The Federal Bar zoomed into Long Beach during the April Grand Prix with the intention of reclaiming the much-evolved term, “gastropub” and doing in Long Beach what a gastropub was meant to do. By definition a gastropub is a pub that serves high quality food, and beer of course. Owned by The Knitting Factory Entertainment, The Federal Bar in Long Beach also aims to provide engaging, entertainment in a unique and inviting atmosphere and serve as an anchor and focal point for the vibrant neighborhood that is downtown Long Beach. And they are making one helluva grandiose statement!
First of all – the Location: The Federal has taken over the legendary Madison Steakhouse space downtown, transforming the former highbrow, high-ceilinged eatery by restoring the 1924 building’s Gilded Era antique finishes from its days as a bank (a feature it shares with its North Hollywood namesake).
Second – the Food and Beer: The Federal Bar has a unique take on sophisticated pub fare and an impressive collection of draft and bottled craft beers. From the draft beers, you can design a beer flight specific to your taste – I chose Allagash Curieux, Ballast Sculpin, Bruery Mischeif and Hangar 24 Belgium Summer Ale.
Smoked Trout | arugula pesto toast, pickled onion, hard boiled egg
You’ll find everything from the FederalDog, an all beef hot dog topped with shallot rings, pickled jalapeños and mustard, to IPA-braised short ribs served with melted leeks and hulk smash potatoes. Other favorites include a selection of seven cheeses and three flatbreads; curry cauliflower; a roasted beet salad with arugula, shaved fennel, feta, orange, sliced walnuts and white balsamic dressing; the “Fedish Egg,”–sausage, hard-boiled egg and hollandaise sauce—and Ox Tail with braised garlic kale.
Although the server suggested the Lamb Chops, Mac n’Cheese, and the Kale and Brussels Sprout Dip as the most popular items, I prefer lighter, healthier options and I do my best to highlight these choices for my readers (this can be difficult at times). Plus, several other food blogger friends posted about the very same dishes and I strive to be different 😉 We ordered the Smoked Trout, the Ahi Tuna Crudo and the Grilled Artichoke – each one was well prepared and thoughtfully presented. The generous portion of smoked trout was complemented by tart pickled onions and bright arugula pesto toasts.
Chef Victor Lopez came out to talk with us and personally deliver the Ahi Tuna Crudo – he seemed so serious and rather shy, but we cajoled him into smiling 🙂 I thought the simple sashimi style presentation was beautiful and the slivers of sushi-grade ahi were also brightened with a touch of acid in the pickled serrano and a cilantro aioli.
Ahi Tuna Crudo | cilantro, blackened onion, pickled serrano, cilantro aioli on ciabatta toasts
I continued my light lunch objective with a kale salad. Not your run-of-the-mill kale salad, this one was humongous and could easily be split between several guests as a salad course. It was served warm and enhanced visually and texturally with crunchy orbs of red quinoa while a lemon and thyme dressing softened the curly kale leaves and lightly napped the roasted pears and grapes. As always, I appreciated the light hand taken with the dressing and it made a fine lunch the next day.
Warm Quinoa & Kale Salad | grilled roasted pear & grilled grapes
My dining companion rounds out the meatier side of the equation with a taste for burgers, steaks, short ribs, etc. She’s always in search of a burger to feature as her “Burger of the Week” on Facebook and went with the Turkey Burger this time.
Oh, yes! It was definitely “Burger of the Week” material – moist, messy, bold flavor of chipotle and tangy cranberry, served with real hand-cut crispy fries.
Chipotle Turkey Burger | manchego, bibb lettuce, cranberry, avocado on a brioche bun
Third – the Entertainment: owned by the Knitting Factory Entertainment – producers, managers and distributors of universal music content, film/TV and theatrical events operate music venues across the country including New York, California, Idaho, Washington and Nevada; I’m excited to share that they’re bringing their entertainment expertise to Long Beach. The big news being the opening of a speakeasy in the vault room downstairs.
Maître d’ Michelle visited our table and offered to take us downstairs for a sneak peek at the restoration and construction going on while she shared what their plans were for this amazing space. Long enamored by the era of Prohibition and speakeasies, my mind was filled with magical images of dark, forbidden fun and the air of authenticity the club will possess. Talking with Director of West Coast Operations, Ed Levy, the opening is slated for the first week in November – and I plan on being one of the first to utter the secret password for entree to the wild gaiety below.
102 Pine Ave
Long Beach, CA 90802
Hours of Operation:
Monday-Saturday – 11:30am-close
Sunday – 10:00am-close