Original article: The Press Telegram
There’s nothing ordinary about The Ordinarie.
The website for this cheerful gastropub on the busy Long Beach Promenade informs us that the name comes from the Laws of the Commonwealth, which instruct one and all that “Every community is required by law to build an Ordinarie for the receiving, refreshment and entertainment of travelers and strangers.”
Darned smart those Founding Fathers — they knew back then that a goodly pub was essential for those planning to overthrow the rule of an arbitrary and cruel monarch.
The first thing you might notice upon entering is that there are paintings…everywhere. Dozens and dozens of paintings, hung in every available space on the walls, as if they were installed by a decorator with a serious case of OCD, and a need to leave no space unfilled. It must have taken weeks to put them all up — in every shape and size, mostly pictures of ye goode olde tymes, when good folks caroused and drank much of their mead or mulled wine or Dutch genever or whatever it was good folks drank long before the invention of DUIs.
Luckily, they didn’t hang a portrait of gallivanting peasants over the big screens, or the place would lose its appeal as a fine joint in which to bend an elbow, and watch the game o’ the moment. And certainly there’s a touch of cognitive dissonance when it comes to those eldritch burghers looking down on the rock acts who appear live at The Ordinarie. This place wants to be many things to many people. And it’s succeeding at it pretty well.
Certainly, as a place for a bit of mixology, it’s just fine. The bar menu runs to libations with exotic names like Goat’s Delight (brandy, kirschwasser, orgeat, cream, absinthe), Ebulum (gin, elderflower, lemon, hard cider) and Byculla (amontillado sherry, Curacao, port, ginger). There’s a Liberty Flip too — rum, Madeira, spiced pumpkin, egg, cream. It’s a drink to consume after singing the Declaration of Independence.
Lots of beers too — Three Weavers Expatriate IPA from Inglewood anyone?
The drink list may have aspirations of being olde timey. But the menu is reasonably modern — though there are dishes that are at least echoes of what they ate way back when. Certainly, there’s no Shrewsbury Cakes, eel pie, pepper cake, fish custard, or the oyster ice cream much beloved by First Lady Dolly Madison.
But back then, they did eat “maccarony cheese,” made with eggs and sherry. And on the menu at The Ordinarie, you’ll find a fine rendition of what we know as mac ‘n’ cheese, made with six cheeses, with a parmesan crust, and the option of adding bacon or short ribs for a few dollars more. Which would have made it gourmet fare back in the 18th century.
Equally blessed with provenance in our distant history, are the Virginia ham and Vermont cheddar popovers, the beef barley soup, and the chicken pot pie “bites” — a mini pot pie is a fine thing to behold. I don’t know if the maple glazed carrots can be traced back all that far. But possibly they can, when you consider that our ancestors did have a taste for eating their savory dishes sweet. Sugar was hard to come by. But maple syrup was readily available, as was honey and molasses. And they were all slathered on everything in abundance.
The pan-roasted half chicken is probably an echo of this, with its balsamic glaze, sweet potato succotash and charred lemon. Ditto the lamb t-bone with its cherry wine reduction, and the pork loin with its green apple compote, along with girts and braised mustard greens, Americana incarnate! But mostly, this is very tasty pub grub, but without the innate goofiness of nachos stacked to heights that seem to turn them into edible Jenga blocks.
There are chicken wings — there have to be chicken wings! — but they’re prepared Carolina-style, with a dry rub.
And yes the fries are topped with Vermont cheddar, and a choice of short ribs for a little more, which does hint of outré. But the roasted cauliflower is properly modern, and along with the beet salad, and fig and apple salad, allows for a bit of cleaner keto dining. The New England style lobster roll on the other hand, is a pretty daunting creation — it never ceases to amaze how lobster on a hot dog bun can be so…big!
There’s a pretty great sandwich made with a buttermilk crusted Mary’s chicken breast, with cabbage slaw, on a brioche bun. And for dessert, you might want the Apple Brown Betty, with Vermont cheddar. Possibly because it’s so good — and possible because, well, it’s an Apple Brown Betty, one of the best dessert names ever, and not at all ordinary.
Merrill Shindler is a Los Angeles-based freelance dining critic. Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rating: 3 stars
Address: 210 The Promenade N., Long Beach
Information: 562-676-4261, www.theordinarie.com
When: Lunch and dinner, every day
Details: Full bar; reservations important
Atmosphere: Casually comfortable pub on the lively Promenade, with tons of old school art on the walls, a big bar, and lots of seating outside for those who want to spend the evening watching the passing parade while sipping on a cold martini.
Prices: About $40 per person
Suggested dishes: Beef Barley Soup ($6/$9), Ham and Cheddar Popovers ($7), Zucchini Fritters ($9), Chicken Wings ($11), Cheese Fries ($9), Mac ‘n’ Cheese ($9), Maple Glazed Carrots ($9), Roasted Cauliflower ($10), Chicken Pot Pie Bites ($12), Grilled Caesar Salad ($12), Waldorf Salad ($14), Beet Salad ($12), Fig and Apple Salad ($12), Lobster Roll ($18), Ham and Brie Sandwich ($14), Short Rib Dip ($17), Fried Chicken Sandwich ($15), 3 Burgers ($15-$16), Half Chicken ($18), Pork Loin ($19), Short Rib Pot Roast ($24), Lobster Pot Pie ($26), Grilled Salmon ($22), Lamb T-Bone ($28), Chicken ‘n’ Dumplings ($19)
Cards: MC, V
What the stars mean: Ratings range from 4 stars to zero. 4 stars is world-class (worth a trip from anywhere). 3 stars is most excellent, even exceptional (worth a trip from anywhere in Southern California). 2 stars is a good place to go for a meal (visit if you’re in the neighborhood). 1 star is a place to go if you’re hungry and it’s nearby. Zero stars is not worth writing about.