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Cheap Fast Eats: Long Beach Edition Tucks Into Breakfast Burgers, Maharaja Burritos And Of Course, Fish Tacos

A close up of fish tacos with red tomatoes, white onions and green cilantro on a granite board on a wooden table
The fish tacos from Holé Molé make for a perfect Cheap Fast Eats in Long Beach
(Brian Feinzimer for LAist)
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Do you ever find yourself filled with that unmistakable sense of wanderlust? For a new sense of space, where you can let your worries fall by the wayside? Well, you’re in luck, because a place like this already exists.

Of course, I’m talking about Long Beach.

Los Angeles’ sister city, with that distinctive charm that comes from its patchwork of cultures.

  • An industrial blue-collar “Iowa by the Sea'' history at the ports
  • Significant Black and Latino populations
  • The largest Cambodian community in the nation
  • LGTBQ+ communities hosting the second largest Pride celebration in the country
  • Punk rock roots
  • West Coast hip hop bragging rights.

All this and more make Long Beach the embodiment of a thriving metropolis in the 21st century. Yes, I might be biased since I live there, but that doesn't make it less true.

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About This Series
  • Every month, we scout out old school eateries, stomach-filling burrito joints and hidden gems so you can eat without breaking the bank or sacrificing your palette. We focus on dishes that are $10 or less, but, hey, inflation's a thing, so it's probably best to check the prices yourself before you head out

For this trip, we’ll hop from Southeast Asian cuisine to a humble yet iconic taco joint a few blocks over to hamburgers for breakfast. So channel that sense of escapism, even for a little while, and consume the food that reflects this city by the ocean, while enjoying its welcoming vibe.

Let’s dive in!

Appu’s Cafe

Vegan samosa chaat from Appu's Cafe in a white ceramic bowl. The contents include a tomato soup filled with crispy fried noodles and samosa in the middle with cut-up bits of white onion and cilantro. The bowl is next to a white and blue cloth napkin.
A spoonful of the vegan samosa chaat is all it takes to get you hooked.
(Brian Feinzimer
/
LAist)

What is it about unconventional spaces serving food that make for some of the most memorable eating situations? Think about enjoying the best taco of your life alongside a busy road, or slurping down buttery-rich noodles from your favorite street pop-up chef in a back alley.

Appu’s Cafe is located on the bottom floor of a medical office building; you have to enter through a back hallway that’s not visible from the street. Inside you’ll find a small well-lit kitchen space featuring vegan and vegetarian dishes with a self-described “Indo-Mexican” twist.

A green sign with white lettering reads Woodruff Medical Doctors Offices and Bixby pharmacy. In the background is a white multi-story building with large glass windows.
Hidden in the Woodruff Medical Offices is where you'll find the hidden gem of Appu's Cafe
(Brian Feinzimer
/
LAist)

Those include the Maharaja burrito stuffed with turmeric rice and mushroom masala, which has the power to undo everything you’ve ever assumed about what could go inside a burrito, and nourishing mushroom soups with enough flavor to send you into a dizzying trance.

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However, the item that keeps us returning is the crunchy vegan samosa chaat, a warm oven-baked crispy dough filled with potato and other spices. Surrounding it is a helping of tomato-based soup that contains mint chutney and sprinkled cilantro.

The spice-heavy bite might hit you hard, but that’s good. That extra kick brings you to the present moment, allowing you to appreciate the dish on a visceral level (as is the way in the Cheap, Fast, Eats universe). You’d be hard-pressed to find a more hearty-meets-healthy bite, and if you have a couple of extra bucks, it will behoove you to grab one of the delightful chai beverages made with either lemongrass or cardamon. After one sip, you’ll be hooked.

Address: 3816 Woodruff Ave Suite 100B, Long Beach, CA 90808
Hours: Monday-Friday, 10AM-7 PM; closed weekends

Hamburgers Nice

A hamburger has cheese hanging over the meat
Hamburgers Nice is a great way to wish yourself top of the morning
(Brian Feinzimer for LAist)

When is a burger more than just a burger? For some of us who grew up during the 80s and 90s, a trip to the drive-thru at McDonald's was a treat reserved for special occasions. Jairo Bogarin Duarte, the proprietor of Hamburgers Nice, understands the magic of a well-crafted burger, exemplified by his well-executed breakfast and lunch burgers.

The “small hamburger pop-up” as it calls itself sets up weekly at Sala Coffee & Wine(Tuesdays) and Good Time (Thursdays) and has earned the respect of locals as well as plenty of others beyond the city’s confines.

Jairo Bogarin Duarte of Hamburgers Nice stands facing the camera smiling. He's Latino man in his early 30s with a mustache and backward baseball cap. He's wearing a black t-shirt with the words "Support Your Friends" on it.
Cheeseburger smiles from Hamburgers Nice owner Jairo Bogarin Duarte
(Brian Feinzimer
/
LAist)

While the burgers are technically smashed burgers, they transcend the genre altogether with unusual fixings that make a remarkable impression. Take the breakfast burger, for example, an over-easy fried egg on a burger patty, topped with a delightful swirl of grape jelly garnished with thin slivers of freshly sliced jalapeño.

The jelly originated when Jairo was growing up in nearby Wilmington. One day he visited the Golden Arches with a friend and their mom, who asked for a packet of grape jelly to add to her egg McMuffin. The flavor combination stuck in his memory, and now acts as the perfect calling card for serving hamburgers for breakfast.

The combination of flavors — sweet from the jelly, spicy flare from the jalapeño — dances with the erupted egg yolk. It all plays exceptionally well on a stage made up of sliced American cheese with the craggy semi-burnt edges of the smashed patty opening up entirely new tastiness.

The burger itself will run you about $10, which will normalize the idea of eating burgers at 10:30 AM and make you crave one on the days you don’t.

Please check Hamburgers Nice Instagram to see their current pop-up schedule.

A&J Seafood Shack

Two men wait outside of the walk-up window of A&J Seafood Shack. One man is wearing a long sleeve polo shirt with grey and black stripes. Another man is wearing a brown long-sleeve shirt with a black-brimmed hat and a blue face mask. Next to them is a small palm tree with pink flowers growing from a planter next to a red stool.
Walk up to the window of goodness served daily at A& J Seafood Shack in Long Beach
(Brian Feinzimer
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LAist)

A window walk-up located at a busy corner of Anaheim and Obispo Avenues, A&J Seafood Shack is a delight, providing a current take on Southeastern Asian cuisine. Primarily based on Cambodian flavors, the menu goes deep without getting any sleep, with offerings such as a delectable garlic shrimp plate inspired by Oahu’s North Shore shrimp trucks and whole lobster and crab plates fried to perfection with aromatic spices.

The Beef Stick Sandwich at A& J Seafood Shack sits on a black table top and features a french roll style bun filled with pieces of grilled beef covered with sriracha mayo. Underneath is white daikon radish and carrots mixed with green papaya and cilantro
Behold the beef stick sandwich at A&J Seafood Shack
(Brian Feinzimer for LAist)

Still, we here at Cheap Fast Eats adhere to a different type of calling. The beef stick sandwich, known in Cambodia as num pang, is a cousin of the Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. It’s made with skewered, grilled beef, seasoned with lemongrass on a pillowy soft-on-the-inside, crusty-on-the-outside french roll, and packed with pickled green papaya salad-like slaw, spears of cucumber and chutes of jalapeño and sriracha mayo. It delivers a bite that’s equal amounts sweet, spicy, not to mention a bit funky from the dried shrimp and fish sauce from the slaw.

Traffic along busy Anaheim will be whizzing by, and finding parking might be a bit of a chore, but once it’s just you and the beef stick sandwich, all the mundane realities of how you got there will fade away, and all will feel right with the world.

Address: 3201 E Anaheim St, Long Beach, CA 90804
Hours: Open Everyday, 11 AM-8 PM

Holé Molé

The exterior of Holé Molé, a building painted yellow with the name Holé Molé in orange and blue lettering, "Ensenada" in blue cursive writing and "fish tacos" in capitalized blue letters. A man and woman sit talking at a table outside the restaurant under an orange awning.
Hungry lunchers of Long Beach flock to Holé Molé in search of reasonably priced fish and shrimp tacos - but save some room for crunchy carnitas tacos.
(Brian Feinzimer
/
LAist )

If there were ever a dish synonymous with Long Beach itself, it would be the fish taco at Holé Molé. On any given Taco Tuesday, you’ll see swaths of people throughout the day, dutifully forming a line as it stretches out the door. Maybe they’re stopping for a quick bite during their lunch break or seeking to channel some serious Playa Larga vibes for a leisurely lunch.

Fish Tacos from Holé Molé sits on a black surface on a  brown wood table top. The two fish two are on a white corn tortilla with a fried piece of fish covered by chopped-up bits of tomato, cabbage, white onion, and green cilantro.
Fish tacos from Holé Molé
(Brian Feinzimer
/
LAist)

You can run the gamut as far as the menu is concerned, a fish taco in $1.29 a pop, shrimp $1.95. Then there's a personal favorite, the crunchy carnitas taco. Stuffed with a combo of finely sheared cheese and a healthy helping of spicy chipotle sauce, atop a delightful serving of pork with just the right amount of crunch, it comes two to an order and will make any hard shell taco haters eat their words. If you are with a group of 3-4 people, you could easily all eat for $20, which seems unheard of these days, but that's part of what makes the people of the 908 keep coming back.

421 Obispo Ave, Long Beach, CA 90814
5109 CA-1, Long Beach, CA 90815
1200 E Wardlow Rd, Long Beach, CA 90807

Uncle Fung Borneo Eatery

A sign reads Bixby Village Plaza with a red and white sign for the retailer Target and another white sign with red lettering for CVS Pharmacy. Behind the sign is a white building with a slanted roof.  In the foreground of the shot, a woman on a bicycle is wearing a red backpack and has a small dog in a basket on the back of the bike.
The busy shopping center is where you can find some excellent Hokkien Miem at Uncle Fung's
(Brian Feinzimer
/
LAist)

Uncle Fung is located in a small shopping center, opposite the VA hospital and Cal State Long Beach University. Find a parking spot and grab a table, and you’ll be privy to some of Borneo’s finest dishes. For those unfamiliar with the region, Borneo is in Southeast Asia’s Malay Archipelago, politically divided between Malaysia, Indonesia and the tiny nation of Brunei. All that to say, when you have so many nations close to each other, you know there’ll be some deliciousness going down when it comes to food.

It’s easy to get lost with menu items like the delightful roti prata with its neverending flaky edges, perfectly foldable for dipping in Indonesian island curry sauce, or the deliciously savory chicken satay with housemade peanut sauce. However, the dish that has won our hearts is the Hokkien Miem, handmade chewy egg noodles featuring bbq pork akin to char-sui, juicy skin-on chicken thighs, and small straw mushrooms, with an assortment of fried shallots and scallions mixed in for good measure.

A bowl of yellow egg noodles, containing pork, greens, chicken, mushroom and beansprouts on a wooden table. There is a hand partially shown holding wooden chop sticks, pulling out a small portion of noodles.  In the background is a bowl of small clear broth.
The Hokkien Mee at Uncle Fungs Borneo Eatery contains multitudes in each bite that will keep you coming back.
(Brian Feinzimer
/
LAist)

It’s served with a small broth, which you can use to dip your noodles in, or as a post-noodle slurp to cleanse the palette. The sheer variety this dish presents, with its flavors and textures, ensures you’ll likely never grow tired of it. It's almost as if you discover something new each and every time you visit. Kind of like visiting Long Beach.

Address: 5716-A E 7th St, Long Beach, CA 90803
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 11AM-8:45PM

Do you have a question about food in LA — or something you want to tell us about?
Gab Chabrán reports and edits stories about food and its place in LA's diverse cultures and communities. Curious about a specific regional cuisine or have a recommendation for a hole-in-the-wall you love? Are you looking for the best place to take your kid for lunch? We’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line.