Long Beach Needs This is a series that addresses two things: Long Beach’s infamous “Manhattanitis,” where our people tend to stick to all-things-Long-Beach while rarely stepping outside and two, highlights great accomplishments, spaces, restaurants, and ideas fostered by our worldly neighbors. It is meant to encourage exploration—from taking a step into the the city next door to visiting other parts of the world—and look at how they successfully implement things, create great food and community, or just view life through a different lens. To see all the Long Beach Needs This posts, click here.
Photo above courtesy of The Nest. Photos below by Brian Addison.
To inaugurate this series, I was torn between discussing the very far away—this elote joint on a street corner in Cancún that seemed to defy any sense of health code red tape and any traditional definition of elote despite the long line of Mexicans patiently waiting for it was something I felt obligated to share with Long Beach and its lack of street car food culture—or not that far at all—in this case, Bellflower.
I opted for the latter because all too often, our neighbors (even including those in our own city limits to the north) get shadowed over by the booming area that is DTLB or Retro Row or Belmont Shore or basically anything south of Anaheim. Just like we as a whole are often overshadowed by things Los Angeles does (sometimes better, sometimes not)—and in the spirit of exploration and sisterly love, I want to show off places that do things better than us or at least to an extent of inducing jealousy.
And when you step into The Nest, nestled in a hole-in-the-wall off of Alondra Blvd. in Bellflower, the vibes are galore: Southern-gone-urban, cottage-y knick-knacks and white-painted-wood homages to the South are paired with posters that offer a Complete Compendium of Sneakers and the Shoe Closet of Carrie Bradshaw and the speakers are sure to be playing everything from James Brown to WAR. And the sole focus of this wonderful black-owned business? Breakfast.
To mention breakfast in Long Beach is to bring up a sense of pride; to criticize it is to be puttin’ up some fightin’ words. From dive staples like Egg Heaven—whose menu has remained unchanged for decades and in which the clause in the buying agreement when owner Glenn Synder bought it in 1977 actually stated contractually: “You cannot change the atmosphere of Heaven. You can clean it up and update it, but you can’t change the feeling”—to the Coffee Cup Cafe, from The Breakfast Bar to The Potholder, Long Beach is a breakfast town in which its establishments often shame even the most popular joints in LA. (Minus Republique, another joint that Long Beach very much needs.)
Even better, The Nest owner Antonio Appling makes one thing clear on his menu about what comes first to his breakfast joint that has altered the neighborhood surrounding it: employees first.
“There’s one thing I’ve noticed about all the places I love,” Appling said. “And those are the places where the people who work there make me feel like I should love it as much as they do. I can sit back there and work and work and work but if my soldiers on the ground don’t believe in the fight, no hearts or minds will be won over. I won’t have a customer base and I won’t have employees that enjoy their life.”
Make no mistake: Appling’s employees love their tiny-but-mighty spot tucked away in Bellflower. Love. They’re impassioned about the food, its quality, and what their hood offers. Menti0n their use of Patria Coffee—Compton’s sole organic coffee roaster—and they’ll happily inform you of the great relationship The Nest has with Patria owner and Comptonite Geoffrey Martinez. They’ll soon go onto to offer you a coffee mojito, a sweet concoction of cold brew Patria, cream, and muddled mint that is as oddly refreshing as it is addicting.
With employee love follows love of food—and from being named one of the best places to score waffles in the nation to hosting pop-up dinners that defy the definition of breakfast-for-dinner, The Nest continues to excel because it lacks pretense and has garnered a sense of pride from its community—Long Beach in style and execution if there were any.
As for creating a location in Long Beach, Appling has long-yearned for it. The man is no mystery to the streets of LB: long before his brick-and-mortar, he was known spoken word master “Paz One” (and still is known as that), hosting the Long Beach Poetry Slam while also getting his pop-up on at farmers markets to test creations like his now-staple, best-outside-the-south biscuit. (Yes, I said it: best outside the south. And the man deep fries the bastards to make them even more absurdly wondrous.)
Of course, the thing with The Nest goes back to its people. Yes, its food is spectacular. Yes, there is something about its location and the way it has altered it—the place is packed whether it’s Wednesday at 11AM or Sunday after church. Yes, the Southern-gone-Urban vibe is wonderful.
But Appling’s dedication to his set of hardworking humans is what remains perhaps the most jealousy-inducing thing about it. It is a placed filled with rightfully-owned pride, a place where if you decide to voyeur on the people eating next to you, you’ll notice their own pride in the place as a part of their community.
Employees first is maybe something all too many restaurateurs are missing. And maybe we’re all missing: support the people who literally clean up our shit and maybe we’ll have nicer shit. Just a thought.
The Nest is located at 9260 Alondra Blvd in Bellflower. Follow them on Instagram: @eatatthenest