Years ago, when my partner, an East L.A. native who is now my husband, coaxed me across the country, I was not sure how well this New Yorker would adapt. Luckily, moving to the very walkable “Retro Row” neighborhood in Long Beach turned out to be a dream come true. Shortly after our son’s birth, the local businesses kicked off Fourth Fridays on Fourth Street, featuring extended store hours, specials, live music, art shows and pop-up shops galore.
After a long week, my husband and I recently treated ourselves to a date night, making a beeline for Wide Eyes Open Palms (416 Cherry Ave.). Proudly billed “The Queerest Coffee in Town,” this pop-up turned brick-and-mortar coffee shop prioritizes seasonality and sustainability. Its yummy dishes and coffee always hit the spot, whether you’re looking for a pour over (him) or a rosemary latte with almond milk (me). We paired our coffees with baked goodies: a dark chocolate espresso and organic sea salt cookie and a gluten-free vegan coconut almond honey cookie.
Across the street at Native Sol (2018 E. 4th St.), resident DJ Tyrone Ward (who co-owns Native Sol with May Salem) spun reggae beats for dancing shoppers. I shimmied my hips while admiring handmade lunar earrings. My husband pointed out the grapefruit-and-lavender beard oil. We considered grabbing a handmade organic lavender pillow for our son, because maybe this would help him sleep?! Before leaving, I made a note of Native Sol’s upcoming event, “Adorn Me: A Summer Solstice Pop-Up,” featuring ways for participants to adorn their bodies, minds and souls.
We continued our stroll, listening to live music and peeking into the thrift shops that give 4th Street its “Retro Row” nickname. At the pop-up shop Ninoska Arte, we bought a sticker of calaveras in Dodgers gear. Go Dodgers! We noticed the “Selena” board book in the window of Lil’ Devils (2218 E. 4th St.) and popped in to buy it, snagging a drum set T-shirt for our Tito Puente-worshiping toddler as well. (Even on date nights, parents can’t help themselves.) Lil’ Devils has the best gifts for littles: CA and Long Beach onesies and T-shirts, “Star Wars” onesies, bibs, rag dolls; pride socks, bilingual building blocks and, my personal favorite, books, books, books. We love this shop. “Take all our money,” we say!
After our mini-shopping spree, we caught the free Fourth Fridays trolley to Restauration (2708 E. 4th St.) for dinner. We sat at a quiet corner table on the spacious rustic back patio that features a vertical herb garden. We shared a carafe of the watermelon-and-blueberry sangria before poring over the menu.
Restauration is known for using seasonal, locally sourced and responsibly grown ingredients, and we had trouble deciding between all the tasty sounding options. We finally chose the shrimp and grits and smoked salmon tartine – both delicious. We always leave room for dessert, and were blown away by the peach layer cake. If you haven’t tasted sweet pickled stone fruit alongside ginger ice cream and brown butter cake, run, do not walk, to Restauration and indulge in this flavor-packed sweet treat.
We ended our night at Art Du Vin (2027 E. 4th St.), a cozy wine bar with a huge heart. We asked the sommelier for suggestions on good wines to follow our sangria. He served us a few samples, and we settled on a mouvèrde for me and a red blend for my husband. We savored our wine, and the end of our date, on the front patio, people watching and listening to music from across the street. We love our neighborhood – the diversity, the energy, the way it feels like a true community – and we were grateful for this excuse to enjoy it together. ¡Salud!