I just moved to Long Beach a few weeks ago, and whenever I go to the local 7-11 I see this little corner cafe, called At Last Cafe, and I wanted to stop in there for breakfast some time. Today was the day, and surprisingly enough the only breakfast dish I saw on the menu was an omelet, the rest of the menu was loaded with savory comfort food that had an elegant twist to it. Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised! They have a regular menu you can pull from, but also a blackboard with rolling specials that change all the time. On the specials were Gazpacho w/ Shrimp & Avocado and a Lamb 3-Way dish, and I could not say no to either.(sorry for the double negative, but it was important)
Before I get into the food I wanted to let you know that this restaurant has been on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives on the Food Network, which I had no idea until I overheard my neighboring diners, but I completely understand why. Aside from the food, it has a comfy corner cafe feel you would expect from a place just serving scones and coffee, but then you’re lured into the menu with all these wild dishes like the Polenta w/ Mushrooms appetizer or the Brick Chicken entree. The wait staff was great, and my server Tracy checked on me several times, my water glass was always full. The atmosphere was great, everyone in the place was having a good time and it felt like a place you ate at growing up, but with food that was out of this world.
Gazpacho w/ Shrimp & Avocado
The shrimp are tender, just barely cooked and the avocado doesn’t add flavor, it creates a beautiful creamy texture that delivers the impact of the tomato and cucumber like a gravy freight train. The cucumber, onion, and tomato are plentiful and there’s even a little spicy kick of black pepper at the end. It’s garnished with cilantro which delivers a fresh flavor every couple bites. It had a very smooth tomato base that was the right balance of acidity and sweetness. You could see beads of oil that had broken from the emulsifying process. I’ve had a few bowls of gazpacho in my day, but At Last Cafe’s was in the top 5. It’s all because of the textural addition of avocado that didn’t overwhelm any of the other flavors and the melt in your mouth shrimp.
I had the Lamb 3-Way as my entree, and it coming in at $16 did not have me thrilled, but as soon as it came out my pockets loosened up and so did my taste buds. There’s a small ground lamb meatball or patty, two lamb chops, and seared braised lamb shank meat, all topped with the house gravy over homemade mashed potatoes, with tender crisp lightly sauteed vegetables. The flavors were insane, my favorite was the shank meat, it had the delicious caramelized flavor on the seared parts, it fell apart and was delicately tender, AND the fat was rendered beautifully into a marrow like substance. It’s truly worth going here just for the piece of lamb shank meat that comes in the 3-way. Next for the lamb chop, lamb chops are one of the first things I learned to cook(long story) and I know the importance of evenly cooking a chop without taking it past medium-rare and so do the chefs at At Last Cafe. My knife slid through the meat like butter and so did my teeth, it wasn’t powerfully seasoned and I mean that as a compliment, the lamb is able to speak for itself. The meatball was the one I wasn’t expecting to be medium rare, but it was definitely a plus. It had the great meatbally exterior and flavor with a smoothness similar to a pate or mousse on the inside, it was all amazing and when the gravy and lamb juice mixed together with the mashed potatoes the dish was complete. I love dishes like this that evolve as you’re eating them, it was really wonderful and reminded me of some of the places my parents took me growing up.
At Last Cafe in Long Beach was incredible, I have it ranked as one of the best meals I’ve had since I’ve been in California. Have you been to At Last Cafe or know of any other cool places in Long Beach to check out? Be sure share them in the comments or on Facebook!