The city of Long Beach in Southern California has plenty to entice the visitor: really terrific restaurants, superb attractions, an enormous beach and excellent...

Other transport options available from Long Beach are attractive too. Water taxis and ferries ply the inner harbor and go out east to Alamitos Bay about five miles away. In Rainbow Harbor, situated right downtown, you can catch a fast catamaran to Santa Catalina Island about 30 miles out in the Pacific – a wonderful place to visit in the summer for a day or weekend.

Additionally, the terminus of the Los Angeles Metro’s Blue Line is located on First Street in downtown Long Beach. In a matter of half an hour or so you can be at Union Station in central Los Angeles, from where the Blue Line connects with other Metro lines which lead to other well-known parts of the vast metropolis, such as Hollywood, Pasadena, El Segundo and even Fullerton out in Orange County (where there is an excellent British pub).


Long Beach Arena, along with the city's Convention Center part of the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center complex, boasts the two largest murals in the world: one on its side and the other on its roof. Both are paintings by the environmental artist Wyland. The mural on the side of the Arena is one of Wyland's series of Whaling Walls and the mural on the roof is of the globe of the Earth

Long Beach Arena, along with the city’s Convention Center part of the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center complex, boasts the two largest murals in the world: one on its side and the other on its roof. Both are paintings by the environmental artist Wyland. The mural on the side of the Arena is one of Wyland’s series of Whaling Walls and the mural on the roof is of the globe of the Earth

 

I can’t pretend I’ve tried even a significant fraction of the restaurants in Long Beach. But I do know that the downtown area around the Long Beach Convention Center and nearby Arena – which, incidentally, boasts the world’s two largest outdoor murals, the larger of the two being on the building’s roof – is extremely well-off for restaurants.

Long Beach tourism officials are keen to tell visitors that Long Beach has at least 32 restaurants which look directly out on to the shoreline. They also boast that, counting the seafront Shoreline Village and Rainbow Harbor areas as well as the downtown area, there are more than 100 restaurants within an eight-block area round the Convention Center. One pedestrianized street has so many restaurants together that it is known as ‘Restaurant Row’.

Within this eight-block area near the Convention Center, as in the rest of the city, you can choose from dozens of different kinds of cuisines. I managed to try three, all of which are well worth visiting. First I have to mention L’Opera Ristorante, regularly an award-winner among California’s food writers as being among the best Italian restaurants in the huge state.

Long Beach has many busy neighborhoods worth exploring and hundreds of outdoor restaurants and cafes

Long Beach has many busy neighborhoods worth exploring and hundreds of outdoor restaurants and cafes

 

When I visited this sizable but gorgeously appointed and very elegant restaurant for lunch with a small group of other reporters, we were lucky enough to have Enzo DeMuro – a native of Rome who is one of L’Opera’s two co-owners – choose for us a selection of the restaurant’s typical dishes, along with accompanying (and hard to find outside Italy) white and red wines.

The resulting six-course marvel was probably the best Italian meal I have ever eaten (with the possible exception of one magical evening, complete with strings of little outdoor lights, at a rural restaurant a friend and I once chanced upon in the Colli Euganei near Padova, overlooking a terraced hillside vineyard on a gorgeous summer evening).

Everything was superb, some courses far better than that. The wines at L’Opera were phenomenal too. My brain insisted I make sure I finished everything, even though I knew we would be dining out fairly substantially that evening.

Downtown Long Beach has several areas packed with attractions. One such is 'The Pike Rainbow Harbor', which is located near Rainbow Harbor and offers a roller-coaster (visible in this photograph), a Ferris wheel and a carousel. The traditional-looking lighthouse to the left of the entrance to Rainbow Harbor isn't a working example: It is the 'Sight for Life' Lighthouse built recently by the charitable organization Lions International to raise money for research into blindness

Downtown Long Beach has several areas packed with attractions. One such is ‘The Pike at Rainbow Harbor’, which is located near Rainbow Harbor and offers a roller-coaster (visible in this photograph), a Ferris wheel and a carousel. The traditional-looking lighthouse to the left of the entrance to Rainbow Harbor isn’t a working example: It is the ‘Sight for Life’ Lighthouse built recently by the charitable organization Lions International to raise money for research into blindness

 

I metaphorically took my hat off to L’Opera’s Executive Chef, Walter Cotta, a native of El Salvador who is also Chef for Alegria Cocina Latina, located near its sister restaurant L’Opera on Pine Avenue in downtown Long Beach.

If I went again to L’Opera as an individual with my wife, I realize, we probably wouldn’t be offered quite the same selection – though you can ask the almost ever-present Enzo to choose your meal for you and he will be very happy to do so. (I would certainly request the house’s assistance in choosing wines.) I’d particularly like to try L’Opera for dinner, because I’m told it often has opera singers providing musical entertainment in the evening.

Not far from L’Opera is Beachwood Brewing & BBQ, which couldn’t be more different in style from L’Opera but is an excellent dining and imbibing experience. All of Beachwood’s barbecue meats are dry-rubbed and slow-smoked with applewood, almond and oak and all preparation is performed on the premises.

Ferries to local destinations and to Santa Catalina Island can be taken from Rainbow Harbor, next to the downtown area of the City of Long Beach. The lighthouse in the center of the photo isn't a working one: it was built by Lions International as the 'Sight for Life' lighthouse, in aid of charities which aim to help the blind

Ferries to local destinations and to Santa Catalina Island can be taken from Rainbow Harbor, next to the downtown area of the City of Long Beach. The lighthouse in the center of the photo isn’t a working one: it was built by Lions International as the ‘Sight for Life’ lighthouse, in aid of charities which aim to help the blind

 

Beachwood says this means you can wait a little while before you get your dinner. But the food tastes really authentic and really good when you do. We sampled various appetizers (all good) and I had the barbecued beef short ribs, which were very tender and very good.

More Long Beach dining delights ‒ Page 3

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