10 ways 2023 dining informs 2024

Dining deck closures in Manhattan Beach did not do the damage feared. Photo by Kevin Cody

The South Bay dining scene is shaped by a mix of forethought and improvisation. Some changes are caused by business plans set in motion years ago, their designs fossilized in permit applications that can’t be altered, while others reflect operators adapting to changing trends as they happen. Entrepreneurs with restaurant projects are looking at 2023 to see what they might take into account, and here are some factors that may be part of their calculations:

1 Life after dining decks in Manhattan

Dining decks ended in Manhattan Beach, and the downtown survived. At this time last year there was a great outcry that when outdoor dining spaces disappeared downtown, it would send a wave of customers to Hermosa and Redondo and local businesses would head to the exits. That didn’t happen, and not one restaurant that had to tear down its dining deck changed hands. The dining scene was stable in other ways, with only two restaurants opening downtown, one on PCH, and none in the Manhattan Village shopping center or the south side of Rosecrans.

2 Redondo leads in restaurant openings

Redondo had 16 restaurant openings, more than the other beach cities combined — the first time that has happened in years. Only three were in Riviera Village, which remains the epicenter of nightlife for both locals and visitors, with the rest spread out around the city. North Redondo became more interesting thanks to the opening of Tommy & Atticus and Lobster Guy’s, and awaits the opening of the big food hall that will add options for locals and commuters alike.

This year some major players revealed plans for the Redondo boardwalk and marina complex. While the first openings have been modest, a burger-centric spot and a deli and wine bar, the more ambitious projects are likely to make this area a center of attention in 2024. Pier businesses should benefit from the increased traffic from this area, though the failure to renovate the aging parking structure may eventually have an impact on the viability of the area.

3 Changes coming in Hermosa

Downtown Hermosa was relatively quiet, with only one change on the Pier Plaza, the conversion of Greenspot to Bonaparte Bistro. The nearby stretch of Hermosa Avenue had some activity with the opening of Marena, and will change greatly when the former Dia de Campo and Rok Sushi spaces are filled. Other spaces nearby are on the market, including the oceanfront space that was briefly a convenience store and wine bar, and Silvio’s announced that they will close, so more changes are on the way.

4 El Segundo dodges disaster

El Segundo started the year with expectations that the great office space glut would put the Rosecrans Corridor and PCH into a tailspin. Restaurants at all price points in both areas seem to be doing reasonably well, and the planned reopening of the movie theater at Nash should help matters. Downtown, Porterhouse Boubon & Bones and Uncle Stevey’s have kept the crowds coming to Richmond Street, and a new Italian café is scheduled to join their soon. Blossom Ramen, Rice Cups Korean fast food, and banh mi purveyor Café Toast have added to the cultural diversity in the area.

5 Quiet on the hill

Palos Verdes was quiet, with only Mexican fast food joint Fuego Cravings and the interesting Cheebo café opening this year. The conversion of Mama Terano from an everyday eatery to an event space means that the area has lost a longtime favorite destination restaurant.

6 Nothing new coming from the kitchen

There was no particular culinary trend among the restaurant newcomers, unlike some years when Italian or Asian concepts dominated. There was also little synergy with broader food trends in Los Angeles, where multicultural contemporary restaurants with chef-driven menus are the rage. Nothing fitting that description has opened since Ryla in 2022.

7 Tech slow walks

Most new restaurants do not have traditional full service, confirming the move away from ordering at the table. The others are of the style where you order and pay at a counter, and your food is delivered by a food runner. 2022’s big trend of giving diners iPads seems to have stalled, with only Hemosa’s L&B Coastal rolling out that option.

8 Speciality shops galore

Sommelier Nick Nahigian’s Nick & Sons Market & Deli, on Highland in North Manhattan Beach is one of the many food especially stops that opened in 2023. Photo by Richard Foss

Gourmet markets and specialty shops keep coming: Nick & Sons in MB, La Carniceria in RB, Hermosa Butcher, WaGyu Meatsmith, Wild Fork, Uncle Stevey’s Bagels, and Tommy & Atticus among them. This coincides with a push by supermarkets to upscale and diversify their bakeries and meat departments, so the indies are fighting a major trend.

9 Spin-offs

In 2022 some restaurants that had been single-location spun off new operations in other beach cities, and that trend accelerated. Café Bonaparte and Hook & Plow have more or less copied their previous strategies, while Mickey Mance of Mickey’s partnered in a Mexican restaurant in ’22 and an eclectic gastropub in ’23. David Slay opened a French/Arabic spot within a block of his steakhouse and Italian restaurant in Manhattan Beach. These restaurateurs know the South Bay and have made a major bet that their connection with the locals will fill their dining rooms. They’re the big fish in a moderately sized and growing pond.

10 Sad goodbyes

The South Bay lost some classics this year – The Spot, Calimex, Ortega 120, Joe’s Crab Shack, Rok Sushi, and Texas Loosey’s among them. Dia de Campo, Pa-Do, Table Manners/Perfect Storm, Holy Cow BBQ, 924 Kitchen, and Zayna’s Flaming Grill are among other ambitious concepts that also departed the scene. They will all be missed by their many fans, who will presumably find new favorite hangouts among this year’s crop of eateries and those yet to come. ER

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