PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES
It’s always a crawl over to Busy Bee Market—engines whining their way up some of San Pedro’s steeper streets—but once you make that hungry hajj, it’s an event bound to become a fixture of your eating schedule. After all, the corner store inspires loyalty at levels only known among our oldest institutions. And to many, Busy Bee is one itself, a famous place that deservedly attracts dedicated sandwich cultists.
So much of that local lore seems to stem from the shop’s ability to blend right into its residential neighborhood, its stucco box distinguished only by a painted proclamation: The Best Sandwich in Town. Barring a Pedro home of your own, it used to require a friend to find Busy Bee, a kind of spot that was passed along stomach to stomach. It still is, of course, but tracking down Busy Bee isn’t so tough anymore—the Internet has squashed any secrecy. Still, it’s impossible to deny that the store is anything but a local legend, as behind its barred door is a menu with some 25 years of sandwich supremacy.
Step into the market just after the usual lunch rush, and there will still be plenty of customers waiting for a dinner-diverting meal. There might be kids hungry for an after-school sub or workers dusted with concrete and plaster looking for a filling escape, but every eater shares a common search for a sandwich of salami or sausage. There are two true vegetarian options here (an avocado and a veggie sandwich), but neither makes much of a mark—Busy Bee is a house of meat.
That carnivorousness is most accessible with Busy Bee’s turkey pastrami sandwich. Nearly all the shop’s offerings can be served hot, and against the coming California cold, the turkey pastrami is the perfect choice. It starts with pastrami peeled away in delicate strips dropped in a hot pool of au jus. The meat is then fished out and folded, still steaming, into the sandwich with cheese, mustard and pickles. It’s all housed in a soft French roll delicate enough to be dented by the lightest grips, a doughy finish to a hulking combination that more than competes with similar stomach-stretchers from places like the Hat.
For those eyeing Italian sandwiches, order the meatball (globes of meat big enough to dominate an entire plate of pasta) or prosciutto (slices so thin you can see right through them). American-centric appetites can take on the barbecue chicken (cooked to a saucy sheen) or roasted pork. There’s corned beef, capicola and even tuna, too.
There isn’t any proper seating at Busy Bee, and every sandwich is wrapped for mobility. So, regardless of whether you go cold or even prefer to keep things simple with a ham sandwich, pack away your order (plus chips and soda), and head down to Point Fermin Park. There, Busy Bee’s sandwiches are in a proper pastoral setting, unwrapped right before the ocean, the fading fall sun reflecting onto a mound of piled-high pastrami.
In those beautiful moments (pelicans riding the wind without a single flap, the sea forming a fine foam against the cliffs below), it’s easy to see how, paired with Pedro’s natural landmarks, the place has become such a tradition. Between some bites, Busy Bee truly seems like San Pedro’s own Philippe’s. The market may not be able to celebrate a centennial like its French-dipped progenitor, but Busy Bee is on its own steady ascendancy, building an ever-expanding base a quarter of a century at a time.
BUSY BEE MARKET 2413 S WALKER ST | SAN PEDRO 90731 | 310.832.8660 | OPEN MON-SAT 9AM-6PM | FOOD FOR TWO $10-15