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In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting some of the women making waves in the Long Beach food scene at a few of the most up-and-coming and innovative eateries in Southern California.
From innovative pastries like vegan banana walnut muffins to indulgent yet fresh, home-cooked Middle-Eastern cuisine, Long Beach is truly a culinary melting pot that is second to none when it comes to Southern California food destinations.
What's unique about Long Beach’s culinary scene when looking at Southern California foodie cities is the striking lack of pretense in the restaurants that call Long Beach, ‘home’. The entrepreneurial spirit of the chefs and tastemakers of Long Beach’s culinary scene have thrived in a community that celebrates diversity and supports their local businesses, paving the way for tastemakers to get creative, and debut innovative cuisines, delicious comfort food and create tastes and flavors that can only be found in this waterfront city.
Women have indisputably played a major role in making Long Beach’s culinary community into what it is today – from taking the lead as business owners and bakers to becoming the mastermind chefs behind some of Long Beach’s most up-and coming restaurants. This Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting some of the women who are making waves in putting Long Beach at the forefront of California’s impressive culinary successes. Meet the chefs and culinary entrepreneurs setting a place at the table for women in Long Beach’s culinary scene:
Angie Evans and Kat McIver
Wide Eyes, Open Palms
When Angie Evans and Kat McIver first opened up Wide Eyes, Open Palms in November of 2013, the concept was simple – provide healthy, fresh food and coffee made with local ingredients to the Long Beach community through a model of sustainability and community engagement. While the café was originally a pop up, its success with delicious treats likes apricot scones and peach jam and ricotta toast, has brought the eatery to become what it is today, a charming café loved by locals and visitors alike.
This barista-chef duo has proudly declared their coffee shop as a gathering space for feminists and the LGBTQ community, with rainbow colored pride-flags, feminism books and “The Queerest Coffee in Town” shirts for sale, Angie and Kat have created a community around delicious coffee, fresh and ethically produced foods, and a message that all who step through their doors are welcome.
With the aim of bringing the diverse and vibrant flavors of the Levant (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Cypress and Palestine) to Long Beach, chef Dima Habibeh and her husband Husam or “Sam”, created Ammatoli, one of Long Beach’s newest spots for authentic, home-cooked Middle Eastern cuisine. As the chef and culinary mastermind behind Ammatoli, Dima, a proud Syrian-Jordanian woman, and her recipes aim to challenge conventional thinking behind Middle-Eastern dishes – introducing customers to flavorful dishes that beyond the traditional idea of hummus, kebabs and gyros. For foodies without fear of bold flavors, savory spices and unconventional twists on comfort food – some of Dima’s beloved specialties include musakhan chicken roles, and samkeh harra (a spicy grilled fish plate).
Yesenia Martinez started off her culinary career working in kitchens of Los Angeles restaurants as a sous chef, with aspirations to grow her culinary career in an environment that fostered her creativity and culinary ideas – so she moved to Long Beach in 2017 and is now making her mark in the culinary space as a chef at Taste, a local restaurant and wine bar in the heart of Long Beach described by residents as “a neighborhood gem” in its reviews. Despite only living in Long Beach for two years, Yesenia has seen the food scene rapidly evolve from when she started cooking at Restauration, a well-known eatery among Long Beach foodies.
“Long Beach is definitely coming up as a food city,” Martinez said. “The food is local, its flavorful, its diverse. There are so many chef’s here doing new and creative dishes. Coming from LA – not many restaurants did farm to table and if they did it lacked that authentic communal farmer’s market feel. In Long Beach, the local community is big, the farmers markets are big – you create dishes based on what’s at the markets and what’s in season and that’s what I love about it.”
For those interested in trying some of Yesenia’s dishes at Taste, she recommends trying the Grilled Whole Bronzino or their new lamb sausage – two of her favorite dishes to make.
The Pie Bar
From an amateur baker to a successful Pie entrepreneur, Laurie Gray got her start making pies in her mother’s kitchen in Spanaway, Washington, where she learned the art of rolling the perfect pie crust, turning fresh fruits into fillings, and knowing just how long to bake a pie into the coveted golden-brown. As a single mother who started her journey selling pies from her house, then at farmer’s markets, then at her own brick and mortar store in Downtown Long Beach, Laurie’s “Pie Bar” is one of the city’s most adored and frequented eateries.
Crafted from Laurie’s own recipes, Pie Bar specializes in sweet and savory pies, always made from scratch with high quality, regional ingredients made in small batches at a time. According to Laurie, some of Pie Bar’s most popular flavors are Key Lime, Mississippi Mud, Smores, Banana Cream and Chicken Pot Pie.
According to Laurie her inspiration to start Pie Bar comes from the simple belief that, “pie is one of the simple pleasures in life and not many people have the skills or the time to make pie from scratch. Pie brings such comfort and reminds people of home and family memories.”
As both a Southern California foodie paradise and a hub for passionate chefs and tastemakers turned entrepreneurs, Long Beach is proud to have a number of inspiring women leading its ever-growing food scene.