Downtown Long Beach is a happening place on a Friday night.
Instead of rolling up the sidewalks, the city and businesses along Jeff Davis Avenue seem to encourage strolling, window shopping and visiting with others. It’s a family-friendly atmosphere in the town known as The Friendly City.
On a Roll Sushi is smack-dab in the middle of the action. My niece, Grace, had been dying (her word) to go there for some time, so Aunt Tammy picked her up and we headed along U.S. 90 toward Long Beach with the sun just starting to set.
On a Roll is in one of the new buildings on Jeff Davis but the interior looks and feels like it’s been part of the landscape for a long time. It’s smallish, and the warm colors and wood of the interior give it an even more intimate setting. There’s also an outside patio by the sidewalk with additional seating, weather permitting.
On this particular evening, two couples with preschoolers were enjoying dinner out there and the kids were having fun.
There are the traditional rolls, such as California ($4.95), Philadelphia ($6.50), Spicy Tuna ($6.50), Crunchy ($5.95) and Shrimp Tempura ($7.75); hand rolls ranging from $4.95 to $5.50; dinner entrees such as Chicken Teriyaki ($10.95), Shrimp Tempura ($12.95) and Chicken, Shrimp or Vegetable Fried Rice ($10.95), as well as soups, salads and appetizers.
But check out the specialty rolls: Mama Linda Roll ($12.95) — shrimp tempura and crunchies on the inside with cream cheese and avocado, with choice of tuna or salmon and a sweet and savory sauce and white toasted sesame seeds; C-Raig Roll ($9.95) — tempura shrimp and avocado wrapped in soy paper topped with jalapeno pimento cheese and crawfish tails, then toasted; Cajun Gator Roll ($9.95) — tempura fried alligator, pickled daikon, green onion and red tobiko topped with a wasabi barbecue sauce; and Scottish Roll ($10.95) — salmon, crab mix and cream cheese wrapped in soy paper and topped with salmon and eel sauce.
There also are specials. On this night, the special roll featured homemade pulled pork with onions topped with red,white and blue tortilla chips, green onions and wasabi barbecue sauce for $9.95. A small chalkboard by the sushi bar also reminded me of one of the rolls I wanted to try, and it isn’t on the printed menu: the BLT Roll ($9.95), which rolls up fried green tomatoes, bacon and lettuce with a wasabi remoulade.
This is sushi with a frequent wink at Southern classics.
I ordered a ginger salad, the BLT Roll and the Long Beach Roll (shrimp tempura, cream cheese, cucumber and spicy chili sauce topped with boiled shrimp, crab and avocado for $9.95) because, you know, it’s Long Beach. Grace went with her tried-and-true Crunchy Roll (crunchy tempura mix with crabstick and mayonnaise) and egg drop soup.
Grace immediately gave her egg drop soup the thumbs up, stirring the bowl’s contents.
“You can see the seasoning at the bottom,” she said. “It’s better than the typical egg drop soup, which is my favorite.”
Our rolls came, and I was impressed by the size of mine.
“Of course, you’re having some of this,” I said to Grace. Like I wasn’t going to share with her anyway.
The BLT’s dollops of creamy wasabi remoulade were a pleasant contrast to the crunch of the bacon and the tang of the fried green tomato.
The very filling Long Beach is both sweet and spicy, with cream cheese to cool the heat. Grace was pleased with her Crunchy Roll as well as the two rolls I selected. I gathered she liked the Long Beach Roll just a bit more.
We were both stuffed, but she had called my attention to the kids’ menu. In addition to the Crispy Chicken and Crispy Shrimp rolls, there was a PB&J Roll ($3.95). Well, that was too intriguing to pass up. We adjusted and made room for what became our dessert.
OK, this thing is adorable. The PB&J Roll arrives in a design like a butterfly. Slices of fresh banana make up the butterfly’s body, and fresh bread flattened to the thickness of a flour tortilla is generously smeared with peanut butter and grape jelly, wrapped into a roll and cut in four pieces on an angle to create the butterfly “wings.” We topped each bite with a slice of banana. Yummy!
“I saw this on Pinterest once and really wanted to do it,” owner Whitney Sartin said, referring to the kids’ dish. “Sometimes late, we ask Richard to make these for us.”
Richard is Richard Lipton, a sushi chef with a sense of humor. He rolls out such favorites as the Bubba Gump (shrimp tempura and cream cheese topped with boiled shrimp, spicy mayonnaise and eel sauce, in a soy wrap, for $9.95), the Long Beach and the Mama Linda.
If you were wondering about some of the specialty rolls’ names, yes, they are named for family members.
“Linda is my mom and Craig is my dad,” Sartin said.
On a Roll Sushi
Where: 206 Jeff Davis Ave., Long Beach
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday.