When one speak of Long Beach for dining, most of us think of the Downtown area by Pine Ave or any of the establishment on Ocean Blvd. Vast choices a plenty in these touristy areas. However, for a more intimate and slightly nondescript dining, look no further than Taste Wine-Beer-Kitchen (Taste WBK) in the Belmont Heights area. Quite honestly, I love these up and coming underrated areas. Parking is easier to find and the wait for a table is short. At Taste WBK, the food is excellent and the service is impeccable.
Upon entering, the exposed bricks and edison-style antique bulbs surrounds the warmth of this cozy, 35 seater eatery. In the middle of the 600 sq. foot restaurant is a long communal-raised table that seats up to 14 people. Other seating includes 2 seaters by the wall, 6 seaters by the entrance, and seating with a view of outside completes the seating options.
Taste WBK, owned by Erin O’ Hagan and Laurie Semon, who also owns the Olives Gourmet Grocer next door and had this place for the past 12 years as storage one day decided to open this space as a “Farm to Fork” restaurant. According to O’ Hagan, “The Chef and the people who works here are the heart and soul of the restaurant and makes this place what it is today.” The menu here are ever changing by what’s in season. Local farmer’s market and Long Beach’s very own non-profit Farm Lot 59 supplies the organic herbs and vegetables on the menu.
Chef Brad Neumann’s flavor profiles here are fresh and vastly contrasted with a salty and sweet combination. Taste WBK’s menu items are meant to be savored and shared. On a recent visit, I brought my best friend for a food adventure here. We got to try the Indian Fry Bread & Dips: Charred Eggplant Puree (Baba Ganosh) , Skordalia (Garlic Dip), and Honey. It was delightful to think something salty as fry bread was sweet since it was drizzled with honey. When dipped with the eggplant puree and skordalia, it was unusually good. A taste I’ve never had in terms of combination before.
Next came the albacore ceviche. I’m a big fan of ceviche and though this wasn’t your usual salty, lime style Mexican ceviche. It was really fresh with more highlights on the vegetables, served with crispy fried won-ton chips. Included in the ceviche was Farm Lot 59 Tomatillos, Serrano, Cilantro, Citrus, with bits of red bell peppers for color and served with won-ton chips. The vegetables and albacore tuna has its own natural sweetness. This dish definitely wasn’t spicy or salty from what I’m used to, though it was a lovely dish indeed for those who seeks a zesty undertone.
Next came the Vietnamese Pork Meatballs. There were 7 little meatballs and whoever your waiter or waitress might be, they would be recommended you to try these little juicy meatballs with the sweet and chili dipping sauce and a bit of the fresh herb salad. If you’ve ever had Pho or Summer Rolls, similar flavor profiles match this dish. With a hint of fish sauce, fresh herbs, and the sweet chili dipping sauce, it tasted like summer. Fresh and herb galore, like an explosion of backyard greens meets the sea.
If you’re a little hungrier, opt for the items under the section “For The Table” on the menu. I was pleasantly surprised with the Pan Seared White Sea Bass with Ratatouille. Sea Bass is not a fish known to be oily and it only tastes seconds for someone to screw it up. (Yes, I can confess, I’ve made it before). Luckily for me, the chef in the kitchen perfectly crisp one side and retain the moistness perfectly. The vegetables topped with summer garden herbs and an olive-celery relish completes this meal for a healthy, gluten free option. No sweetness about this dish, but the freshness comes through. Highly recommended!
To finish or meal, we tried the Mix Berry Crumble topped with Black Pepper Ice Cream. I love savory ice cream and if you’ve tasted Salt & Straw’s savory options, congratulations you live on the dangerous side like I do when it comes to dessert. However, this dish is not for everyone. The peppery taste was strong and the mix berry is not sweet. While I do appreciate fruit retaining in it’s natural sweetness, this was a little spicier than I had expected. Do note: I do have a sweet tooth so this dish might not be for you who looks for the luscious, melt in your mouth ending. But if you do like something a fresh and a little different, this would be a great choice.
Just about all dishes here are $17 and under and these tapa-style shareable plates are notably fresh and tasty. If you’re still not sure, may I suggest coming here for their Happy Hour Tue-Friday, 4-6pm where you can try some of the items on the menu for a lower price and wash it down with a glass of house wine for $5. (Red or White)
The restaurant is currently open for Happy Hour and Dinner (See hours below). However, a brunch is in the works on the weekends according to O’ Hagan and the location can also be rented out for special events.
Of course, I couldn’t continue writing without having to try some of their beer and wine choices here. There are eight rotating taps during my visit, with one cider and one beer on nitro. The choices on Taste WBK’s choices for brewery and wine (As well as butchers and cheese-makers) are to support local and small batch brewers as much as possible. As a lover of Beachwood’s beers, the Alpha Galatic West Coast Pale Ale is a one with a malty base and a fruity passion fruit backbone. This beer will remind you of summer and why we love living in sunny California. For wine, we tried the a glass of Tempranillo from Mureda “O” Castilla 2014. ($8). Some cherry characteristics, a little vanilla and very little peppery taste, this wine would be great by itself or with something wonderfully sweet.
Yes, you’ll find California wines by the glass or by the bottle here. Wines of different varietals as close as Sonoma or Napa to as far as South Africa and Italy’s Vinos. The wine choices are excellent and all of the selection, including bottles, you’ll find on the back page of the food menu.
Coming up to their one year birthday, Taste WBK will be having Talley Vineyards Winemaker dinner with winemaker, Eric Johnson on August 8. A full menu and wine description is currently available on Taste WBK’s instagram page. ($85) To reserve a seat, please call the number below. For beer lovers, a beer dinner with Phantom Carriage had already happened but others are in the works (Like Beachwood’s BBQ on Sept. 13). Just click on their event page or follow on social media.
Lastly, I want to emphasize on the friendliness of people here in Long Beach. It is one of the large cities which strangers would greet you, as it happened to me while I was taking pictures outdoors during my visit. Long Beach, to me, is one of those last large cities with a small city feel.
When dining inside the restaurant, I was totally taken care of by the wonderful staff here, Garrett & Anthony. Their friendliness and knowledge is unpretentious and either person can recommend something that will fit your palate. Another reason why I love this underrated side of Long Beach at Belmont Heights and the menu choices at Taste WBK. As people often say, “You come for the food, you return for the service.”
3506 E. Broadway.
Long Beach, CA 90803
Open Tuesday-Wednesday from 4-9P
Thursday through Saturday 4-10PM