Review: The 4th Horseman (bar & kitchen)

When the 4th Horseman of the Apocalypse arrives, power will be given unto him to bring forth...pizza?

And I looked, and behold a pale horse.
And his name that sat upon him was Death.
And Hell followed with him.

With that quote hanging over the bar, you might expect War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death to be lurking within the gloomy confines of The 4th Horseman, impatiently waiting for the countdown to Armageddon to signal the end of times. Instead, you will encounter craft beer, fine wine, and "apocalyptic pizza" that truly is worthy of its name - it's so good you won't mind if the world is ending.

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The 4th Horseman Review: Apocalyptic Horror in Long Beach

4th Horseman ReviewThe 4th Horseman is a horror-themed "pizza place" in Long Beach, presided over by its own quartet of apocalyptic riders:  Ryan Hughes, chef Adam Schmalz, Jeremy Schott (Dark Art Emporium), and Martin Svab (Phantom Carriage Brewery and Blendery). The latter two provide interesting points of comparison and contrast, which help define what the 4th Horseman is.

Like Dark Art Emporium, The 4th Horseman is an entertaining anomaly in Long Beach. The sunny surroundings and ocean breezes evoke feelings of summer fun, suitable for a nautical theme or maybe a sports bar. Instead, the 4th Horseman is decked out in horror-movie regalia: posters, lobby cards, drawings, and even arcade games.

4th Horseman Review
Robot Holocaust (1986)

The effect is similar to Phantom Carriage, but whereas that Carson City brewery (named after a silent Swedish horror film) is attuned to the moody atmosphere of black-and-white genre classics, the 4th Horseman embraces a grungy grindhouse vibe, enhanced with throbbing music; the combination suggests an apocalypse informed less by the Book of Revelation than by low-budget '80s exploitation filmmaking of the Mad-Max-wannabe variety. Sure, Hammer horror and Famous Monsters of Filmland are represented on the walls, but the tone is better exemplified by a prominently displayed poster from the no-budget camp classic Robot Holocaust, which became an early - and hysterically funny - target of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

In other words, reverence for the genre is not required; you need not be a card-carrying horror geek to enjoy the 4th Horseman, just someone who enjoys pizza and beer in an amusingly tongue-in-cheek setting, redolent of drive-in theatres, midnight movies, and double-bill horror shows.

The 4th Horseman Review: Pizza and Brew
4th Horseman Review
Poe's Raven enjoys "Slasher" pizza.

Apocalyptic ambiance aside, since opening earlier this year, the 4th Horseman has quickly earned a reputation as a purveyor of excellent pizza, garnering praise-filled write-ups in the Long Beach Post, Thrill List, OC Weekly, and Los Angeles Eater. During our recent excursion to Long Beach for Midsummer Scream (reviewed here), we detoured to the 4th Horseman, to judge for ourselves whether that reputation is warranted.

Apparently, chef Adam Schmalz's culinary philosophy is that anything that goes into a sandwich can go into a pizza; the result is a wide variety of delicious pies hiding behind unsavory names such as "Rosemary's Baby" and "Angel of Death." Some are simple ("Slasher" with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and Pepperoni); others are more outré ("Memento Mori" with beef bulgogi, kimchi, gochujang, roasted pineapple).

We opted for a slice of "The Black Horse," a vegetarian offering with sauce, mozzarella, roasted peppers, balsamic mushrooms, kalamata olives, and fresh basil. What we received was more than a mere slice - more like a mini-pizza. Not that we're complaining: like James Bond, we "hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad," and we had no cause to worry on either count. The crust was perfect, with exactly the right amount of crunch. The flavors blended incredibly well with the basil coming through just enough to unify the mix. We weren't even hungry, but we couldn't resist gorging ourselves on every last crumb.

4th Horseman Review
Wine and beer are on the menu at 4th Horseman.

(By way of comparison, we had lunched on a flatbread pizza earlier in the day at the Long Beach Convention Center. Compared to "The Black Horse," the flatbread pizza was not worthy of being tossed in the 4th Horseman's garbage dump.)

For libation, we went off the usual menu, ordering a chalkboard special listed behind the cash register. 4th Horseman is a beer and wine bar, loaded with Lager, Ale, Sour, Stout, Cider, Cabernet, Chardonnay, and Pino Noir; nevertheless, we opted for a cocktail entitled "Zombie Queen."

As you can guess from the name, this was meant to be a tropical drink along the lines of a Passion Fruit Zombie. Ordering cocktails in a beer-and-wine bar is almost always a dubious proposition; most likely you will get a ghastly wannabe with some watery wine aperitif failing to substitute for hard liquor. The Zombie Queen was a notable exception: with its refreshing flavor - fruity but not too sweet - we would have mistaken it for a legit cocktail served at a Tiki bar. The 4th Horseman's bartender should consider adding this to the regular menu.

The 4th Horseman Review: Conclusion

When we seek out horror-themed bars, breweries, and distilleries, we're usually looking for atmosphere and setting. The most we expect from the menu is a few clever names lending a sinister aura to otherwise typical items. The 4th Horseman is an exception to this rule - an establishment worth recommending solely on the basis of its food and beverage. The post-apocalyptic horror decor is certainly worth a look, but much more worthwhile is sitting down to eat and drink.

The 4th Horseman Review: Full Disclosure

Proprietor Ryan Hughes helped me out of a jam when my car was towed from a lot next door ("no parking" signs were not prominently displayed). If you think that made me write good things about the 4th Horseman's pizza, you obviously have not tasted their pizza.

The 4th Horseman Review: Photo Gallery
The 4th Horseman Ratings
Overall
4.3
  • Ambiance
  • Black Horse Pizza
  • Zombie Queen Cocktail

Bottom Line

The horror-themed environment is definitely a plus, but the 4th Horseman’s well-earned reputation is based on its delectable “apocalyptic pizza.”

The 4th Horseman is a 21-and-over establishment The address is 121 W. 4th Street, Long Beach 90802. For more information, call (562) 513-3394, or visit their website: the4thhorsemanlbc.com.

Read about more themed locations serving creepy cocktails.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.