Kid Hit Menu Items: I have mad respect for a restaurant that understands its customers well enough to offer a mac n’ cheese pizza, while gently telling them when it’s time to grow up a little. Simmzy’s in Long Beach has the requisite $5 kid items — burger, chicken fingers, towering cubes of crust-less grilled cheese — but instead of specifying an age cutoff, the “Shore Kids” menu makes a broader, important point: “sadly if you’ve graduated from middle school, this menu just isn’t an option for you.” Thankfully Simmzy’s does the dirty work for parents avoiding that awkward directive. Make ’em share a massive bowl of caramelized Brussels sprouts with the table instead. Another upside of the children’s items is that these mains come with a choice of buttered peas, sautéed spinach or green salad if you’d like to try and avoid fries. But don’t skip dessert, because Simmzy’s chocolate s’mores pudding is in my pantheon of favorite high-low brow junkie treats.
Adult Perks: Being an up-to-date, with-the-times version of a well-stocked neighborhood pub, stepping inside Simmzy’s broad entrance at a street corner in the busy Belmont Shore area means immediately noticing the impressive lineup of craft beer on tap, 31 in all, both local and imported. A cask wine program means another layer of eco-friendliness to go along with more conscious food sourcing than you find in a neighborhood joint, where chef Anne Conness’ placemat-sized menu has a range of loaded burgers, sandwiches, salads, soups and pizzas, that top out in the $14-15 range, all in fairly small print (for the farsighted types). Maybe it was the slog of a holiday season afternoon, with gnarly traffic and a harried trip to the Aquarium of the Pacific, which somehow deluded me into thinking I should order probably THE heaviest thing on the menu. Instead, candied bacon bits mixed with crisped shallots on the bacon blue deluxe burger ($11.50) left me jealously eyeing those Brussels sprouts and an arugula-loaded foldover pizza at the next table. I had not stumbled upon the ultimate crave-worthy burger. For other daytime eats, weekend brunch items such as short rib hash and French toast with bruleed berries sound promising.
Pros: Straight outta Manhattan Beach, Simmzy’s #2 in Long Beach nails a certain classic SoCal cultural combo: a hang loose surfer attitude paired with serious craft beer geekery. Exposed Edison bulbs and reclaimed wood pledge allegiance to the ongoing post-recession casual gastropubby movement, and the surfboard logo puts Simmzy’s back into its beach culture context. Indoor/outdoor flexibility, thanks to big openings in the exterior walls, and even the 45-degree entrance design detail that welcomingly presents the restaurant to the corner, make for a come one, come all vibe. Have some Pliny the Elder while wearing still-damp board shorts, or venture down after TED business has wrapped for the day. Do whatever suits you here, just be nice. Oh, and they have Wikki Stix for all!
Cons: Maybe it’s a winter early dinner thing. Maybe it’s a Long Beach thing. But the place was PACKED by 6 p.m. Folks wait outside on the corner for a table, but with no outdoor overflow seating area and a no reservations policy, I’d rather avoid that scenario. (Although you could do worse than walking along East Second St. to kill time.) Thankfully I worked out a 5:15 dinner plan for our Long Beach agenda. For public transit fans, this area is nowhere near the Blue Line terminus.
Changing Station: Yes
High Chairs: Yes
Parking and Access: Street parking around the bustling East 2nd. Fortunately we found a metered space immediately; next time we might not be so lucky.
Other Tidbits: Since our friends who lived in nearby Bellflower decamped for Seattle, we don’t make it to the Long Beach area much. But that will change since I sprung for an Aquarium membership. It pays for itself after two visits, and we actually did make it down to the penguin habitat and all the other stuff my kids love twice within about a week. Simmzy’s is a few miles from the weirdly redeveloped waterfront Pike area, and steering them away from Bubba Gump Shrimp isn’t easy. (I know, this chain does have its use; along with the irony of serving what’s probably super unsustainable seafood directly across from an institution that advocates on behalf of preserving ocean-related ecosystems and resources.) Anyway, head to Simmzy’s if you’re up for a change of location, as long as you can get there at an off-hour or for an early dinner. Enjoy the scening drive along Ocean Boulevard past some cool landmarks, along with the surprise (for me, anyway!) of Belmont Shore’s appeal. I bet we’ll be back at Simmzy’s post-Aquarium, even though last time we hit La Casita instead, and thanks to the magic of Twitter, I have a new list of other area recs from L.A.’s most trusted authority.
5271 E. Second Street, Long Beach
Also: 229 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Manhattan Beach; (310) 546-1201
Hours: Monday – Thursday, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 10:30 a.m. – midnight; Sunday, 10:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.