Long Beach’s Little Coyote is a roadmap for new restaurants
Restaurant restrictions come and go but good pizza—and the demand for it—is forever.
It’s a founding concept of Little Coyote, and a chief reason Long Beach’s new quick-and-casual pizza joint can pivot with the whims of an unrelenting pandemic, an evolving restaurant industry, a volatile economy and the complicated, seemingly weekly updates to L.A. County’s dining rules. But that was always the plan.
Conceived back in the spring toward the start of coronavirus and built with versatility in mind, Little Coyote launched last month as a kind of restaurant roadmap: Weather the storm with an affordable menu; optional indoor seating; a patio with socially-distanced tables; few touch points; delivery; disposable plates; and, of course, some killer pizza.
Offering New York-style slices at lunch and all-day whole pies, salads, sandwiches, and beer as cheap as $3, it’s a classic-minded pizzeria that blends simplicity (cheese, pepperoni, veggie) with enough shine (gourmet toppings, good wine, off-menu focaccia-style “grandma pies”) to draw a crowd—and enough of a crowd to sell out nearly every day since its launch two weeks ago.
The decent pedigree of its founders doesn’t hurt, either: Hatchet Hall co-owner Jonathan Strader and former L&E Oyster Bar executive chef Jack Leahy always joked about opening a restaurant together, and as coronavirus began shuttering restaurants and changing the industry’s landscape, possibly forever, the duo decided to launch a sustainable model, and quickly.
“We were just like, ‘What can you do that can sustain itself under a stress test?’” Leahy says. “The whole industry went under this extreme stress test to go, ‘Wait a minute, this whole thing is backwards and we need to fix it.’ You can even see now that some estimates are like 65, 75 percent of all restaurants are going to close. That’s a huge number and, to us, indicated there’s a systemic problem within the industry, too.”
Strader credits the simpler business model with helping Little Coyote succeed so far while a number of fine-dining and full-service restaurants struggle. Those businesses’ reliance on indoor seating—currently outlawed in nearly half of California’s counties—has only compounded the challenges of employing full staffs of servers, bartenders, pastry chefs and bussers through all-out closures, pivots to takeout and delivery models, mass layoffs and an uncertain future.
“We were like, ‘We can easily transform the space into a pizza shop and run it with pretty much just the two of us and a couple employees—really bootstrap it and not have to worry,” Strader says, “and keep the overhead low, to not bring in a lot of people who could be transmitters of the virus, too, because at the time we were all so spooked. Those weeks following the end of March, we were all so lost; we didn’t know what to expect. Full lockdown? We’d never seen anything like this before.”
In the three months between signing their lease along Retro Row and launching Little Coyote, the pair had time to plan the shoestring operation, and Leahy to perfect his dough. Experimenting with hot and cold fermentation, the former Hatchet Hall chef de cuisine noted the way temperature affects the way yeast devours sugar—how new flavors can develop, how bubble-packed baked crust can become—and eventually landed on a cold fermentation that yields just enough chew to the dough with a thin, crunchy sheen along its edges.
It’s now the base for simple, nostalgic pies that involve a stripped-down sauce of hand-crushed tomatoes, olive oil, salt and nothing more, with custom and set options for toppings.
When the time came to turn the space, the logistics were already set and the transformation from pho shop to breezy, laid-back pizza parlor took fewer than two weeks. Thirteen days later—after they personally tackled the landscaping, reformatted the patio and deep-cleaned the kitchen until early morning—Little Coyote opened to a (socially distanced) line out the door.
Strader and Leahy are already toying with new locations, not to mention a second quick-and-casual concept set for Long Beach, as well as a Little Coyote catering menu and possibly even a food truck.
It’s a comfort to see a new restaurant launch with such success in an upended industry and on a five-figure budget. But not every restaurant can launch as a fast-casual operation and millions in the service industry are still unemployed. Strader and Leahy don’t have all the answers, but it’s a start.
“It’s hard being a restaurant operator and owner,” Strader says. “Where’s the line of being able to show people a good time and have a safe vibe when there are other people who yell at you when you tell them to wear a mask? We’re just rolling with all the punches at this point just trying to create concepts to survive this thing.”
Little Coyote is now open Wednesday to Sunday at 2118 E 4th St in Long Beach, from noon to 8pm.
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2118 E 4th St, Long Beach
accepts credit cards
street parking, private lot parking
beer & wine only
staff wears masks
Reviews for Little Coyote
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Hours or services may differ due to COVID-19. Please contact the business directly to verify hours and availability.
At first glance, Little Coyote’s tiny counter on Long Beach’s “Retro Row” makes it seem like any other by-the-slice pizza spot, but make no mistake, there’s something very special going on here. Namely, the pizza itself. Opened by the co-owner of Hatchet Hall and the former executive chef at L&E Oyster, Little Coyote feels like a true throwback, the kind of casual pizza place that, as a kid, you begged your mom to stop at after soccer games with your friends. For now, it’s mostly a pick-up/to-go operation, but there’s a few socially distant tables out front if you don’t have the willpower to wait until home.
As far as the pizza itself goes, it definitely comes closest to New York-style, with massive pieces you can fold in half, crispy thin crust that’s been buttered within an inch of its life, and classic toppings that range from pepperoni to sausage and mushrooms. To be sure, this is pretty straightforward pizza, but it’s also the kind that’s good enough to warrant getting in your car right now and driving to Long Beach to eat.
This is our favorite pizza right now at Little Coyote… and maybe in LA, period. Too often, white pizza falls victim to the heaviness of its own ingredients, but Little Coyote has managed to keep their version light, balanced, and downright delicious. Topped with spinach, ricotta, garlic, mozzarella, Calabrian chili, and white sauce, this is pizza worth traveling for - no matter what the 405 is giving you.
If the white pizza is our #1, this is #1A. Nothing kills the mood more than opening up a box of pizza to find toppings barely covering any of the pizza, but luckily, that’s not an issue here. This pie is covered in spicy, house-made pepperoni, each acting as little life rafts on an endless sea of cheese and nostalgia. Yes, it’s so good it made us wax poetic. All aboard, friends.
While the pizza is the obvious star of the show at Little Coyote, ignoring their subs would be a huge mistake. The Classic Italian comes stuffed with mortadella, capicola, soppressata, provolone, and the works, and is easily its own meal. This is our favorite sandwich on the menu.
We enjoyed this pizza a lot, but would’ve liked to see a better balance between the mushrooms and sausage. As it was, the mushrooms just slightly overpowered everything (which isn’t a bad thing, we love a mushroom pizza), but Little Coyote’s sausage is good enough to be front and center as well.
Did we say The Classic Italian was our favorite sub on the menu? We might’ve lied. This meatball sub is one of the best versions we’ve found in Southern California, and should absolutely be on your order. The half beef/half pork meatballs are slightly sweet, there’s just the right amount of red sauce layered on top, and the Italian roll is good enough to eat by itself.
4.4 – 109 reviews • Pizza restaurant
Health and Safety: Mask required ·
Hours might differ
Address and Contact Information
Address: 2118 E 4th St, Long Beach, CA 90814
Phone: (562) 434-2009
Menu Link: littlecoyotelbc.com
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Review Summary👍 Absolutely love this pizza, pepperoni and sausage is fantastic .
👍 Mention their awesome beer and selection !
👍 Purplehaze pie pleases persnickety people pursuing pizza perfection. View more 109 reviews
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With years of fine-dining restaurant experience between them, Long Beach residents Jonathan Strader and Jack Leahy were thinking of going in that same higher-end route as they planned their new restaurant earlier this year.
But when the pandemic hit and made the already tough restaurant business even tougher, they decided their best bet was to keep it simple and go with a concept that has been around for decades — a classic pizza joint.
“We wanted something that stands the test of time. I think we’ve gotten to the point in the restaurant industry where everything has been too over sourced and over produced and things need to be pulled back a little bit to what things kind of worked in the beginning of restaurants,” said Strader, who along with Leahy opened Little Coyote in Long Beach’s Retro Row neighborhood in late June.
“And with something that does justice to the concept itself…so what’s the secret? Well, let’s just make it right, make it from scratch,” Leahy added.
Named after Strader’s three-year-old son Coyote, the new place is a straight up no-fuss pizza joint inspired by New York pizzerias.
That means hand-stretched, thin crust, foldable pies sold whole or by the slice, plus some classic subs and a solid craft beer and wine selection.
Strader is best known for opening Hatchet Hall in Venice in 2015, a Southern-style American grub restaurant that was lauded by critics.
While Leahy, who was chef de cuisine at Hatchet Hall until 2018, was the executive chef at L&E Oyster Bar in Silverlake before partnering with Strader for the new restaurant.
Little Coyote is located in a spot that previously housed a Vietnamese restaurant called Number Nine. There is space for indoor dining (once it’s allowed again) and a patio in front where people can currently eat.
Leahy heads the kitchen at Little Coyote and like any respectable pizza spot, the menu here is simple.
There are six pizza options: cheese, made with mozzarella and crushed tomato; pepperoni pizza; the White Pie, made with mozzarella, ricotta and spinach; the Veggie Supremo; the Vegan; and the Papa Joe, which is named after Leahy’s father and comes with Italian sausage, mushroom, mozzarella and crushed tomato.
The foundation for the pies is Leahy’s unique dough, which he cold ferments for three days.
“It gives it a little more nuance in character, as opposed to most places that make the dough and use it the same day. So it ferments and then we hand-stretch it old school New York style and we toss our pizzas up in the air, get a little bubble crust, nice real thin center and the sauce is literally crushed tomatoes with salt and olive oil,” Leahy said.
The menu also includes a meatball sub, an Italian sub and a sausage and pepper sub while the beer selection offers local brews from places like San Pedro’s Brouwerij West and Inglewood’s Three Weavers.
If You Go:
Where: 2118 E. Fourth St.
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday noon-8 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday
Information: 562-434-2009 or littlecoyotelbc.com
Long Beach’s popular Little Coyote must have decided that two is better than one; the busy group surprise-opened its much-anticipated second location today. The barely one-year-old pizza joint’s newest outlet sits on an aptly named street: Los Coyotes Diagonal, and is only a six-mile drive away from the original space on Fourth Street’s Retro Row. The newcomer should fit in nicely with the largely residential neighborhood, and the expanded footprint gives the group the ability to expand the menu in the near future.
In June 2020, Jack Leahy and Jonathan Strader of Hatchet Hall fame opened the original Little Coyote on Fourth Street near Cherry. Though the partners built a following at that small first space, the location remains limiting for things like in-person dining and even interacting with customers. There also wasn’t much room to prep or expand menu, hours, and availability, specifically because of the pizza dough’s three-day fermentation process.
So Leahy and Strader jumped on the idea of a second outpost and secured a lease at the short-lived Lou & Mike’s. The 2,600-square-foot space was exactly what they needed: it offers square footage that can accommodate a commissary kitchen, increased takeout and delivery, menu items beyond pizza, and there’s even room for customers who can fit on multiple outdoor dining areas, plus one partially covered patio.
Little Coyote’s Los Coyotes location resides in a 1970s-style, wood-thatched-roof-having shopping center with ample parking. Leahy and Strader converted that space to make sure all seats remain outdoors. Plus, that patio-only strategy serves a purpose, says Strader. “We’re not going to do in it any indoor dining at all. We’re going to keep it modified for what the times are.”
For now, the partners are focusing on whole pies, sub sandwiches, and salads. Traditional slices will not be available until this location opens for lunch, though grandma slices — thin, square-shaped, baked-in-a-pan slices — are also an option. Strader dropped a few hints on the forthcoming expanded menu, saying that the team is looking into “things that go in the fryer. We’ve talked about chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, and maybe a chicken parm sandwich.”
Though fast-casual is how Leahy and Strader describe the Los Coyote operation, hosts and servers are available to help keep the service flowing. Hours are Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
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Little Coyote - Los Coyotes
3500 Los Coyotes Diagonal , Long Beach, CA 90808Visit Website
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