LONG BEACH —For restaurateurs Melissa Almeraz and Rebecca Hinderer, their Long Beach breakfast spot What’s Crackin’ serves up more than morning food; it’s also a safe space for the LGBTQ community.
What’s Crackin is located on Belmont Shore’s popular Second Street in the former home of Thai Gourmet.
It’s hard to miss the place because Almeraz and Hinderer have re-painted the exterior turquoise.
For the longest time, Second Street has been a desert for businesses catering to LGBTQ customers. But that landscape might be changing.
Almeraz identifies as lesbian, and Brooke Stockwell, who created the What’s Crackin menu and is the executive chef at Roblar Winery in Santa Ynez, identifies as queer.
Then, right next door, the salon Nu Du, which is owned by a lesbian couple, opened in March.
What’s Crackin started filling hungry breakfast bellies in December. The restaurant is open Monday – Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“What’s Crackin is a safe space. I look forward to making new friends and seeing old friends,” Almeraz said in an interview.
“To be in this space is huge for us. We are going to create a buzz and vibe and bring more diversity to Second Street,” she said. “There hasn’t been very much representation of queer spaces on Second Street. Gay people don’t hang out in the Shore.”
What’s Crackin could change that scenario, and their menu would be the magnet that attracts customers.
The menu features peanut butter and jelly french toast, a vegetarian version of biscuits and gravy, a vegan burrito (sweet potatoes, onions, spinach, soy chorizo) on a spinach tortilla, and the egg speciality croque monsieur.
Almeraz and Hinderer, both 41, worked together at the Breakfast Bar in downtown Long Beach, where Hinderer was general manager. Almeraz also worked at Hamburger Mary’s and Sweetwater Saloon, two well-known queer establishments, among other places.
Naturally, breakfast is their favorite meal of the day.
“I always knew I wanted to be in the breakfast game,” Hinderer said. “It’s my favorite meal. It’s the start of the day. It’s an important meal.”
Almeraz says she was raised in a “breakfast family.”
“We got up early and went to breakfast places,” Almeraz said. “I’ve had the name What’s Crackin written down since I was 21. I want to start people’s mornings.”
The idea of launching their own restaurant was born last year during the height of the pandemic. Second Street is well known for its expensive retail rents, and several businesses closed during the pandemic.
At the same time, Almeraz and Hinderer said they secured a great deal with their lease agreement that allowed them to open in the location.
“The opportunity presented itself. It seemed like the worst time with COVID-19, but it was the best time,” Almeraz said. “I put all my eggs in one basket.”