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Paninis and Bikinis

A Sarong Panini, made with fried eggplant, mozzarella

A Sarong Panini, made with fried eggplant, mozzarella cheese, fresh sliced tomatoes, roasted peppers, black olives and a balsamic glaze is ready to eat at Paninis and Bikinis in Long Beach. (Nov. 11, 2010) Credit: Photo by Jesse Newman

It's late morning and I'm at a Long Beach storefront, Paninis and Bikinis (love the name or hate it) because of a reader who's been e-mailing me its praises for over a year.

Brunch gets off on the wrong footing when I order a short stack of both the rosemary French toast (reader’s favorite) and the buttermilk pancakes. Absolutely no short orders, the guy behind the counter declares; full or nothing. So, OK, I get two full orders, taking care to ask that the caramelized apple syrup ordinarily poured over the French toast and the berry sauce for the pancakes be served on the side.

When the food is brought to the table, both the French toast and the thick, pasty little pancakes are almost as cold as the wind that gusts through the place every time someone walks in the front door. (Which, to the eatery's credit, is often). On the other hand, my companion’s warm “Brazilian bikini” wrap stuffed with scrambled eggs, Pepper Jack cheese, salsa and guacamole makes for a spirited choice. The "string bikini panini" (doesn't anybody realize that the word "panini" is plural for "panino?") filled with turkey, Brie, cranberry chutney and red onions is unobjectionable.

Perhaps summer is the time to appreciate this offbeat place, which sports a painted wooden mermaid suspended from the ceiling.

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