Business casual for the District:
PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES
Hours in the office don’t quite suppress an appetite, but they sure stifle it—hunger blunted and bludgeoned by the electric hum of copiers and computers and fluorescent lights. By the time your brain sends out enough signals to remind itself that you’ve skipped breakfast and typed right through the afternoon, chances are you’ll turn to the freezer (and thus the microwave) before any health-conscious concerns cross your protein-deprived mind. But Fresh Foods Café wants to change that.
Lodged in the back of the Catalina Landing complex, the restaurant is one clearly designed with business on the brain. There’s no denying that the surrounding cluster of awkward office space and the restaurant’s weekday-only hours cater to a suit-and-tie crowd, so much so that Fresh Foods Café might go unknown if it weren’t for its smart additions of downtown delivery and online ordering.
The restaurant isn’t the most accessible for those simply exploring the edges of their appetites. But its ocean view (boats bobbing along in the distance) is a worthy reward. Inside, the restaurant is pleasantly designed, a modern, welcoming space with oversized food photos that situate the place somewhere between Starbucks and Souplantation.
And it deservedly places a lot of pride in its coffee. Fresh Foods Café buys its beans from San Diego importer Elan Organic, which acquires them from village co-ops in Central and South America, Ethiopia and Papua New Guinea. The restaurant then roasts the beans in a hulking red roaster that sits at the center of the restaurant and perks the place up in the early morning hours with a toasty perfume. But Fresh Foods’ dedication doesn’t stop there—you can get your coffee dispensed from a French press, a siphon pot or Eva Solo’s Café Solo, a carafe-like device warmed by a wetsuit and made locally famous by places like LA Mill. This caffeinated commitment is one not often found at such simple restaurants and is something that’s especially worthwhile if you happen to be within delivery distance.
Edible options here are sourced mostly from a sandwich menu that follows a strange college-mascot-themed nomenclature. There’s the Bruin, a nice veggie burger topped with grilled onions and a tomato basil sauce on a whole grain roll. The similarly good Trojan offers curried chicken or tuna salad while the 49’er stays simple with turkey, avocado, bacon, tomato and pesto. Not all the sandwiches are successes, though—the Panther, for example, oddly adds French fries into its already crowded pile of roast beef, cole slaw, tomatoes, banana peppers and provolone. But if any of the pre-designed options don’t appeal to your inner alumnus, you can construct your own sandwich out of a long list of the restaurant’s own fresh-baked breads, meats, toppings, sauces and cheeses.
The other half of the menu is built upon a salad bar. It’s what you’d expect from a restaurant dialed into healthy eating—a variety of vegetables (mixed greens, jicama, edamame, beets) plus smart proteins (chicken breast, shrimp orzo salad) and well-made dressings (cilantro, miso ginger, green goddess).
Fresh Foods Café also maintains a short but admirable wine and beer list that focuses on smaller wineries and harder-to-find brews like Kronenbourg 1664. There are dinner options, too, like honey-miso salmon and rotisserie chicken. Coupled with its downtown delivery and online ordering, the alcohol and auxiliary dinner options go a long way toward making Fresh Foods Café more than just a lunch break kind of place. And that the restaurant is actively working toward wider appeal and greater restaurant flexibility is important—nobody wants to bring their work home.
FRESH FOODS CAFÉ 340 GOLDEN SHORE | LONG BEACH 90802 | 562.980.9200 | FRESHFOODSCAFE.COM | OPEN MON-FRI 6:30AM-7PM | FOOD FOR TWO $15-30