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What’s Good, Long Beach? Tux & Chucks Spins On Street Food

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Tux & Chucks Street Food is right at the heart of the West Side, nestled between two bars on Willow Street, with its façade splitting Regway Avenue. It’s a casual eatery that speaks directly to its neighborhood. Two of the owners grew up in the area, and the menu — of tacos, burritos, quesadillas, rice bowls, hot dogs and specialty fries — brings together Mexican, Filipino and Korean influences reflective of the local demographic.

The owners, Jesus Gurrola, Philip Aurea and Ryan Lasang — former coworkers at a large corporation, turned friends, turned business partners — make up half of the tiny staff. It’s common to find Lasang greeting customers at the register while Aurea and Gurrola man the grill.

“It was all just talk, for a long time,” Aurea said of their dream to own a restaurant.

“When we worked, it was just 12 hours straight, with the same people,” Gurrola laughed. “So we just talked and talked.”

Those musings eventually turned into Tux & Chucks Catering Co., which served the guys’ close friends and family at parties and other gatherings. The name was Aurea’s idea, inspired by tuxedo T-shirts and Chuck Taylor sneakers, which was the guys’ standard uniform when they catered. For Lasang, it perfectly embodied the food they served.

“It’s street food, but it’s more gourmet,” he said. “Plus, the tuxedo shirts brought a lot of smiles and laughs from people when we did catering jobs.

“It started off as a side hustle,” Lasang added. “We booked parties on the weekends, so we’d get off from working Friday night — sometimes at 6 a.m. Saturday morning, and start prepping for a party we had at 10 a.m.”

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The catering took off, and the trio eventually had enough momentum to open up the restaurant, which made its debut in early 2017.

Most of the dishes have been lovingly carried over from before there was a brick-and-mortar spot. The menu is something you might see on a food truck, with most foods easily eaten with one hand.

The fries — all variations of perfectly crispy French fries with “stuff” piled on top — are probably the most popular category on the menu. While carne asada fries are an easy choice, Tux & Chucks sets itself apart by offering fries topped with tocino, or sweet cured pork popular in Filipino cuisine; or Korean bulgogi, marinated and barbecued beef.

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Both varieties are easy to love, especially when covered in cheese and green onions that add flavor and texture that, while simple, are dangerously addicting. But it’s the tocino that Tux & Chucks became known for at parties. While the it’s far from traditional Filipino food, Lasang admitted, “My mom’s tried it; she likes it.”

All the varieties of fries can also be ordered as tacos, burritos or bowls. Or, you can grab a delicious street dog, the kind you get from a makeshift grill on wheels outside your favorite bar, wrapped in bacon and topped with even more meat and cheese. And in case you’re wondering: Yes, there is a hot dog covered in Hot Cheetos.

Although it’s easily overlooked on the menu, the shrimp quesadilla is a surprising, indulgent treat. Gooey cheese and chunks of savory shrimp are wrapped in a warm, flakey tortilla meant to be eaten with a crunchy slaw and creamy sriracha sauce. Aureau also recommends the shrimp burrito, “if you’re really hungry.”

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Gurrola, Aurea and Lasang maintain the catering aspect of the business, which also has grown from referrals and the new neighborhood presence.

“It’s busier now that we have the restaurant,” Aurea said. “People come in and they’re able to actually try the food and decide what they want from there. And now we can do more than just the weekends; we can do parties in the middle of the week.”

The owners hope to add a takeout window soon, and continue experimenting with new menu items.

“Every day, there’s someone who tries the tocino or bulgogi for the first time; they’ve gotta try it,” Gurrola said. “We’re going to try different things, new flavors, but we don’t want to get too far away from what we do.”

“It’s a lot of work,” Lasang said, when asked whether their dream lives up to the expectations of their former selves — the guys who placed bets on if and when they would follow through with their far-fetched plans. “But it’s good. We just want to serve good food to people.”

For more information, visit tuxandchucksstreetfood.com.

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