People who hear that I’m living in Long Beach usually respond with bemusement. You can see the wheels turning: “Like, with Snoop Dog? Isn’t that kind of…ghetto?”*
Well, yes. But also, not at all. This is what I love about my city: it has at least ten distinct personalities, and they all stand shoulder-to-shoulder to create an actually diverse community. There most definitely is the slightly sketch Snoop-Dog-esque part where a person does not go at night (except for that one time when I really really wanted Thai food and accidentally Mapquested my husband straight through all of it, which he totally adored). But there’s also the suburban sprawl, and the slowly gentrifying hipster haunts of 4th Street, and the Santa Monica boardwalk feeling of strolling from 2nd street down to the gentle ripples of Mother’s Beach.
This city is the best-kept secret around, and so I thought I’d start a new series highlighting great places you might want to seek out if you ever find yourself nearby.
Part One: Polly’s Gourmet Coffee
Just to be perverse, Long Beach actually has another chain called Polly’s, which sells fantastic pie. The only way to be sad in this place is to walk in expecting pie (as I once did), because that is something they cannot offer you. What they can offer is the most fantastic coffee aroma…it’s like walking into a Greek Orthodox church, if they swung lanterns of Ethiopian beans instead of incense.
The smell comes from Polly’s claim to fame: they roast their own coffee beans in the store. And you can watch! Please observe the machinery that allows them to do so, with the caveat that I understand how exactly none of it works.
The whole place just reeks of craftsmanship. The owner, Mike, was around the first time we came in, and took M’s usual “What do you recommend?” as an invitation to expound on his entire working knowledge of coffee in general. We were there for . . . a while. But you can never rush an old guy, especially when he’s been practicing his craft in one spot since 1976 and has such wizardry to show for it.
Pick up a bag of anything Columbian next time you’re nearby, and just revel in it. Maybe buy a couple and fill up your bathtub. There is no judgment here.
As we walked out the door, M said, “Dude. We have mongers. You know, like a fishmonger, a cheesemonger, all the different little shops of people plying their trade that let you know you’ve landed somewhere legit, like Paris. We have a coffeemonger now.”
Which is pretty much all anyone needs to be happy, I think.
*M has informed me that it’s Snoop Dogg. Whatever. We should all be talking about Sublime anyway.