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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Fun Free Things to do in Long Beach, Riding the Bike Path

Living in Long Beach I have found there are a lot of great things to do, from walking to the local café to get a coffee to a great night on the town with your friends. There are also a lot of great free things to do in Long Beach and in light of the nation’s current financial situation I felt we should talk about a few of them. One thing I like about Long Beach, especially by the beach, is the fact that doing simple things like walking, riding a skateboard, or riding a bike is a normal activity. On any given day in Long Beach you can see families, couples or individuals actually out on the street partaking in one of these simple but fun adventures. One of the activities that I found to be one of the favorites is bike riding. Whether you ride a cruiser, mountain bike, fixed gear, or a geared bike, it is all welcome here. If I had to name Long Beach’s favorite city activity it would have to be bike riding. I say this because this is one of the only places I have seen where they actually have a bike lane—not in the gutter—but in the middle of the street; an actual lane that is dedicated for bike riding, which is pretty cool. I have always liked riding bikes but for most of my life bike riding was something that I did occasionally. In fact except for when I was a kid I had not owned a bike until I moved to Long Beach. I can honestly say since I moved here bike riding is one of the best free things I like to do now.

Since I live right by the beach one of the places that I like to ride is on the bicycle/pedestrian path located on the beach between Shoreline Village and Belmont Shore. It is a two lane path that stretches roughly 6 miles between the two areas. I like riding this path not only because it is close to me but it is a very scenic ride. On a nice clear sunny California day if you are riding toward Shoreline Village you have an awesome view of Long Beach Harbor and Downtown. As you ride you can see from the former white spruce goose dome and Queen Mary to the convention center whale mural and the buildings of downtown Long Beach getting bigger in the horizon. At night it is a grand sight with all the lights shining in the horizon. If you ride the opposite direction you can see all the way past the Veteran’s Pier to the end of the Peninsula and it also a great view at night. A usual ride for me is to ride down the bike path to shoreline village and the light house where I can get a great view of downtown. Then I ride back down the bike path to Belmont Shore around Horney Corner, down 2nd street which takes me back home. Along the way you can check out a lot of places like Shoreline Village with its many restaurants and shops, The Aquarium, Downtown Long Beach, Belmont Brewing Company, Veterans Pier, 2nd Street and many other places depending on your tastes. You can ride in a group, take your ride with your significant other, or just enjoy the ride by yourself. The possibilities are endless and the great thing is that it is free.

For many people bike riding is a way of life here in Long Beach. It is great exercise and is fun to do. It gets you away from the confined, limited, stuffy, traffic ridden pleasures of driving a car to the clean, open, heart pumping, freedom of pedaling a bike. So if you enjoy the outdoors, love exercise or just want to get away for an hour grab your bike or a friend’s bike and come down to the bike path, take in the view and enjoy a few moments of human powered fun!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Riley's Pub on 2nd St.

by jwg

Living in the Shore, as Belmont Shore is known, is about as close as it gets to "making it."  It doesn't matter if you are like 73% of the population and rent, hell if you are lucky enough to live here...you are lucky enough.  I rent and pay way too much, but I don't care...because at the end of the day, I get to walk down to 2nd Street, sit down at a table perfect for people watching, and enjoy my family.

My wife Pam, and three of my four kids decided to eat at Riley's.  I have been there several times before and I love there food.  I found out that one of the owners shares similar beer taste with me and I was most happy to find RED NECTAR on tap.

It was cold and fresh, and served in chilled schooners glasses they way a beer should be.  Riley's is popular with just about everyone I graduated from school with here in Long Beach.  Somehow it feels like both a high school reunion, and family night out at the same time, and I am not sure why.The interior is tastefully paneled in dark wood, there are plenty of flat screens available from just about every seat, and most importantly, the FOOD is second to none!  We orderded different things, and full disclosure here, told the manager we were going to blog about his fine establishment.  We had impecable service, but we already liked this place, so I guess we already expected it.

I ordered the Garlic Burger.  It was fantastic, my son ordered the Buffalo Chicken Salad...

Here is a before and after picture.


Desert was ridiculous....

The management was great and we will be back soon...

Thanks Ian!


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Where Can I Find a Great Coffeehouse in Long Beach?

Okay. I have to interrupt this article with a slight disclaimer. I am one of those people who loves Starbucks. I love the fact that I can get my iced tall double-shot made the same every time without deviance. I love that when I step out onto the street, wherever I am, I can turn slightly left and face one. But, with all that said, the reason why I buy a coffee from Starbucks is only convenience. I can run in and run out, or better yet, when my little girl was a toddler, I could roll through the drive-thru. There is a completely opposite reason as to why I visit an independently owned coffeehouse in Long Beach: the environment.

Environment is everything if your long-lost friend from high school wants to sit for hours and catch-up. (Man, that’s twenty years of stories; the environment better be good!) It is equally important if you need to meet a potential client or network with influential people. It is crucial if you have to sit through the endless stream of consciousness of the mommie-group, trying to decipher if little Johnny is a good enough student to be friends with your little Susie. So when talking about the great coffeehouses of Long Beach, I will grade them not so much on their cup of joe, but on the environment.

First, let’s talk about Viento Y Agua. Located at 4007 E. 4th St right across the street from Fremont Elementary, this coffee spot has a great mix of funky flavor. They have all the usual: espresso drinks, iced blended concoctions, herbal teas, pastries, muffins, snacks. The Mexican Moka is especially decadent; they use real Ibarra Mexican chocolate and the taste is so rich and creamy, it is like having a chocolate molten lava cake in a cup. This is where you can still find local art on the walls and hear local musicians in the evening, or you can just find a quiet space to read, or sit with your laptop at one of the little tables (they have free WiFi), or have a private conversation with your friend in a big squishy chair. Either way, this little coffeehouse will not disappoint.

 Going west along 4th street is the infamous Portfolio coffeehouse, at 2300 E. 4th. If you have not visited this location, then it is time you did so. And when you do, don’t be surprised when you sit down with your steaming cup of morning brew that you stay all day. Not only do they have all the coffees, teas, and munchies, but they also boast grilled Panini sandwiches, vegetarian dishes, soups and salads as well. They also have free WiFi, the art on the wall is also local, and the musicians are too, but Portfolio likes to mix it up a bit. They also feature local authors with readings and book signings, workshops for the creative, and on Sunday mornings they have children’s story time. And if the weather is nice (and hey, the weather is almost ALWAYS nice, it’s California!) they also have an area outside under the shade of umbrellas and leafy trees that you can ponder your life or write your next big-hit screenplay. This place has character and charm; it will embrace you with open arms.

Heading down Junipero toward the beach is another local gem, Hot Java, at 2101 East Broadway. This used to be my favorite back in college when I lived walking distance from the place. And even though it has gone through a massive transformation, it still serves as a great hangout. The best time to go is in the morning when you can sit in a comfy chair and watch the morning news on their plasma tv. Or visit in the evening—the huge fireplace will warm you and send you into a relaxed state of bliss. And for all you dog owners, bring Fido along! This was the great thing about this place way back; I would walk my doggie along the bluff and then hit Hot Java for a little afternoon refreshment. It is good to see that over the years, that policy has not changed. They still welcome your pooch and even offer him dog biscuits while you are sipping your espresso and people-watching from one of the huge windows. Sounds like a great way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Great Deals in Long Beach, Café La Strada

Since moving here about four years ago I have gone to several restaurants in Long Beach and I can say that this town has some great places to eat. There are numerous local restaurants that are deserving of a spotlight. One area in Long Beach that has a lot of great places to eat is South Long Beach and to be more specific the 2nd St or Belmont Shore or The Shore as locals call it has a ton of great places to eat. It seems to have a small town feel in a large city where everybody seems to know everybody. This is especially true for my girlfriend since she was born and raised in the area. I like the culture, the people, and it is one of the few places where people actually walk to go places or just go walking. In a place known for people who drive everywhere its nice to know there is one place where everyone still walks everywhere. I like to walk, bike or skate down to the shore from time to time, which is only a couple blocks away. One place I like to visit is La Strada Café; it is only a 5 minute walk from my home. I have been there several times but just recently I found out about the special they run on Tuesday Night.

Last Tuesday my girlfriend and I were picking up her daughter from school. We got our communication mixed up because when we arrived, her grandfather Richard Lopez was also there to pick her up. Richard Lopez is a Long Beach icon—he is a famous artist known for his abstracts and landscape paintings which in my opinion and the opinion of many others are fantastic! If you like art you have to check out his work—you will see him in upcoming articles. We didn’t know Richard was going to be there at the school but we were lucky to see him because he invited us to dinner at Café La Strada. Apparently Tuesday is a good night for Cafe La Strada because of their special for the night which is $5.00 entrees. Kari and I accepted since we love going there and we couldn’t pass up the deal. We called up Pam and Jess to see if they wanted to take advantage of the deal and we decided to meet at their house before we go. We all walked there since it was just down the street.

Café La Strada is located on 2nd St between Roycraft and Park Ave. Parking on 2nd Street is kind of difficult especially during busy hours. If you cannot find parking on the street then here are a couple of lucky places where you can probably find parking. One place is behind La Strada there is an alley and you usually can find an open space. You can also park across the street in the parking lot behind Super Mex. If all else fails there is also a paid parking lot behind Café La Strada which I think is $5.00 for all night. Either way when you make plans to go there you have to factor in parking time if you drive. We all planned to get there at 5:30pm because the special starts at 5:00 pm and I would suggest you get there early because Café La Strada is a small place and it fills up quick. Anyways another reason I like this place is because it is a small café with a couple of outside tables which is good on summer nights and it makes you feel like you are in a small café in Italy. It also has a very homey and friendly atmosphere. If you are not afraid to be close to people even if you do not know them then this is a place for you.

Luckly we got there early and we were able to get the big table in the middle because we had 10 People. It is the only big seating area there so if you have a big party plan for it. They have their own menu for Tuesday night which has selected items for $5.00 but not only were the entrees $5.00 but all the appetizers were $5.00, they had glasses of house wine for $5.00, and 2 beers for $5.00 which I thought was really cool because when restaurants have specials they usually get you on the alcohol or any extra stuff. For the Entrée’s they had 3 to choose from Spaghetti and meatballs, Chicken Lasagna, and Fettuccini Prima Vera. You can also order from the main menu but what I got from that night anyone of those entrées will be good. I also have to say they have great bread which is a French baguette made just right, not to hard and not to soft. I ordered the Chicken Lasagna and before I get into how it was don’t be fooled by the serving because it is very satisfying. It kind of looks small but it really isn’t. As for the dish it was fantastic it has this buttery garlic taste that lingers in your mouth even after you have left. I have heard other people say that’s one of the dishes they go to Café La Strada to get is the Chicken Lasagna. I highly recommend it especially with some wine. Usually with chicken they say you should get white but I had a red wine and it went really well with the lasagna. My girlfriend got the Fettuccini Prima Vera which she said was excellent. I also tried the Spaghetti and Meatballs and that was also really good. I have eaten here several times and got different dishes and I can honestly say that you will be happy with whatever you order. Our server was Sarah and she did a great job. She was friendly and made sure we had a good experience even though they were busy. My friend Jess even mentioned that he used to teach the owners kids at his school and one of the other servers overheard us and said that she knew and had texted the owner that he was there. I thought that was especially nice because I knew right then that this was a real local family restaurant.

Overall on a 5 star rating I would give Café La Strada a 5 and on Tuesday night because of the Special I would give it a 6. So if you have no plans on a Tuesday Night in Long Beach and want Good Food, Good Service and a great Atmosphere at a good price come to Café La Strada, say “hi” to Sarah and tell them that we sent you!
If at first you don't succeed, come here for dinner!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nails, Nails, Nails . . .

I have spent many hours in different nail shops around Long Beach, something I never really did in El Paso.  Why?  Don’t know.  It’s just a thing to do here in California.
Anyway, I am a little picky about my manicures.  I guess you can say I’m a little obsessive.  I know, I know.  This is surprising, especially if you know me.  Me?  Obsessive?  No way!  But back to the nails, I really prefer to pay for a manicure/pedicure only if it’s done right.  I like when my nails are nicely buffed.  I like when my cuticles are really taken care of.  I like when my nails are clipped and filed.  By the way, I don’t have false nails, I don’t wear polish except for an occasional French tip from time to time, and I almost always go natural.  So anyway, if I’m going to actually go out and have someone else do what I should be doing myself (shame on me), then I’d like for it to be done right. 

I am reviewing 3 different nails shops in this article:  Eiffel Nails, Belmont Nails, and Passion Nails. 

Eiffel Nails, located on 2nd street, is a very interesting place.  The owner is there from open to close and has admitted to me that she will stay open very late if someone comes in.  I was in there one time after 8:30 when two women came in and asked, “you’re open?  What time do you close?”  She responded with a happy, “choose a color, come in, I’m open.”  Now that’s unusual.  Anyway, I like this place mostly because of the price.  She usually charges $15.00 for a basic manicure/pedicure, although I have paid $18.00 several times.  I’m not sure why the prices change from day to day but it’s usually under 20 bucks which is totally cool.  She does a nice job if she’s not rushed and if she has help.  If she is alone, she works too fast and doesn’t get all of my cuticles done right.  If Nancy is working, ask for her.  She is awesome.  She spends all the time needed to get the cuticles soaked enough and gets the nails buffed down to a silky, smooth surface.  The only thing I find myself wishing for when I go there is that the massage chairs were connected to the water lines.  The chairs are comfy, but the water is brought out in a water bin that sits in the foot tub.  Not a big deal but you don’t get the luxury of the foot jacuzzi as you would at other shops.  For the price, this mani/pedi is a good one.

Belmont Nails, located on 2nd street, is a really cool place.  There are always more than enough women there ready to work on your nails.  The place is very clean and very updated.  The work they do on your hands and feet is incredible, but you pay for it.  The price there is always more than you would like to pay.  Again, I don’t always get the same charge for the mani/pedi and if I decide on an extra massage, I pay a different price as well.  Ok, I normally never pay extra for a massage, but at Belmont Nails, I will.  Wow!  The leg massage is pretty incredible! Fifteen minutes extra?  Yesssss.  Ok, so as you can guess, their mani/pedi is a pretty good one.  They all do a very nice job.  I always need to make sure I put aside a little more cash for this visit, which ranges from $35 to $50.  Yikes!

Passion Nails, located on Spring, is pretty awesome!  I really like this place.  When you become a regular, they treat you especially nice.  But, if you’re brand new to this place, watch out!  Two sisters own this great shop and the older sister who is in charge is serious business!  Before you walk in, you need to remember to have thick skin with these women.  “Manicure or pedicure!  Sit down!  Pick a color, now!  Go!”  Just do as they say and all will go well.  Go wherever they point.  Sit where they direct you to.  Just do it.  Once you’re in, they set up the foot massage Jacuzzi with the hottest water ever which feels painfully exciting.  They take the time to get your nails done right!  Their prices are fairly reasonable, ranging from $25 to $50, but the coolest thing is if you bring your card in they will punch it for you.  After a fully punched card you get a discount on your next service. And they will also sell you a tiny loofah for 2 bucks that you can bring in every time. This is also a very clean and tidy place which makes me happy!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Best Liquor Stores In Long Beach

You probably wouldn't think that there is a difference between this and that liquor store.  Well I am here to tell you that you are dead wrong.

It used to be that Morry's of Naples was the coolest place to find a good bottle of beer or wine, but sadly, the yuppies have taken over and now, its just an overrated, overpriced, Trader Joe's, with expensive interior.  Sad, but that's what happens...

There are more than several places in Long Beach that have exceptional prices and a fantastic selection.  The first place I visited, Marc's Liquor on Bellflower, just North of Carson St.  This is one of my favorite places.

They have a killer  beer selection, fantastic deals on beer, wine, and alcohol.

If you need crazy keg deals then come here.

This place has been around since 1985, and there is a reason why.