Sitting at the westernmost edge of the historic Walker building in Downtown Long Beach, the 4th Horsemen, a pizzeria that has captured the hearts of both carb connoisseurs and lovers of the grotesque, looks fairly unassuming from the outside — particularly during the day. Its windows remain foggy at all hours, hiding a small handful of ‘90s arcade consoles and horror paraphernalia from passersby. The cue to come in is an “Eat Beer Drink Pizza” sign that beckons Long Beach diners to explore what co-owner Jeremy Schott calls “one big unit of weird.”
Some form of the macabre is plastered on nearly every inch of the place: Tables are adorned with cut-outs of old horror and sci-fi comics like Eerie and Famous Monsters. Two bathrooms are bathed in a sinister red light; taxidermied animals are above the bar and along the hallway to the bathroom (and elsewhere). An ode to Poe’s raven manifests in a mini mural that showcases the black bird with a slimy piece of pizza hanging from its mouth. Old-school horror flick posters adorn the walls, from ‘80s classics like Nightmare on Elm Street to cult faves like Killer Clowns from Outer Space.
This all comes with what has been locally deemed as some of the best pizza in the city.
While 4th Horsemen’s classic pies have always been a steady, dependable choice — with $4 cheese or pepperoni slices and pints on Mondays — its signature pizzas that really set it apart: Not quite New York (though happily foldable) or Neapolitan (there is no wood-fired oven), but certainly Californian (where toppings include everything from carnitas and house-made vegan sausage to blueberry chipotle sauce), the pizza at 4th Horseman has come to define a part of Long Beach’s rich pizza scene.
Chef Mike Royal is the mastermind behind the pies that come out of the space’s tiny-but-mighty kitchen. They’re yeasty wonders acting as odes to the dark side: The Hellfire is a heat-seeker’s dream, where dollops of house-made ricotta and shredded mozzarella are layered with bacon, habanero, jalapeno, roasted red peppers, and fresh basil before being painted with a pentagram of “Apocalyptic sauce,” the pizzeria’s much-loved, nearly fluorescent-orange pineapple-habanero hot sauce. There’s a vegan pie — one of the best in the city — dubbed the Alchemy, which uses gochujang as a base before layering on the pizzeria’s solid house-made vegan sausage and Parmesan along with chunks of pickled carrots, garlic, ginger, micro cilantro, and a drizzle of agave sriracha sauce.
Other pies include the buffalo-sauced Buffalo Bill, a meat monstrosity dubbed Death to Piggy, and specials like Pastrami Dearest and Belly of the Beast. In other words, it’s where the perturbing meets pizza — but it’s also a space dedicated to community and connection. “Pie ‘til you die,” says co-owner and Long Beach artist Jeremy Cross, echoing one of the phrases on a framed piece of art. “We’re just here to offer up some killer pizza, rad beer, and amazing art in a space that feels inclusive but keeps assholes away.”
That last part has always been a goal for the 4th Horsemen: A sign that states, “If you are racist, homophobic, or an asshole, don’t come in,” has long greeted customers. That ethos led the pizzeria to become the first space in Long Beach to tap a keg of beer from Crowns & Hops, the Black-owned Inglewood brewery that cites creating cultural equity as part of its mission, among its continual rotation of some of the finest regional brews in Southern California. General Manager Matt Hall sources everything from rare beers from the Russian River Valley to local delights from breweries Beachwood and Ten Mile.
This mixture of pizza and indie beer culture has led to many partnerships, but perhaps there is no better match made in hell to make the space so beautifully deranged as its adjoining gallery. Diners are free to knock on the very last door in the back of the restaurant to enter the Dark Art Emporium, the art venture also owned by Cross and Schott.
The Emporium moved into the Horsemen mere days before the pandemic began and continues its tradition of peddling spooky, “outsider art,” in the words of Schott, to pizza-loving horror fans. “The pairing of Horseman and the Emporium was so serendipitous,” Schott said. “It’s like what we’ve been trying to do with the Horseman — create really great pizza but within a space that is distinct and unique — is exactly what we’re trying to do with Emporium: Give respect to the art that we think deserves it.”
The displays, which range from detailed graphite art of Caroline Harrison to the illustrative mastery of Vince Locke, are a direct reflection of the food the Horseman serves: It can be as arresting and witty as it can be creepy and alarming. Take, for example, a playful poke at Little Coyote, another Long Beach pizzeria it playfully competes with: After a local pizza contest gave Coyote the top prize, 4th Horsemen created a “Revenge of the Roadrunner,” pizza, which actually incorporated coyote meat.
“Am I exhausted? Yeah, I’m a restaurant owner and an artist,” Cross said. “But am I fulfilled? Yeah, I own a great restaurant and get to work with great artists, including those guys in the kitchen. This space is for Long Beach and that’s what we’re most proud of. Of course, we welcome others — the Emporium has hosted some pretty spectacular artists from across the world — but what we do is for our city.”
The 4th Horsemen is located at 121 West 4th Street in Long Beach. The restaurant is open Mondays and Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. to midnight, and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.