Welcome to Chuck's By the Sea!
Only in California could a culinary delight called "the weasel" garner a cult following. But at Chuck's Coffee Shop in the Long Beach neighborhood of Belmont Shore the cult has been gathering for more than 40 years. This was no different on a recent Sunday outing when we happily landed at Chuck's Coffee shop. Just one-block from one of Southern California's stellar beaches, Chuck's is everything you'd expect from the quintessential beach-town diner.
It's all about the local beach scene. My friend, Debbie, and I were more than happy to join the throng of hungry Southern Californians sitting curbside in front of Chuck's. The Long Beach "June Gloom", which had lingered into July, was no deterrent to beach-goers dining outside or waiting patiently for any available table. With just 49 seats, Chuck's is compact -- to say the least -- barely standing-room inside the wedge-shaped establishment. Though you can easily grab a spot at the front counter - a true classic. However, most visitors to this Belmont Shore landmark, sign-in and then wait to dine. Luckily, plenty of plastic chairs are provided. Outside we joined at least a dozen other patrons and dogs, and waited to discover the secret of "locally world famous" Chuck's and the "weasel" so prominently promoted on the sign outside.
Debbie and I didn't mind the wait since it gave us time to chat with some of the Long Beach locals including a very cheerful English bulldog named Motor. Lucky dog, he was enjoying breakfast at Chuck's with his parents Thelma and Keith.
True to their word, our curbside sit-down was less than 20 minutes. The best news was that we were seated at a small booth inside. It hadn't occurred to me to say "inside" or "out" but as a Chuck's first-timer, I definitely wanted to be inside with all the best action.
We had a clear view of the kitchen. A small space, but great short-order chefs were hard at work slamming out all the best diner grub. You know, heart-stopping, artery-clogging, waist-expanding gastronomic delights. All my personal favorites. The efficient and friendly wait-staff hurried past, arms stacked with plates. The only thing left to do was to choose from the mouth-watering breakfast and lunch items. Just reading Chuck's welcome on the back of the menu is enough to make you drool: "...homemade chili and beans, real baked ham, 16 different omelettes served with fresh salsa...buttermilk pancakes, homemade soup..." and this doesn't even include the yet to be explained "weasel".
Too many choices. So we asked our waitress for her recommendation. High points for the fact that she actually told us what she thought. Breakfast was her personal favorite and I must agree, it's one of my favorite meals. She confirmed that the "weasel" really is the most popular item...drum roll please! The Weasel is scrambled eggs topped with the house-made chili topped with cheese and onions. Whooooweee! Hold me back. And with a side of sour-dough French toast...you could just slap me stupid with joy.
And what about Chuck...does he exist? I should say so. Since 1964, he's been there providing Long Beach and Belmont Shore visitors and neighbors with his diner best.
True to form, I inquired, "Is Chuck here?" Absolutely. Looking like the true southern California, beach-dwelling, diner king, Chuck joined us. A true host, Chuck offered us a Mimosa to toast this most auspicious occasion...the first of what I hope will be many more chow-downs at "locally world famous" Chuck's.
We felt lite true celebrities to share our table and a weasel, with Chuck.
Chow, babies! We're Motoring.
Barbara L. Steinberg©