Portuguese Bend, an American style eatery, finally opened its doors downtown last month — and it has a spirited twist.
The restaurant is attached to a distillery, which happens to be Long Beach's first distillery, as well as the first restaurant-distillery combination in California. The location was originally scheduled to open during the summer of 2018, but due to snags with the city, inspectors and paperwork, the opening was delayed for another year.
But now that operations are a go, it's time to hit the ground running, the owners said.
"This one is special. It's a distillery along with a bonafide eatery, and this is something that's new not only to Long Beach, but to California,” Luis Navarro, part owner of the space and manager of the restaurant operations, said.
Along with his wife Brenda Rivera, Navarro owns and operates Lola's Mexican Restaurant and The Social List located on Fourth Street in Retro Row, as well as the Lola's location in Bixby Knolls. Together they took their dining knowledge downtown and found a partner for the new concept.
The Portuguese Bend name is an homage to the Portuguese Bend in Rancho Palos Verdes where bootleggers used to smuggle in alcoholic contraband to Los Angeles area during the prohibition, Navarro said. The restaurant walls are lined with prohibition-era imagery and the food itself is inspired by Roaring ’20s comfort food, including burgers, fries and pasta.
And then there's the distillery.
Operated by master distiller and co-owner Simon Haxton, the distillery end of Portuguese Bend offers one-of-a-kind vodkas, whiskey and gin, including sipping and mixing vodka. The bottles sell for $40 each.
In his life before running this distillery, Haxton worked as rocket scientist, a profession that made him perfect for the job, Navarro said.
"I told him (Haxton), 'If you can put stuff into space, you can make whiskey,'" Navarro said.
Port Long Beach, a design company (not to be confused with the Port of Long Beach), handled the interior design, menus, merchandise and marketing.
"We kept as much as we could local to Long Beach," Navarro said. "That was important to us, that this space is Long Beach through and through."
Down the road, Navarro said the distillery will be self-sustaining, with solar panels and water recollection bins. The idea is to go off the grid, he said.
"We want to be able to rely on ourselves and create a sustainable building," he said. "But I'll leave that to the rocket scientist."
Portuguese Bend is located at 300 The Promenade North. Go to portuguesebenddistilling.com for more information.
Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.