I have also begun writing a weekly food column for the OC Weekly called Long Beach Lunch. It’s an honor to represent Long Beach’s daytime food scene and thanks to Gustavo for trusting my food-writing skills based on a few bits of beer blather. Links to the first two installments are below:

Long Beach Lunch: MVP’s Grill & Patio


With the Olympics finally over and Long Beach athletes earning more medals that most countries, it seems appropriate to start off Long Beach Lunch at MVP’s, a sandwich and burger stand built right on Fourth Street with a menu full of sports-themed items such as the “Patty Day Melt” and “The Mean Joe Green” that are more than their kitschy names.

The concept of naming food items after athletes, coaches and other sports celebrities might get a little hairy (Harry Caray, perhaps? Sorry, but I’ll be here all week!), but MVP keeps it clever by creating dishes that manage to make sense with their namesake.

The “Greg Louganis,” for example, is a pita bread filled with chicken, lettuce, tomato and tzatziki sauce–a reference to the gold medal swimmer’s adoptive Greek-American parents. The “Shaq” burger, meanwhile, includes double meat, double cheese, double bacon, avocado and dressing — presumably for Shaq-ish-level hunger.


Long Beach Lunch: Taqueria La Mexicana #5


Long Beach may be lacking in the 24-hour taqueria department (you win this time, Taqueria De Anda!), but it more than makes up for it with a slew of daytime-dwelling taco stands that cook up some of the best quick-n-dirty asada, pollo and pastor around.
Taqueria La Mexicana is LBC’s hometown taqueria chain, with five locations scattered throughout various area neighborhoods and a sixth one on the way in nearby Hawaiian Gardens. Though all of them provide typical Mexican items with the standard ordering-window-with-outdoor-seating setup, only Taqueria La Mexicana #5 simultaneously serves tacos, burritos and sopes along with an entirely separate menu of burgers and teriyaki dishes.



A little backtracking on some of my published work that I forgot to post on here. This was a Checking In On… Q&A with the Growlers that went to print right before they played Coachella. I still think that Brooks (the singer) looks like Chalino Sanchez–or at least some handsome, Italian pop star–especially (especialmente?) when he swaggers all over the stage in his polyester pants washing over your astonishment at his throwback stage attitude with a silky, DGAF stare.

The Growlers: Bigger, Better, Faster, More!

[Checking In On . . .] There’s life after recording with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys


Last time we talked to Growlers singer Brooks Neilson (“Further? Fursure!” by Chris Ziegler, Dec. 23, 2011), his bandmates were gashing girls’ heads on a small winter tour and waiting for the album they recorded in Nashville with Dan Auerbach (of the Black Keys) to find a release date.

The band are still waiting for that date, but that doesn’t mean they’re just hanging out. By the time you read this, they will have played their first set at Coachella and, hopefully, completed recording 20 more new songs on their and their friends’ collections of all-analog devices. It’s all about 2-inch tape, yo.

checking in on

March 9, 2012

This is the first in a series of bi-weekly contributions I will be making to the O.C. Weekly’s new in-print column called “Checking In On…” The idea is to catch up with local bands that we’ve covered before and therefore can’t do another big feature on. If you have any suggestions or contacts, please let me know!

Published in print in the March 8, 2012 issue of O.C. Weekly and online here.

Avi Buffalo, Older and Wiser

Post-debut success, Long Beach’s band of teenagers have had some time to reflect—and write more music

In the two years since Southern California first basked in the dreamy guitarwork and lo-fi stylings of Avi Buffalo‘s self-titled debut album, front man Avi Zahner-Isenberg has grown both older and wiser.

A look back in time

Now 21, Zahner has had some space to reflect on his once-rigorous touring schedule—which found the band of teenagers playing coveted slots at mega-festivals such as All Tomorrow’s Parties and Primavera Sound—and the experiences have left him thinking critically about his next steps.

“We were exposed to so much craziness at such a young age. There’s no way around it,” Zahner-Isenberg says. “It was really good in so many respects, but it’s something you have to battle with. Your brain isn’t even fully developed when you’re 18, and all of a sudden, you’re thrown into opening up for epic people whom you’ve looked up to your entire life. What does that do to your head?”

For Zahner, the global exposure that came with being Sub Pop Records‘ latest buzz band only grounded him more. And since returning home to Long Beach more than a year and a half ago, he has been running a home studio (Hood Ranch Dressing), playing music with old friends and writing songs for the next Avi Buffalo album, which will start tracking in a few months. He even released a few experimental solo albums, partially recorded on his laptop while living in the band’s tour van, parked in the driveway of his parents’ house.

Messing around with his home recording equipment also helped him prepare for the band’s upcoming professional-studio time. “I’m really excited because this time we have more experience with recording,” he explains. “Being able to get into home recording has been really helpful. I’m able to have a perspective on what songs are supposed to sound like when we go into the studio. It’s not just the raw chord progressions and lyrics anymore.”

Since the songs are already written for the new album—some of which are (à la San Pedro‘s Minutemen, he says) 20 to 50 seconds long—Zahner’s concern now is balance. What is the right mix between hi-fi and lo-fi? How do you prepare your songs for recording, but still leave room for spontaneity? Can you avoid sacrificing depth and vibe for cleanliness?

Working with fellow local musicians during the past few years of downtime, both through Hood Ranch Dressing Studios and performances with the Wild Bunch, as well as other friends’ bands, has brought Zahner closer to answering these questions. But reconnecting with his circle of talented friends may have been beneficial in another, more important way.

“At the end of the day, you have to go back to those people whom you’ve played with for years who in some ways haven’t gone through that so you can humble yourself and realize why you’re playing music,” he says. “As long as I’m connected to those people, then I’m emotionally sound.”