Located on a quiet residential street in San Pedro, the Busy Bee looks like a typical mom-and-pop neighborhood market.
However, the line of customers spilling onto the sidewalk reveals this is no ordinary market. What sets the Busy Bee apart--and what the people are in line for--is the selection of sandwiches made at the small deli counter in the rear of the store.
The Busy Bee, which dates to the 1930s, had fallen into disrepair by the time Ben and Norma Lee bought it in 1978. (Ben gave up a $50,000-a-year engineering job to run the Bee.) The pair renovated the market, decorated it with national flags symbolizing San Pedro’s diverse ethnic origins and started making sandwiches. At first they delivered them to liquor stores, but word spread and people started coming to the market to buy them.
The top choice here is the chicken breast sandwich ($4.25). A butterflied boneless whole breast is marinated for two hours in white wine, garlic, soy sauce and fennel seeds, then broiled. The tender chicken--easily more than half a pound--is slathered with barbecue sauce and served on a large French roll with lettuce and tomatoes.
Busy Bee also makes a fine beef dip ($3.75), loosely patterned after the French dip sandwiches made famous at Philippe’s Downtown. It’s made of top round roast sliced to order and served au jus with a slice of provolone cheese. Macaroni, potato and pasta salads are available (75 cents each).
Big eaters can order the belly buster ($4.75), which piles any two kinds of meat onto the roll. And for prodigious appetites, there is the Henry V ($5.50), which includes any three meats, such as turkey, Italian sausage, meatballs or domestic prosciutto. The beauty of the Henry V is that, while waiting in line to pay, you use this sandwich to develop your biceps.
Busy Bee is at 2413 S. Walker St., San Pedro. (310) 832-8660. Generally open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, but closed today (New Year’s Eve) and New Year’s Day.