Cuisine Scene: Small Plates
Small plates, tapas, starters – whatever you call them, they present a delicious culinary conundrum: though small, they allow you to go big. Big on flavor profiles that tend to be exciting and expansive. Big on trying something totally new, since they’re often enjoyed communally, meaning you end up sampling a lot of great food. Here are some terrific Long Beach restaurants and tapas bars ready to have you livin’ large, one small plate at a time.
Situated midway on the Rainbow Bridge which connects the promenade entrance of the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center with the Terrace Theater Plaza, Risü (207 E. Seaside Way) features small plates such as short rib to vegan roasted cauliflower tacos, charcuterie boards and truffle fries, along with a wide range of shareable flatbread creations. With a full bar, and a beautiful outdoor patio, Risü offers a great atmosphere for friends to chat, people watch or simply relax before or after a performance or meeting.
One of the most popular restaurants on 2nd Street in Belmont Shore, Open Sesame (5215 E. 2nd St.) serves a full menu of delicious Lebanese cuisine including a wide selection of small plate mezza. There are all manner traditional dishes – grape leaves, hummus, falafel, yogurt cucumber dip – still, perhaps the most flavorful and popular are the roasted garlic potatoes and the friend cauliflower, which have been known to inspire intense conversations (i.e. arguments) about which to order for the table. Why not get both?
It was at this Downtown Long Beach landmark that many locals first experienced the Spanish wonder that is known as tapas. Now in its 36th year, Cafe Sevilla (140 Pine Ave.) offers more than 30, award-winning tapas plates, both cold (Spicy Octopus Ceviche) and hot (Queso Fundido), as well as traditional paellas, fresh seafood and savory meat dishes, along with a wide variety of Spanish wine and refreshing sangrias. It also serves up all manner of Latin music and keeps late hours to satisfy your cravings for either.
Another traditional tapas entry point for local, Alegria (115 Pine Ave.) marries a vibrant atmosphere with traditional favorites like Lomo Saltado as well as imaginative tapas such as Pappas Rellanas, Ropita Viejas (braised shredded beef, beans pure, feta cheese, arugula), and Humitas (corn soué tamale, shrimp, green onion cayenne pepper cream sauce), just to name two. Another place that can indulge any cravings, especially Thursday through Saturday, when they stay open until 2 a.m.
District Wine (144 Linden Ave.) is rightfully known for offering some of the best curated wine in the city – served by a helpful, never snooty staff, eager to assist you in making the right choice. It also serves some terrific, inventive small plates: citrus marinated olives, roasted shishito peppers, gorgonzola honey crostini, curry mac n’ cheese – as well as cheese plates and flatbreads. All of which, by the way, can be expertly paired with a nice glass of wine by the helpful, never snooty staff.
Having recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, Selva (4137 Anaheim St.) has quickly made a name for not only serving great, Columbian-inspired dishes, but doing it in an atmosphere that feeds a feeling of family/friendship/community. The majority of Selva’s menu features small plates and shareable entrees served family style. Everything from soft, cheesy bunuelos, juicy beef skewers, rice and beans stewed with pork and, what is becoming its signature, smoked chicken with aji salsa.
Ammatoli’s (285 E. Third St.) rapid rise to become one of the city’s most acclaimed and loved restaurants, has everything to do with the inventiveness of its Levantine dishes (cuisine emanating from Israel, Cypress, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine) and the freshness of their ingredients. This is clear in their voluminous mezza selection that includes hummus topped with shawarma and pine nuts, Mediterranean fries (fries dressed in olive oil, garlic, parsley, feta and parmesan cheese) as well as its roasted beets salad that inspires devotion in people.