonful of soup and veggie. Other than the chicken thing, that chicken pot pie was pretty good.
My final pie at Bake n Broil was the strawberry pie. That was definitely a thing of beauty. The red strawberry pie came to me on a green plate and reminded me of Christmas. I loved how the strawberries were quite generous in size and although I sound like a broken record, the crust was awesome. Of the three dessert pies I tried, the strawberry pie was actually my least favorite, simply because it was too sweet and I'm talking sugary sweet. If they had cut back a little on the sugar, it would have been my favorite. For those of you who have more of a sweet tooth, the strawberry pie as it was, may be just the thing for you.
Overall, I really enjoyed my meals at Jongewaard's Bake 'n Broil. They offer delicious comfort food at reasonable prices and man, those pies. I really miss those pies. Their service was always quick and attentive and you could tell that it's definitely a neighborhood restaurant with the owners calling out greetings to their regulars by name and you could even tell that many of the diners knew each other. Bake 'n Broil is like a diner version of "Cheers." Unfortunately, I no longer work in Long Beach, so I haven't been back in awhile, but for those of you who do live and/or work in that part of town, I really recommend that you check this place out, even if only for a slice one of their fantastic pies.
Jongewaard's Bake 'n Broil
3697 Atlantic Ave
Long Beach, CA 90807