Longboards is not a subway. It’s not Jimmy John’s or even Chipotle. While it may seem similar to those concepts at first, one bite of their original and refreshing menu and you’ll see that there is really no comparison between the corporate cardboard burrito and sandwich shops to this charming, family-owned wrap, salad and bowl joint.
Longboards has been around since 2004, starting with their original location at 6269 North Oak Trafficway, and adding their second location in Liberty last year. Owner Gilbert Macapagal works with five family members to make the atmosphere and food as homey as possible. A sign on the door that states, “Hang loose or go home,” perfectly encapsulates their laid back approach to fresh, easy going fare.
Home, originally, was the Phillipines, and the food and décor reflect that. One could describe the décor as surf chic and be fairly accurate, as Macapagal says that it took that turn after his wife wouldn’t let him decorate their home in the island style. Surfboards adorn the wall, creating a bar rail, and signage from the islands is prominent around the restaurant.
While the vibe is very laid back and cool, the real reason for a visit to Longboards is definitely the food. Many expect anything wrapped in a tortilla to take on a Mexican flavor profile, but here, that is simply not so. Pan-Asian flavors dominate, with wraps such as the Wow! Kung Pao ($5.75) or the Tokyo Teriyaki (($5.75) setting the tone for much of the menu. For those looking for more traditional flavors, or deli options, they appear as well.
The menu is broken up into several different styles of wraps, along with hot noodle bowls and salad bowls. Cool style wraps include lettuce and are served cold, while grilled style wraps include rice and come out warm. Grilled flat wraps are served quesadilla style, similar to a Panini. For a larger appetite, the O.G. menu features bigger wraps with more of the good stuff. Any of the wraps can be made in O.G. style for a small upcharge.
The first time that I visited, the hot noodle bowls intrigued me. I’m a huge fan of Vietnamese food and am sadly distant from my favorite pho shop, so I tried the Vietnamese bowl ($6.65). The rice noodles came out with a sweet and spicy sauce topping vegetables and my choice of chicken or beef, with a hit of sriracha and a small side salad. It’s the perfect portion size for a lunch and was quite a bit healthier than other fast food options.
My husband decided on a wrap, choosing the Pork Luau ($5.75). As one of the grilled style wraps, it came out crispy and warm, filled with pork, pepper jack, pine- apple and rice. For a fan of Hawaiian pizza, this wrap is the perfect alternative.
On a second (one of many) visit, I branched out and tried one of their daily specials. They offer a rotating menu of special wraps, such as the macaroni and cheese wrap, King Hawaiian sliders and my choice, the sushi wrap ($8.95). I’m a huge fan of sushi and this wrap mimicked it surprisingly well. The combination of imitation crab meat, seaweed, avocado, cucumber and rice made a convincing, if substantially more filling, substitute for a California roll.
For smaller appetites, the Little Ones menu features smaller versions of some grown up flavors, along with Hello Panda Cookies.
One of the things that stand out about Longboards, other than the surprising fla- vor combinations, is the level of customer service. Far from the wham, bam, thank you ma’am attitude of most sandwich shops, employees at Longboards are quick with a smile and are always checking to see if your experience is up to par.
Macapagal says that in the summer time, they will be introducing Filipino ices at the North Oak location, which will feature a broad spectrum of fruit, cream and syrups topping shaved ice. He says that these sweet desserts are one more thing that remind him of home.
This dedication to running a business based on good will and good feelings clearly resonate with Longboards’ loyal fans. The lines at lunch may be long, but the food and the smiles are worth it.