California’s seventh-largest city has a myriad of neighborhoods to explore from the waterfront to the inner city, each with its own unique vibe and things to do. One of the hottest is Uptown, located in North Long Beach, which, over the past five years, has grown in popularity with its many dining, public spaces, community gathering points and great outdoor spaces. Here's a great way to spend the day there.
First Things First
Get your day off to a fast start at Black Ring Coffee Roasters (5373 Long Beach Blvd.) where its Nitro Cold Brew has been judged the nation’s best. Or try their signature Whiskey Vanilla Latte made with Mexican vanilla and bourbon extract. Maybe the Mexican Mocha (espresso, Mexican vanilla, cinnamon, cayenne) or the Baby Yoda, which has similar ingredients, except matcha takes the place of espresso. It was kind of a big deal when Black Ring decided to locate their first brick and mortar operation Uptown. Having built a loyal following by selling individual bottles of brew out of the MADE by Millworks boutique, folks would have pretty much followed them anywhere. It seems fitting Black Ring chose to be in Uptown, since both are up-and-coming, and both embrace community. Black Ring, guided by the principle of people living sustainably – its motto is “Be kind, work hard, drink coffee – makes it a great place to get a feel for the neighborhood you’re about to explore.
It’s less than a mile-and-a-half from Black Ring to DeForest Park and Wetlands (6255 DeForest Ave.), 15-acres of just about anything you’d want to do outdoors. If you’re sports minded there are all manner of places to play, including basketball, sand volleyball and tennis courts, as well as softball and baseball fields. If you’re in the mood to take in the outdoors at your own pace, there are nature trails available. Have kids with you? There’s a playground for them as well. Located next to the Los Angeles River, the area has been the focus of improvement and expansion, so expect more trails and an environmental classroom to provide educational opportunities to visitors as well as campsites. You heard right: camping in the LBC!
After all that activity you’re probably hungry. Lucky for you, it’s just about a mile from DeForest to Robert Earl’s BBQ (703 E Artesia Blvd.). Now, we’re not saying that Robert Earl’s is the best barbecue in the city – that would be too limiting, since this gem is often mentioned as serving the best ‘cue in the state. There’s a lot to love there, but the good feelings tend to begin with Earl’s other-worldly brisket and then flows over to all other types of meat, including pork ribs and chicken. Earl’s serves Texas-style barbecue, all of it pulled together by great sides such as mac-and-cheese, collard greens and baked beans.
Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library
We’re betting you’ll do yourself proud at Robert Earl’s, so you could probably use someplace that allows you to ease back into the rest of your day. Just about a mile away is the stunning Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library (5870 Atlantic Ave.). This spacious, stylish facility is celebrating its fifth anniversary and is a point of real pride to the community, which is fitting since that’s what the facility is all about. Not only does the library feature a large catalog of books, but is known for its hefty children’s and teen offerings, as well as Spanish language publications. Natural light streams into the 25,000-square-foot space that was a movie theater and church in previous incarnations. That makes for plenty of room not only for books, but also three community meeting spaces, public computers, quiet study rooms and a charming community garden outside that not only serves to educate in matters of the soil but, during harvest season, allows people to take “what you need.
Uptown Commons (6600 Atlantic Ave.) has quickly become a focal point for the neighborhood, providing a stylish place to hang out and, most of all, eat. Located at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Artesia Boulevard, Uptown Commons’ exterior is a mashup of converted shipping containers, brick, wood and green spaces arranged around a central dining area. It’s not especially large, which is nice since the eateries are easily accessible. Oi Asian mixes Filipino with Japanese and Korean influences, offering a range of items from pork belly bowls and tacos, to Adobo bowls and Oi burgers, all of it balancing sweet, savory and umami. Shomi Noods has both wet and dry ramen and combines traditional fare such as Tonkotsu ramen with such innovative fusion offerings as Hamache Chipotle Ceviche, all of it plated in a manner that can truly be called artistic. Main Chick serves Nashville hot chicken in various forms – breasts, sandwiches and tenders – in heat levels ranging from mild to Ouch! They also have great sides like mac and cheese and slaw. While offering such classics as fish and chips, calamari and fish tacos, Chef Fernando Valladares’ Portside Fish Co. is known for fresh takes and fresh ingredients when offering new flavor combinations. Its Cali Shrimp Burrito, featuring jalapeno crema and pineapple habanero salsa is an innovative favorite.