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The Alternatives

Belmont Shore: an oasis of charm

August 28, 2003|Steve Baltin | Special to The Times

The Place

If you feel lost without your Starbucks, Gap and Blockbuster but you have to get out of the city, Long Beach's Belmont Shore is just the oasis you've been seeking. It's where the comforts of home and small-town character intermingle with big-city convenience.

Stop by Angelo's Italian Deli for out-of-this world sandwiches and to-die-for fresh Italian meats and cheeses, and Angelo himself likely will be there to shake your hand and introduce you to his wife.

Every weekend morning, cyclists and in-line skaters from the nearby beach converge on the patio of local favorite Polly's Gourmet Coffee.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday September 05, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Restaurant owner -- Calendar Weekend's Aug. 28 "Road Trip" on Belmont Shore incorrectly stated the restaurant Bono's was owned by Chastity Bono. Christy Bono, Sonny's daughter and Cher's stepdaughter, is Bono's owner.

Need to look good for Halloween? Party Props not only will hook you up with any costume you can imagine, the staff will do your makeup as well. And if you catch him on the right day, you may be able to see owner Steve Pittman, an Elvis impersonator, in costume in front of the store.

On a weekend, stroll down the beach bungalow-lined streets, where an ocean view is always available, and folks walking their dogs or pushing strollers surely will have a smile and a hello. No wonder the locals park their cars on Friday and don't move them until it's time to get back to the real world on Monday.

Where to find it

Just beyond downtown Long Beach from the 710; it's a straight shot down scenic Ocean Boulevard into the shore.

The main drag

Second Street, a food and shopping metropolis with a multitude of riches and an abundance of personality, such as the quirky "shadow art" that makes even the parking meters fun.

Nightlife

Belmont Shore has its share of places to go where everybody knows your name. The reigning king of the bar scene is Shannon's Bay Shore, an unapologetic dive where you're always sure to find a crowd and a line behind the "velvet rope." If, however, you don't feel like waiting, Panama Joe's has live music in a cantina setting most nights, and as the margaritas kick in, the dance floor fills up.

Or you can pay a visit to either Murphy's Pub at the Belmont or Quinn's Irish Pub for a pint with some mates. Murphy's, above the Belmont Athletic Club, offers the chance to watch the action on the street below from the balcony. For those craving a different social setting, the Board Room Cigar and Smoke Shop is an unpretentious meeting place for cigar aficionados.

Great eats

This being SoCal, there is no shortage of Mexican food or sushi, but 2nd Street offers so much more. Think a sun-drenched food court with gourmet choices.

For upscale dining, Shenandoah Cafe, American comfort food with a Southern kick, and the new Bono's (owned by Chastity Bono, daughter of Sonny and Cher) are favorites. The former, where the prime rib and apple fritters are the stuff of dreams, will make you feel like you're down South, while the latter, with its outdoor patio in the heart of 2nd Street, has a slightly Parisian feel.

If you can't get enough of that Parisian vibe, the Provence Boulangerie on Park Avenue, a cafe with rich pastries and an array of sandwiches, is a must. Likewise La Creperie Cafe, which serves both traditional crepes as well as what could only be labeled remixed crepes (what else to call a chicken crepe with mango chutney, coconut milk and other Indian delicacies?).

For unassuming Mexican, Super Mex, with burritos big enough to feed the Oakland Raiders, is always popular -- as is Lucille's BBQ. And on summer nights, Cold Stone Creamery has lines longer than a Springsteen concert.

Bring the family

Start at Long Beach Teacher Supplies, where you can read from their vast library of children's books, then head over to Bay Shore Avenue, where the kids can play in a family-friendly beach with no waves and everyone will enjoy watching the boats pass by. During the summer, the road is closed to oncoming traffic from 9 to 5 so people can move about freely. End the day with a visit to Color Me Mine, where kids and adults can paint the ceramic of their choice. The store will fire it in the kiln and, voila, an instant keepsake.

Shopping

Clothing boutiques abound -- both chains and places distinctly 2nd Street, such as Mezzanine and Sunshine on 2nd. And no trip to 2nd Street would be complete without a visit to Fingerprints record store, Long Beach's answer to Amoeba Records. Fingerprints is a music lover's paradise with its teeming selection of imports, hard-to-find live CDs and knowledgeable staff. As a bonus, there's always a chance of seeing a good indie act performing an in-store show in the cozy setting.

History

The name Belmont Shore stems from the Italian for "beautiful mountain," and at the turn of the 20th century, Belmont Shore was intended to resemble an Italian city running along canals, as does neighboring community Naples -- where the waterfront homes, a hodgepodge of architecture from Art Deco to Spanish style, rival those of Beverly Hills.

But developers Frank Shaw and George C. Flint abandoned those plans because of the cost. Belmont citizens settled on a pier, which was built in 1915, to Belmont Shore's west.

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