By Gina Ruccione, Cuisine and Restaurant Writer
Americans have developed a bizarre concept of food, often opting for fast and/or processed food because it costs less and is seemingly easier. This cheaper-by-the-dozen mentality is misleading and contributes to many health problems in this country. Since World War II, processed food has become the norm. Advertising campaigns made it their mission to give the proverbial housewife a break from the arduous task of putting food on the table, but not because they cared for the well-being of these women. The surplus of powdered potatoes and canned meat meant for soldiers, now needed a new demographic: American families.
People seem to have less time today, but the hours in a day still remain the same; it’s just the varying degree to which people utilize their time management skills that changed. Feeding your family doesn’t need to be so incredibly overwhelming that you are forced to cut corners. Food is the necessary fuel that gives us life and we’re filling up on the wrong stuff. No one would dare put anything other than gas in the tank of their car, but when it comes to what people eat, well — that’s a different story.
There are several businesses in the Harbor Area that have been around for a decade or more that understand this concept and truly want to make our lives easier. It’s time to get reacquainted with some of the best neighborhood markets and delicatessens. All of these quaint, community-centric stores are a reminder that in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s still possible to care about what you’re feeding people.
Jacaranda Gourmet Shop
Jacaranda is one of the cutest little culinary gems in San Pedro. This past year it got a much needed face-lift. I almost did a double take when I walked into the store. Be still my heart. Have I crossed the bridge from Long Beach and planted myself in something that could easily be confused for a hip, beach city eatery? What used to be a vague recollection of a mini speciality store juxtaposed with random accessories for baking aficionados and tea connoisseurs now looks contemporary and more stylish.
Josephine Trusela, the former owner of Trusela’s Italian Restaurant in San Pedro, assumed ownership of Jacaranda Gourmet Shop. She is responsible for bringing the eatery up to speed. While it’s adjacent to a supermarket, there’s no redundancy in product or placement. Anything pre-packaged at Jacaranda is served that way only for convenience. Everything is made on site, even the packaged goods in the frozen food case. The food is minimally processed, mostly organic and with only the finest, nitrate-free deli meats. The Chinese chicken salad is still one of my favorite salads of all time. A full-service event catering and gourmet takeout menu is available online.
Jacaranda | 1030 N. Western Ave | San Pedro |
(310) 831-0775 | www.jacarandagourmet.com
Olives Gourmet Grocer
Owners Laurie Semon and Erin O’Hagan happened to stroll past a vacant space one evening and jumped at the opportunity to make their culinary dream a reality.
Olives was the first specialty market in Long Beach—before Whole Foods and Lazy Acres came into town and to know it is to truly love it.
Shelves line the perimeter with unique grocery items made by small companies that can’t be found anywhere else. The deli case assumes position front and center and holds its true mainstay: prepared food and sandwiches. The freshly seared ahi, salmon and sandwiches are amazing. Olives even has specialty cheeses and wines. The quaint market serves a loyal, dedicated foodie following, that keeps it busy. Olives supports many smaller and locally-owned food companies like Semolina Artisanal Pasta, which is based in Los Angeles. They do everything from corporate catering to picnic baskets for concerts in the park. And, if that wasn’t enough, the owners just opened the most wonderful restaurant next door, Taste.
Olives Gourmet Grocer | 3510 E. Broadway | Long Beach |
(562) 439-7758 | http://olivesgourmetgrocer.com
Ma ’n Pa Grocery
I stumbled into this little market several months ago after taking a turn down a wrong street. This adorable spot was originally built in the 1920s, and has since changed ownership several times. Zac and Renee Henderson, who assumed ownership almost 12 years ago, still beam and playfully boast about their corner store like proud parents. The façade is reminiscent of red barnhouse. The back house serves as its state-certified beef jerky processing plant. There is something charming and nostalgic about the building.
Most of the neighborhood covets their daily specials. Everything is made in-house, by the owners the old fashioned way. The fried chicken is so popular it sells out within hours and their breakfast burritos have assumed a reputation all on their own.
Ma’ n Pa also assumes a refreshingly antiquated approach to promoting and marketing, much of it being word of mouth. Ma’ n Pa doesn’t have website; it has only a slight online presence, save for a couple social media posts on Facebook and Instagram to showcase updated menu items. It serves as a pleasant reminder that community still craves and supports small business.
Word on the street is that they have a block party every year to celebrate their customers and to say thanks to the neighborhood. It’s no small production either with hundreds of people, music and, of course, plenty of food.
Ma’ n Pa Grocery | 346 Roycroft | Long Beach | (562) 438-4084
Gina Ruccione is a Southern California Restaurant Writers Association member. Visit her website at www.foodfashionfoolishfornication.com. Got a food tip? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her food adventures Instagram @foodfashionfoolishfornication.