Late brunch at The Federal on Pine Square in downtown Long Beach. I didn’t see any signs so I don’t know if  that area on Pine Avenue between Ocean and 5th is still called Pine Square. The Federal, since 2011, is the latest restaurant to occupy this 1920’s bank building. I arrived before my dining partners so I walked around Pine Square and noticed quite a few changes. For one thing, it had been 11 years since I last frequented this area. Rock Bottom Brewery, L’Opera, Kings Fish House, and Alegria were still there, and still drawing a crowd. Alegria was the first to serve tapas back then.

I was still early, so I sat at the bar and ordered a Bellini from the bartender. He never heard of champagne served that way and didn’t have anything peach flavored in his bar. Not a good sign. I had a Mimosa.

The brunch menu looked intriguing. Then the waitress told us that the first three items were no longer available, and the first and most delicious sounding dessert was also not available. The Hummus Board was pretty good – roasted pepper, jalapeno cilantro and black been hummus served with olives, cucumbers and flat bread. Our entrees were Meatloaf Benedict (thick slice of meatloaf over hash and fresh spinach, topped with 2 poached eggs and chipotle hollandaise), Fried Brussels Salad (with spinach, fried shallots, goat cheese, toasted almonds, spiced apples in a balsamic reduction and topped with a piece of grilled salmon), and Unforgettable Hash with garlic fries, carnitas pork, manchego cheese with tomatillo salsa.

Jeffrey said the meatloaf was too over-powering for the Benedict – too heavy to finish. Brussels Salad was “ok” per Mickey (that word is the kiss of death when it refers to food). The hash was definitely forgettable!! This dish was a total waste for the taste buds. Fries were limp, the pork was tasteless, the cheese was a glob on top, and the salsa was so spicy I didn’t use it. So everything was very very dry, and the waitress forgot my egg!

If our meal had been the sole purpose of our visit, the day would have been a total loss. But we had places to walk and things to see. One street over from Pine is the Promenade (no cars), and this is an area that has really changed. The Blue Café (my favorite blues venue in  Southern California) has closed. The pedestrian walkway is lined with high-rise condominiums and lots of trees. Here is also one of only 2 Starbucks in downtown Long Beach. The other is at The Pike. How cool is that?? We walked across Ocean, past the huge convention center, and on to The Pike. The Cinemark Theaters are still there, and now The Pike Outlets. P.F. Changs, Islands, Bubba Gump and Gladstones are still there. Pier 76 Fish Grill is new.

The boys wanted to go to the Aquarium of the Pacific. I had been there many times, so I opted to walk along the marina, sit under a tree and watch the people while they visited the fishes.

The Other Thing – They say you can’t go home again. Maybe you can if you are willing to take it like it is. Everything was so new and exciting at the start of the new millennium. Pine Square was new. The Pike was new.  Some spots are showing their age now, but Long Beach is still growing, it’s still fun, and I still miss living there!!