Thanks to the Los Angeles Chowhounds for providing some terrific tips for Long Beach. I had many constraints because I was in Long Beach for a big bridge tournament, and generally could only had time to have one big meal at 5:00 p.m. or so, couldn't drink, and had to be back at the convention center by 7:30. Although I might not have had a transcendent meal, all were good to excellent, so I was a happy Chowhound.
I always like it when a restaurant defies my Chowdar, and one example was Alegria on Pine Street, which several Chowhounds have recommended. It was noisy (with an enthusiastic but tiresome and highly-amplified flamenco guitarist) and the menu was of the pan-Latino type that scares me on sight. So much for my prejudices. The ceviche was the best I've had in a long time (putting Chicama and Patria in New York to shame for half the money), and the paella Valencia addictive and well spiced, with meats and seafood cooked with care. Our waiter was harried and service was slow at times, but the restaurant was full to bursting and I was so surprised at the quality of the food, I left a happy and satisfied guy.
Every once in a while, a single restaurant near the playing site gets a "buzz" among bridge players. Without a doubt, the hit of this tournament was George's, at 318 Pine Ave. When we went, the totally full restaurant (at 5:00 p.m.!) consisted of 2/3 bridge players. We went on Friday night, knowing in advance that this was the weekly slow-cooked lamb night, and it was superb. The accompanying Greek salad and roast potatoes were terrific accompaniments, and the Melitzanosalata and Humus were fine if undistinctive. George, the effusive host/owner, was getting more action from women than Hugh Hefner on a good night. He's quite the charmer. Many folks were also raving about the lamb chops, Loukaniko, and chicken gyro.
As a Pie 'n Burger devotee, I had to visit Jongewaard's Bake 'n Broil, at 3697 Atlantic. I loved the look of the place (it has the solidity of a restaurant that has been established and knows what it wants to be). The burgers were very good L.A. coffee shop burgers (I'd say a rung below Pie 'n Burger's) but of the pies I sampled, they were disappointing. The fruit pies (boysenberry and cherry) seemed superior to the cream pies (the banana cream was particularly disappointing). Service was fantastic, quick, efficient, and funny. I didn't have a chance to try the homemade soups. Next time.
Captain Jack's in Seal Beach was a trip. Service was of the aggressively friendly variety -- unrelenting, actually. I don't think there was ever a period of more than two minutes without a waiter coming by (my favorite such example, when one of our (many) servers came by about 90 seconds after delivering our food: "How were your first bites?" I didn't sample much of what my friends had, but the smoked albacore and mushroom appetizers were excellent, and the steak were excellent. Old-fashioned rich blue cheese dressing was a nostalgic treat. The famed Alaskan crab legs were bigger than they were tasty, but the biggest surprise was the quality of the New York steak.
The only lunch I ate all week was at Mosher's a hot dog/sausage stand on Willow near the Long Beach Airport exit off of the 405. Walking inside, it was evident that the owner was from Chicago and that he showed great concern for the freshness and preparation of his ingredients. The place was impeccably clean, and my spicy hot dog beautifully grilled. Vienna dogs, too.