Best of the Beach 2023 Dining & Entertainment

Pil Hwang Bae, owner of Willingham’s World Champion BBQ, with son Sang and wife Jong holding brisket and pulled pork sandwiches and ribs served with cornbread collard greens and pinto beans. Easy Reader file photo

American BBQ

Willingham’s World Champion BBQ 

There are several good barbecue options in the greater South Bay that offer expansive menus of sides and other entrees, but the specialists win this round. There are no specialty salads, no appetizers, nothing but the traditional beans, potato salad, greens, and slaw to go along with those slabs of slow-smoked goodness. Willingham’s reputation stands on tender brisket, pulled pork, ribs, and other meats that are rubbed with spices and slow-smoked to flavorful, smoky perfection. There are sauces on the side, of course, but ‘que hounds will savor these just as they come from the smoker. 

Willingham’s World Champion BBQ 

443 S Pacific Coast Hwy #A

Redondo Beach 

(424) 390-4300

willinghambbq.com

 

American Contemporary

Tower 12

Every year when we list this category, some people ask what American contemporary really means. It’s about the way we eat now, appreciating traditional ideas merged with ingredients and concepts from around the world. Our readers appreciate the artful food at Tower 12, the upscale restaurant and bar that overlooks the Hermosa pier plaza. You can order a world class burger or pizza made with artisanal ingredients, pasta any Italian restaurant would be proud to serve, or a modern banh mi and dine very well in a casual yet classy environment. Tower 12 has cross-cultural offerings for almost everyone, and reflects the America of today and tomorrow.

Tower 12

53 Pier Avenue

Hermosa Beach 

tower12hb.com

 

Asian fusion

RYLA

We hesitate to say it, but many Asian fusion restaurants are on the generic side, offering bland stir-fries over rice or noodles. Nobody will ever accuse Ryla of that, because their blend of Japanese and Taiwanese ideas with a dash of Americana has individual flair. Who else is serving Sichuan-style pasta bolognese with edamame and chrysanthemum greens, or making scallop sashimi with truffle vinaigrette, pickled celery, and bonito creme fraiche? This kitchen is fizzing with ideas, and they deliver on every plate. If creative fusion is your thing, Ryla should be your restaurant of choice.    

RYLA

1220 Hermosa Avenue

Hermosa Beach 

(424) 247-9881

eatryla.com

 

Bar food

Shellback Tavern

The most amazing thing about the Shellback Tavern is that it’s not a tourist trap. A mercenary owner could take this incredible location by the beach, cram every chair the fire code allows into the building, and throw together a menu of fancy drinks with merely adequate food to sop them up. Instead it’s a chill beach bar with a loyal local following that stops in for really good burgers, sandwiches, onion rings, and Baja inspired snacks. You can get a full meal for less than twenty bucks, and it’s a good one. How many beachfront bars anywhere can say that? 

Shellback Tavern

116 Manhattan Beach Blvd

Manhattan Beach 

(310) 376-7857

shellback-tavern.business.site

 

BBQ Global Grill (Non American)

Silvio’s South American Lounge

Last year Silvio’s changed its name and added a few things to the menu, but kept the Brazilian barbecue items that made it famous. The style in South America is very different from the smoky, saucy stuff from the South in America. Brazilians like rotisserie beef marinated in rock salt and beer to accent the flavor, and though they let loose some spices on the grilled chicken, the focus is still on simple, natural flavors. The grill adds a bit of smoky char to mahi mahi and sausages too, and if you and a friend order Silvio’s carnaval combo plate, you can try a fair percentage of the menu at one sitting.  

Silvio’s South American Lounge

20 Pier Avenue

Hermosa Beach 

(310) 376-6855

silviosbbq.com

 

Breakfast

Good Stuff

They started as a place known for simple breakfasts, but that has changed over the years. The simple but wholesome omelets have  been  joined by modern and eclectic items like Hawaiian loco moco, avocado toast, and even a breakfast salad. Those on a keto diet will appreciate the Beach Body menu, spice lovers will go for the Mexican items, and traditionalists will have the egg dishes and fluffy pancakes that have kept them coming back since they were kids.

Good Stuff

1286 The Strand

Hermosa Beach 

(310) 374-2334

1617 S. Pacific Coast Hwy #102

Redondo Beach 

(310) 316-0262

550 Deep Valley Drive #151

Rolling Hills 

(310) 544-8000

eatgoodstuff.com

 

Brew Pub

The Brews Hall

If you want to get technical about it, The Brews Hall isn’t a brewpub because no beer is actually made on the premises. The beers are made by the parent company in far-away Torrance and aren’t available anywhere else, and that’s close enough for our readers. Two styles are available – Mexican-inspired beers from George Lopez Brewing that include a citrusy take on the Paloma cocktail, and a selection of IPAs and light ales from Buzzrock. An eclectic food selection is available from three different kitchens, so whatever your taste in beverages, there will be something to pair it with.

The Brews Hall

73 Pier Avenue

Hermosa Beach

(424) 247-9881

thebrewshall.com

 

Hop Saint’s aptly named brewer, Brian Brewer makes the perfect brews to accompany Hop Saint’s popular chili. Photo by Brad Jacobson

Chili

HopSaint Brewing Company

To the many reasons to hate Monday, add one more. You wake up with that nagging feeling that there was something you meant to do over the weekend, and then the realization hits you: you missed the day HopSaint serves chili. They only serve that slow-simmered delight, full of brisket ends and other goodies, on Sunday. It will be available again after another six days, and if you put a reminder in your online calendar, stick a post-it note on the bathroom mirror, and set an alarm in your phone, you’ll have a good chance of remembering next week. You might write it on your hand too – that ink sometimes takes a week to wear off, so it will be faded but still legible.  

HopSaint Brewing Company

5160 W 190th Street

Torrance 

(310) 214-4677

hopsaint.com

 

Chinese

China Coast

For years this award was won by W’s China Grill, which served modern food in a stylish space before closing last year. This year’s pick is definitely not about the decor and cocktails. China Coast is a modest take-out only place that offers classic Chinese-American items like egg foo young, broccoli beef, and chow mein. The portions are generous, the price modest, and if you like old school classics, our readers say this is the place to get them. 

China Coast

1501 S Pacific Coast Hwy

Redondo Beach 

(310) 543-1836

chinacoastredondo.com

 

Eclectic

Baran’s 2239

There are places where eclectic can be synonymous with erratic, but this isn’t one of them. Yes, the menu draws from culinary traditions all over the world, as well as Executive Chef Tyler Gugliotta’s Italian roots, but there is a commonality that runs through everything they serve, however diverse. That is Gugliotta’s excellent sense of how to balance flavors, which is as apparent in an albacore ceviche as it is in the Indian-spiced Scotch egg or the Vietnamese-style glazed quail. The world is on Baran’s menu, filtered through the culinary sensibility of a master. 

Baran’s 2239

502 Pacific Coast Hwy

Hermosa Beach

(424) 247-8468

barans2239.com

 

Family Dinner

Good Stuff

Sometimes when a place with multiple locations is a winner, we have to wonder whether one has earned the title or it reflects experiences at all of their businesses. Not so when Good Stuff wins Family Dinner, because though they have four locations, only the one in Palos Verdes serves after 4 p.m. They offer all the things we enjoy at breakfast and lunch, plus four entrees: spaghetti with Italian sausage or citrus shrimp, grilled barramundi over brown rice with vegetables, a teriyaki steak and a veggie bowl. Of course you can also get the breakfasts for which they are famous even in the evening, and that may have swayed some votes.

Good Stuff

550 Deep Valley Drive #151

Rolling Hills 

(310) 544-8000

eatgoodstuff.com

 

Farm to Table 

The Hook & Plow

Farm to table means different things at different restaurants. At some places the whole menu changes constantly to reflect what’s fresh in the markets. At others there are core items that remain the same, but the side items and specials are seasonal. Hook & Plow uses the latter strategy, so if you particularly enjoy their salmon salad or blueberry barbecue chicken, you may be assured they’ll be available on your next visit. Farm to table is also a culinary attitude that emphasizes the clean, fresh flavors of the fruits, vegetables, and proteins, and that’s a trait that Hook & Plow is known for.

The Hook & Plow

425 Pier Avenue

Hermosa Beach 

(310) 937-5909

1729 S Catalina Avenue

Redondo Beach 

(424) 247-8272

thehookandplow.com

 

French/Continental

Dominique’s Kitchen

It has been a decade since Dominique Theval opened his bistro on a mainly residential stretch of Pacific Coast Highway in Redondo, and if you know his history, his menu is a bit of a surprise. Besides his native France, he has cooked in Cambodia, London, and New York, but his heart is in his home town of Paris. Dominique’s offers the hearty bistro meals like beef bourguignon, steak frites, and some French takes on Italian favorites. Dominique’s is a local treasure, and still our favorite after a decade.

Dominique’s Kitchen

522 S Pacific Coast Hwy

Redondo Beach 

(424) 247-9054

dominiqueskitchen.com

   

Freshly made noodles

Little Sister

To those who grew up on dried pasta, freshly made noodles were a revelation, with a springier texture that adds interest to spaghetti, chow mein, ravioli, and Asian dumplings. An increasing number of places are making or bringing in fresh pastas, and this year our readers singled out Little Sister for top honors. Their noodles arrive as vermicelli in soups and as a base for meat and vegetable dishes, as the wrapper for stuffed dumplings, and as the garlic noodles that are the most popular side dish. The Vietnamese probably adopted the tradition of making noodles from Chinese merchants, and Little Sister extends that tradition with new dishes that explore the multicultural roots of that cuisine.

Little Sister

247 Avenida del Norte

Redondo Beach

(424) 398-0237 

830 S Pacific Coast Hwy, Suite 100

El Segundo, The Point

(424) 835-9878

Dinelittlesister.com

 

Hotel Restaurant

Sea Level  

It is worth noting that Sea Level restaurant isn’t actually at sea level, because having servers wear wading boots at high tide would slow down the pace of operations. They aren’t much above it, though, and diners on the outdoor patio have a great view of the sailboats and cabin cruisers in the marina. This is part of the charm of Sea Level – you can enjoy tranquil meals outdoors with a view of their vertical garden and the sunset, or dine inside in a buzzy, energetic modern space. The food in either place is eclectic and excellent, and because it’s a hotel restaurant you can get it even on holidays when other places are closed. Convenience, quality, and choice — pick three. 

Sea Level at Shade  Hotel

655 N. Harbor Drive

Redondo Beach

(310) 921-8950

rb.shadehotel.com

 

Indian 

Copper Pot Indian Grill

Copper Pot is short on the ethnic paintings and elaborate decor that adorns other Indian restaurants in the South Bay, and looks more like the coffee shop that was here for 50 years before they moved in. Close your eyes, though, and the smells and tastes are of South India, the rich curries thickened with coconut milk, the fragrant rice biryanis, the scent of methi leaves, cumin, and the whole raft of South Asian spices. Open your eyes again and see the huge, crisp pancakes called dosas, the yogurt batter uttapams, and other distinctive items rarely seen in our area’s more numerous North Indian restaurants. This is a taste of the Southern part of South Asia, and our readers come here for their first taste of ancient traditions.

Copper Pot Indian Grill

1511 S Pacific Coast Hwy

Redondo Beach

(310) 504-0777

copperpotla.com

 

Hot Chicken 

Top Tenders & Wings

When you first bite into the Nashville hot style chicken at Top Tenders, you think it isn’t really all that spicy. It isn’t at first bite, but by the second or third you’re noticing that there is some serious heat going on here. Not just heat, because there’s an undertone of sweetness and some other flavors beneath the peppery, smoky sauce. You can find hotter chicken around the South Bay, but as a general thing that takes it so far that all you get is the heat, rather than the whole range of flavors. You’ll appreciate the cooling effects of their housemade buttermilk ranch dressing and the bread and butter pickles, and as you take the last bite your lips will have that tingling burn that fans of Nashville heat enjoy so much.

Top Tenders & Wings

2723 Manhattan Beach Blvd

Redondo Beach 

(310) 536-9090

3901 Pacific Coast Hwy

Torrance 

(424) 257-8126

toptendersrestaurant.com

 

Italian over $25  

Primo Italia

It’s a short drive up the hill from Pacific Coast Highway, but everything about Primo Italia makes it feel like you’ve taken a much longer trip. The environment is stylish and international, so that you might think you’re in Europe unless there are American sports on the TV’s above the bar. The menu is full of regional specialties made with fresh pastas, woodfire roasted meats and seafood, and the wine list is packed with Italy’s best. The sophisticated atmosphere makes this the Italian restaurant of choice for date nights, anniversaries, and those times when you’re not really celebrating anything except the joy of a fine meal the way the Romans do it.

Primo Italia

24590 Hawthorne Blvd

Torrance 

(310) 378-4288

eatprimo.com

 

Italian under $25 

Fritto Misto

This year’s winner for Italian under $25 takes a different culinary path from our winner in the more expensive category. Fritto Misto is unabashedly Californian in style and menu. We’re not ruling out the possibility that somewhere in Sicily a place is serving “Atomic Pasta” (which we presume would be called Pasta Atomico), but is it the same mix of Cajun chicken, New Mexico chili linguini, and bell peppers? You can get traditional or inventive meals here, and they’re all made with the same care and priced so this is an everyday enjoyment.

Fritto Misto

316 Pier Avenue

Hermosa Beach

(310) 318-6098

thefrittomisto.com

 

Japanese Sushi 

Flyin Fin Sushi and Seafood

It takes a lot to stand out in the competitive local sushi scene, but Flyin Fin does with their elegantly presented creations. These use the flawlessly fresh fish and vegetables of Japanese tradition, but with preparations that draw from the Thai style of ornate vegetable cutting. The “Pornado” roll, with its sculpted tower of fried noodles, is the most startling creation, but there are delights to the eye and palate throughout their menu. 

Flyin Fin

1727 S Catalina Avenue 

Redondo Beach

(310) 373-3718

Flyinfin.com

 

Japanese Other 

Japonica

The word Japonica is often seen in garden centers, where a variety of flowering plants bear that name because it’s Latin for “from Japan.” Japonica restaurant became rooted in Redondo 20 years ago and last year  cuttings were transplanted to Hermosa and El Segundo. The offspring have bred true, serving traditional Japanese izakaya food and sushi as well as items that incorporate modern techniques. The menus aren’t precisely the same, and a botanist or a culinary observer might say each has adapted to its environment. We’d stretch this metaphor further, but after writing this far we’re hungry for sushi and are going to visit the nearest one. 

Japonica

1314 Hermosa Avenue

Hermosa Beach

(424) 257-82744

1304 ½ S Pacific Coast Hwy

Redondo Beach 

(310) 316-9477

229 Main Street

El Segundo

japonicadining.com

 

Kid’s restaurant  

Good Stuff

The menu at each Good Stuff location varies, but all have plenty of options for the folks who are at eye level with the table. In keeping with the name of the restaurant, there are healthy options, as well as kid-size portions of the items that the adults are having so they’ll feel grown-up. We’d hate to suggest that one location is better than the others for meals with kids, but we notice that if the young ones have oodles of energy to run off after breakfast, the Hermosa location is next to the beach where kids may cavort under the watchful eyes of parents or guardians.

Good Stuff

1286 The Strand

Hermosa Beach 

(310) 374-2334

1617 S Pacific Coast Hwy #102

Redondo Beach 

(310) 316-0262

550 Deep Valley Drive #151

Rolling Hills 

(310) 544-8000

eatgoodstuff.com

 

Late Night eatery after 9 p.m. 

The Kettle

We can’t really feign surprise when The Kettle wins this award, since they’ve been the go-to place for the night owl crowd for half a century. The South Bay was a very different place in 1973, and though the classic homestyle items are still favorites, changing tastes have brought changed menus. Nobody knew what roasted garlic hummus was back then, and Cajun blackened chicken hadn’t even been invented. Getting them at all was impossible, and getting them at 3 a.m. seems unlikely even now, but The Kettle does it every night.

The Kettle

1138 Highland Avenue

Manhattan Beach 

(310) 545-8511

thekettle.net

 

Mall Restaurant  

Din Tai Fung

When Din Tai Fung opened in Torrance, the line to get in stretched hundreds of feet and it took about two hours. Things have calmed down since then, but there are still people who are happy to stand in line to dine here. They can do that while watching other peoples’ dumplings being freshly made through the window into the kitchen, and it’s curiously riveting. You know that the rest of your meal will have the same fresh ingredients, and whether it’s one of the soups or stir-fries or the next order of those dumplings, it’s going to be good.

Din Tai Fung

21540 Hawthorne Blvd #519

Torrance 

(310) 214-1175

dintaifungusa.com

 

Mediterranean/Middle Eastern  

Chicken Maison
Chicken Maison’s name is slightly misleading – they serve much more than chicken, and it’s not in a French style, but Arabic. Those who go there expecting ratatouille and potatoes Lyonnaise alongside their coq au vin will be surprised to instead see housemade hummus, crisp falafel, tabbouleh, and a variety of other items. You could make a fine meal of these, and many people do, or you can have them as a side dish for the best rotisserie chickens in town.

Chicken Maison

1000 Torrance Blvd

Redondo Beach

(310) 316-9797

2709 Manhattan Beach Blvd

Redondo Beach

(310)725-0035

chickenmaison.com

 

Justin Essman and Mickey Mance have received a warm, popular welcome in Riviera Village with their newly opened Vida Modern Taqueria. Photo by Kevin Cody

Mexican over $15 

Vida Modern Mexican + Tequila
The first thing that grabs your attention when you read Vida’s menu is the number of tacos – 18 different fillings, from tempura nopales and cinnamon carnitas to lobster tail with fennel and Pacific snapper. It’s an inspired version of the ubiquitous Mexican snack, but things don’t stop there. They offer starters, ceviches, salads, bowls, and a few entrees and a wide variety of sides, some innovative, others traditional. There are sangrias, micheladas, and specialty cocktails to wash down the feast, and both the food and drink may have you thinking differently about what can be done with food from south of the border.

Vida Modern Mexican + Tequila

1723 S Catalina Avenue

Redondo Beach

(310) 430-7787

eatdrinkvida.com

 

Mexican under $15 

El Burrito Jr
You can tell when El Burrito Junior is open because there is a line outside. There is always a line outside, because this unassuming little stand on PCH delivers famously good and cheap Mexican food in generous portions. Everything is packed to go, though there are a few weathered picnic tables for those who can’t wait to dig into a burrito fresh from the kitchen. It’s simple, honest Mexican food that is worth waiting for, and you probably will.

El Burrito Jr

919 S Pacific Coast Hwy

Redondo Beach

(310) 316-5058

 

RYLA’s husband and wife team, Ray Hayashi and Cynthia Hetlinger. Photo by JP Cordero

New restaurant

RYLA
Ryla won in the categories of Asian Fusion and Best New Restaurant, and neither is a surprise. They became a culinary destination the moment they opened thanks to a media buzz that extolled Ray Hayashi and Cynthia Hetlinger’s cooking at The Arthur J, Providence, and other landmarks. As high as those expectations were, they surpassed them easily. They were aided by the transformation of a former saloon into a gorgeous dining room with Asian murals. Add in a well-informed service staff and a well-stocked bar, and you have the best new restaurant of the year. It’s that simple.
Ryla

1220 Hermosa Avenue
Hermosa Beach 

(424) 247-9881 

eatryla.com

 

Pizza 

Mickey’s Deli
If you grew up in the South Bay, you don’t need a description of Mickey’s pizza, because just about every man, woman and child has had it. This was the first pizzeria in the area when it opened in 1953, when most locals of that era probably didn’t know what a pizza was. Their first experience probably hooked them on pizza, and their children and grandchildren are still coming here for giant slices or whole pies. Those are available with vegetables, pepperoni, sausage, and other traditional items or with toppings invented since Mickey’s opened, like chicken in tangy barbecue sauce or pepperoni with pickles. If you’re one of the few who haven’t had a big bite of tradition at Mickey’s, we can only wonder… what are you waiting for?

Mickey’s Italian Deli & Liquor Store

101 Hermosa Avenue

Hermosa Beach

(310) 376-2330

mickeysdeli.com

 

Poke 

Jus’ Poke
You don’t come to the place by the corner of Beryl and PCH for poke while your dining companion has a burger, because one of you will leave empty handed. The sign says it all – they just serve poke bowls. That doesn’t mean that choice is lacking, because they have five varieties, four with seafood and one with tofu. They were the South Bay’s first poke specialists, and when they opened eight years ago, some people questioned the wisdom of such a limited menu focused on what was then an obscure dish. Fast forward to now, and there are poke places all over the South Bay, but our readers still go back to the oblong building on PCH for their favorite experience.

Jus’ Poke

501 N Pacific Coast Hwy

Redondo Beach

(310) 379-1133

juspoke.com

 

Rotisserie Chicken

Chicken Maison
The person who runs the rotisserie operation at each Chicken Maison must have a hectic job. Hours before the place opens, they have to take the birds that have been marinated, thread them on skewers, and start them turning in front of the slow fire. And then another skewer, and another, so that when the place opens there are plenty of golden-skinned chickens ready to go. As they step back to admire their handiwork, customers rush in and deplete the stock and more skewers must be set in place. It must feel like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill, but with the scent of herb-infused roast chickens all day.

Chicken Maison

1000 Torrance Blvd

Redondo Beach

(310) 316-9797

2709 Manhattan Beach Blvd

Redondo Beach

(310)725-0035

chickenmaison.com

 

Seafood other than sushi 

Bluewater Grill
Most beach towns have a restaurant something like the Bluewater Grill, a place with an old-school nautical environment featuring a stuffed marlin or two and some random parts of a vessel that once plied the seas. In many towns those are populated exclusively by tourists, so it means something that locals voted this the best seafood restaurant. The menu isn’t particularly daring, but there are enough modern items on it that you know what century you are in. Bluewater’s reputation stands on classic items like grilled fish, crab cakes, chowder, and fish and chips that have the perfect crisp batter. Bluewater Grill has a kitchen that is up to the challenge, say our readers.

Bluewater Grill

665 N Harbor Drive

Redondo Beach

(310) 318-3474

bluewatergrill.com

 

Steak Over $40

The Rex Steak House
Based on this vote, our readers like to dine in high style when they go out for steak. The Rex’s staff knows the food and wine here, and questions guests about their preferences before making recommendations. The starters are modern with Italian accents, which gives you something to enjoy while you consider the cuts of meat on offer. Wagyu is available for those who like buttery, rich meats, American ribeye, filet, and New York or KC strip, and sauces and add-ins like grated real wasabi and roasted bone marrow complete the meal. It’s a pricey special night out, but our readers obviously feel that it’s worth it.

The Rex Steakhouse

221 Avenue I, #100

Redondo Beach

(310) 316-9041

therexsteakhouse.com

 

Steak under $40 

The Bull Pen
We think our readers may not have noticed that the price went up at the Bull Pen, because the New York and Culotte steak that used to be around $38 went up to $40 and $42 respectively. The Bull Pen was the overwhelming winner in this category, so we assume our readers were so happy with the value that they misremembered the details. Every steak includes a generously portioned side, and house soup or salad, so a steak dinner here really is a deal. We’ll let our readers honor a favorite for generations of steak lovers this time, but ask them to actually check the prices next year.

The Bull Pen

314 Avenue I

Redondo Beach

(310) 375-7797

thebullpenredondo.com

 

Sunday Brunch

Rockefeller
The Rockefeller restaurants have gone through a lot of changes in the decade since the first one opened as a burger pub. Brunch was a relatively recent development, and their decision is obviously pleasing our audience. It’s an inventive menu, with excellent chicken and waffles presented on a skewer as a highlight. The pork belly benedict with cheese grits is another hit with a Southern influence, and a breakfast burrito and chilaquiles give a nod to a different south. You can even get two eggs, bacon, and toast with potatoes if you’re a traditionalist, or avocado toast for moderns, so everyone is happy.

The Rockefeller

418 Pier Avenue

Hermosa Beach

(310) 372-8467

1707 S Catalina Avenue

Redondo Beach

(424) 350-7862

1209 Highland Avenue

Manhattan Beach

(310) 545-5810

eatrockefeller.com

 

Tapas/Small plates

Gabi James
Only one South Bay restaurant has a distinct Spanish influence, which doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of competition in the tapas and small plates category. After all, many of us cherish variety now, and Asian and contemporary restaurants have posted impressive vote tallies. Even so, Gabi James has won again for their take on tapas, which started as snacks in Spanish wine bars. They are faithful to the tradition of nature with a little spice and salt that might wake up your thirst. The sunny flavors of the Mediterranean are alive just steps from the Pacific, and this is a win for everybody who appreciates them.

Gabi James

1810 S Catalina Avenue

Redondo Beach

(310) 540-4884

gabijamesla.com

 

Thai/Southeast Asian 

Thai Dishes
It seems like decades since Thai Dishes brought Southeast Asian cuisine to the South Bay, because it was. Three decades and two spare years, to be exact. The peak-roofed building by the Manhattan Beach post office was a strange sight to people unfamiliar with Thai architecture, but the success of that restaurant was immediate and enduring. Their dishes are adjusted to American palates by default, but if you ask for your meal to be made Thai hot, you will enjoy this cuisine in all of its spicy glory. The restaurant is still owned by the family who started it, and it’s a destination for all who appreciate one of the great cuisines of the world.

Thai Dishes

1015 N Sepulveda Blvd

Manhattan Beach

(310) 546-4147

thaidishesmb.com

 

Bagel Shop

Manhattan Bread and Bagel

Poland has two major contributions to the world’s pantry, the kielbasa and the bagel. These are from two different communities, because kielbasa is always made with pork and bagels are associated with Jewish tradition, but here in America all sorts of things come together. Manhattan Bread & Bagel doesn’t have a kielbasa sandwich or schmear on their menu yet, but it could conceivably happen. They have so many other types of bagels and toppings that a kielbasa bagel would barely raise an eyebrow. What matters is that no matter what is in it, on it, or next to it, the bagels here have the slightly chewy texture and crust that you only get when you give them a leisurely rise, and steam them before baking. That’s the Northern European way to make the ring bread that has spread around the world.  

Manhattan Bread and Bagel

1812 N Sepulveda Blvd

Manhattan Beach

(310) 545-7553

Manhattanbread.com

 

Bakery

Sweet Wheat

A relative newcomer wins the prize, as Sweet Wheat, which opened in 2020, takes one of the most competitive categories. The bakery is owned by a pair of Parisian brothers who came to California with a mission to elevate baking, and this award indicates that they have been successful. The long counter is full of croissants plain and filled, cakes, pastries of all kinds, and a variety of baguettes and breads. These include some new world ideas like cranberry walnut sourdough that probably aren’t big sellers in Paris, but then again, they may be. The French appropriate ideas from all over the world, and we’ve borrowed enough of their ideas that they may be returning the compliment. 

Sweet Wheat

1430 S Pacific Coast Hwy

Redondo Beach

(310) 880-6323

Sweetwheatbakery.com

 

Bakery Desserts

Torrance Bakery

The Torrance Bakery is a perennial winner in this category, and is a mainstay for everyday desserts and spectacular wedding cakes. They specialize in the little touches – if you buy a wedding cake from them, the bride and groom get a small cake from the same recipe on their first anniversary. Forget that tradition of putting some cake in the freezer, because after a year the frosting is glue and the cake is dry as the tundra. Their repeated wins in this category and their popularity in the Beach Cities is all the more impressive because they’re in the middle of old Torrance, not at all convenient to beachside denizens. 

Torrance Bakery

1341 El Prado Avenue

Torrance

(310) 320-2722

Torrancebakery.com

 

Bowls

Paradise Bowls

Some combinations at Paradise Bowls are so ornate that you wonder whether some ingredients are just for show. Does a Chocolate Arc bowl really require 13 different raw ingredients, and would you notice if one wasn’t there? In the case of that example, the tart acai, rich peanut butter, and two kinds of chocolate are the base for a variety of fruits that add sweetness and texture, a symphony of natural flavors. Someone with a fine sense of flavor and textures composed these ingredients into a harmony and contrast that is almost like music made into food.  

Paradise Bowls

1246 Hermosa Avenue

Hermosa Beach

(310) 374-5284

919 Manhattan Avenue

Manhattan Beach

(310) 798-7100

Paradisebowls.com

 

Breakfast Omelet

Martha’s

Martha’s changed hands a few years ago, but the new owners wisely chose not to tinker with a formula that has stood the test of time. The omelets are massive, fluffy, and generously stuffed with cheese, vegetables, and meats as you prefer. The list is not long and the ingredients are simple and wholesome, relying on quality ingredients and skilled preparation rather than novelty. Doing simple things well has worked for them for a long time, and it’s still their recipe for success.
Martha’s

25 22nd Street

Hermosa Beach

(310) 376-7786

marthashermosabeach.com

 

Coffee Chain

Starbucks

The coffee chain named after a character in Moby Dick is the mightiest force in the coffee scene, and has contributed their weird pseudo-Italian lexicon to the culinary dictionary. Love them or hate them, they put out a reliable product and have elevated America’s appreciation for the mighty and bitter bean. They are the chain that all other coffeehouses, whether independent or rival behemoths, measure themselves by. They are short on local charm, but when you are far from home and the only other option is a diner, even a coffee snob will be grateful to see that sign. 

Starbucks

1303 Hermosa Avenue

Hermosa Beach

Starbucks.com

 

The Java Man crew Daniel Nava, Nick Herrera and Chuy Garcia. Photo by Kevin Cody

Coffee independent

Java Man

The virtues of our independent coffeehouse winner are entirely opposite from those of our chain coffee winner. Try to imagine Java Man as a chain, just try it. Consider the franchisees scouring thrift stores to get the exact right mismatched furniture, and seeking locations that have the funky charm of the old house on the corner of Pier Avenue. Where would they find the muffins and scones that have the irregularity and flavor of home baked goods? It’s not going to happen. If you want the charming setting and good coffee and quirky personal service, you have to come to Hermosa because Java Man is unlikely to come to you.

Java Man

157 Pier Avenue

Hermosa Beach

(310) 379-7209

javamancoffeehouse.com

 

Dessert

The Strand House 

We know that this category is for dessert, of which The Strand House has many options, but we have an eerie feeling that this has something to do with the donuts. The chocolate passionfruit cake is lovely, as are their other offerings, but there’s something about a plate with five different doughnuts hot from the fryer that is delightful. The child in us remembers doughnuts of yesteryear, the adult savors flavors like the caramel fleur de sel and blueberry lemon, and for a few moments our past and current selves are united in the appreciation for the simple joys of fried dough with little something to satiate our sweet tooth. 

The Strand House

117 Manhattan Beach Blvd

Manhattan Beach

(310) 545-7470

thestrandhousemb.com 

 

The dining decks of Hennessey’s Tavern, and neighboring restaurants have put the “Riviera” into Redondo Beach’s Riviera Village. Photo by Kevin Cody

Dining Deck

Hennessey’s

All of the Hennessey’s chain have outdoor spaces, but we have a hunch that this win is for their Riviera Village location, the only one with a true dining deck rather than a patio. It’s the liveliest space in the liveliest block in a lively town, with a buzz of conversation that mixes with street sounds, music from the troubadours at their own and neighboring establishments, and the happy clang of cutlery against plates. What started as an emergency measure now seems to be an unstoppable element of local dining culture, and it makes our Riviera a little more like the one in France. 

Hennessey’s

8 Pier Avenue

Hermosa Beach

(310) 372-5759

313 Manhattan Beach Blvd

Manhattan Beach

(310) 546-4813

hennesseystavern.com

 

The Strand House view is certain to impress any first date. Easy Reader File photo

First Date

The Strand House

You’re making a statement when you take a first date to the Strand House. It’s a sign you think your date will appreciate high style and sophistication, as well as the natural beauty of the ocean view. You find out about your compatibility as you subtly negotiate the shared plates; do they have the same opinion about oysters, and are they diplomatic as they urge the Japanese sweet potato as opposed to the brussels sprouts with black garlic? After dinner, do they suggest a walk by the beach, do you, or is it an unspoken agreement as you stroll the pier by moonlight? Even if the date is a bust and there’s nothing to talk about by the time you are finishing the razzleberry coconut ambrosia, you’ll both get a great meal out of the evening before departing separately, to try again another day.

The Strand House

117 Manhattan Beach Blvd

Manhattan Beach

(310) 545-7470

Thestrandhousemb.com 

 

Fish and Chips

Captain Kidd’s

It’s a meal at restaurants both humble and grand, from pier food stands to elegant restaurants, and it probably dates back to 15th century Portugal. Restaurants all over the South Bay serve fish and chips, and Captain Kidd’s is a perennial favorite. The seafood shack north of the pier has served untold tons of seafood and fried tubers over the years, and the counter is worn from generations of diners who paid their money, got their drinks, and then adjourned to the long tables to await the calling of their number. The plate of fish and chips at Captain Kidd’s is consistent, crisp fries, and fish that are at first too hot to eat, with housemade tartar sauce and cocktail sauce on the side. It’s a good portion of good food at a good price, in a place with a free parking lot and a sea view.

Captain Kidd’s

209 N Harbor Drive

Redondo Beach

(310) 372-7703

captainkidds.com 

 

Hamburger (Fast Food)

In N Out

Our fast food burger and restaurant burger winners have something in common, namely a very limited menu. That’s about the only thing, though. In-N-Out is sleek and efficient, an assembly line that turns out a whole lot of decent burgers at high speed and reliability in a generic environment. Fries are famously crisp and nearly inevitable, as are shakes or sodas. Even if you’re not a big fan of their food, you have to admire the degree to which everyone works together to make it all happen. If you do like a very simply seasoned burger with fresh lettuce and tomato and American cheese, your stomach rumbles every time you see an In-N-Out by the side of the road.

In N Out

3801 Inglewood Avenue

Redondo Beach

In-n-out.com

 

Hamburger restaurant

Ercoles

To say that Ercole’s is somewhat less organized and antiseptic than In-N-Out is a slight understatement. Ercole’s churns out the burgers pretty fast, given that they only have a small grill in their tiny kitchen, but speed isn’t the point. You come here to relax among the eccentric characters who make this their watering hole of choice, while you wait for a big, sloppy burger with an irregular patty to arrive next to a pile of potato chips. Have a drink of something much stronger than a milkshake, watch a game if there’s one on and the other patrons if there isn’t, and enjoy some time in a South Bay institution.

Ercoles

1101 Manhattan Avenue

Manhattan Beach

(310) 372-1997

ercoles1101.com

 

Ice Cream Parlor

Handels

South Bay denizens are proud of our local brands, but when someone from elsewhere has a superior product, we’ll admit it. The first beach cities location of the Youngstown, Ohio Handels chain opened in Redondo in 2010, followed by Manhattan Beach a decade later, and both are often slammed with customers. Their secret? Lots of flavors including banana cream pie and graham cracker chocolate, embedded in rich, thick ice cream. They’ve been around since 1945, and are proving that the midwest has culinary brands to be proud of.

Handles

1882 S Pacific Coast Hwy

Redondo Beach

(424) 247-8861

handelsicecream.com  

 

Paul Mance, the second of three generations of Mances to run Mickey’s Deli, celebrated the Hermosa Beach institution’s 70th anniversary on Saturday. Fans lined up around the block to buy spaghetti sauce sandwiches for 70 cents. (They were 5 cents in the ‘60s). Photo by Kevin Cody

Neighborhood Deli

Mickey’s Deli

Mickey’s opened for breakfast last year and made it possible for people to dine there for three meals a day, and we suspect some of our readers may be doing that. They won for best deli, and we have to agree that their selection of hot and cold sandwiches is mighty impressive. The Italian beef is a nice rendition of that Chicago specialty, the meatball a chance to enjoy their light textured and herbed goodness, but you really should order a sauce and cheese sandwich at least once. It started as a mainstay for penny-pinching surfers and acquired mythic status as Hermosa’s cheap and nourishing meal. You may decide to go back to your usual eggplant parm or cheesesteak, but you should try it at last once. Get some marinated mushrooms or giardiniera on the side and you’ll have a balanced meal for less than 10 bucks, which is amazing these days.

Mickey’s Deli

101 Hermosa Avenue

Hermosa Beach

(310) 376-2330

mickeysdeli.com

 

Bartender

Mikey Jerome, Shellback Tavern

Shellback Tavern’s capable, hospitable and naturally personable Mikey is beloved behind-the-bar as no other in the South Bay.

Natalie weighed in on Yelp, “Mikey is the best bartender there ever was. He keeps my cards safe when I forget them, and is always taking care of everyone!”

Christa chimed in, “Mikey is awesome. When I left my cell phone there, he held onto it for a couple of days until I could make the drive back and pick it up.” She added, “If you’re looking for a laid-back bar with reasonable prices and awesome bartenders, this place is for you…My go-to spot to come when I’m in Manhattan Beach. Thanks again Mikey!”

Sebastian from Hermosa dubbed Mikey “friendly and funny.”

Brittany summed up the Shellback experience: “I honestly love this place. A good classic beach dive with really nice people serving, and behind the bar.

Mikey Jerome

116 Manhattan Beach Blvd

Manhattan Beach

(310) 376-7857

shellback-tavern.business.site

 

Local original music band

Barley

It’s about as feel-good-beach as feel-good-beach can get. Think Beach Boys’ vibe meets Americana, with ample touches of folk.

The eight-piece band, with members from the South Bay, have played the area for years. With sun and sand in their sound, they glide deftly between the moods and paces of their eclectic repertoire.

Barley plans to record its first live album, “One More Night,” at Hermosa Music Company April 29, a ticketed show with beer and wine supplied by the family brewery, Project Barley.

Barley

BarleyHQ.com

 

Local Underage Band

XYZPDQ

Our readers fell hard for the explosive live band that makes a big sound with the spare lineup of Salem Meade on vocals and guitar, Julian Bailey on bass, and Daz Corcoran on drums.

The trio will bring its propulsive, melodious rock to the South Bay’s largest stage May 5-7, at the huge Beachlife Festival in Redondo, featuring such acts as Gwen Stefani, The Black Keys, Black Crowes, Modest Mouse, John Fogerty and Sublime with Rome.

(XYZPDQ stands for X-amine Your Zipper Pretty Darn Quick.)

XYZPDQ

xyzpdqofficial.com

 

Chef

Tony Zermeno, Zinc

“I think what really separates Chef Tony from a lot of other chefs is the passion and love that he pours into every dish he creates,” said Zinc@Shade GM Nick Duffy.

“As a young child, Chef Tony can remember watching his mother cook in the kitchen, and his desire to recreate those incredible experiences resonates with him in everything he does.”

Zermeno “is constantly coming up with new and innovative menu items, ensuring our guests always have the freshest options in the South Bay.”

Zermeno “is one of those people whose positive energy is contagious throughout our entire team. He truly brings out the absolute best in everyone he works with,” Duffy said. “His high standards of excellence are unparalleled.”

Tony Zermeno

Zinc at Shade Manhattan Beach

1221 N Valley Drive

Manhattan Beach

(310) 698-5559

MB.shadehotel.com

 

Art Gallery

Jill Sanders Gallery

Landscape photographer Jill Sanders, whose breathtaking work captures the tactile textures and vigorous grandeur of our natural surroundings, won our readers’ admiration with her seven-year-old gallery in Riviera Village.

The space displays her art in a modern setting with a subdued, very “present” atmosphere that allows the viewer to sink into an unhurried experience of her work.

The gallery also is leased out for private functions, which have included book signings, empowerment lectures, financial advising, PTA, reunions, meditation groupings and hospital focus groups.

Jill Sanders Gallery

1733 S Catalina Avenue

Redondo Beach

(310) 918-1965

jillsandersgallery.com

 

Sommelier

Martin Herrera, The Strand House

Martin Herrera, repeat winner in this category, says an attentive knowledge of the guest he is serving is the single most important factor in his skill set.

“It’s not just knowing wines, it’s getting to know the person ordering the wine,” he said. There are the person’s tastes and preferences, and factors beyond.

“Is this a special occasion? Is he just out with friends?”

And Herrera seems to have an instinctual grasp of when the guest is seeking familiar fare, or would like to stretch the boundaries of previous experience just a bit.

Herrera launched his deep exploration of the grape after sampling a 40th anniversary vintage bottle of Stag’s Leap S.L.V.

“When you drink a wine, you travel in place and in time,” he said. “If I have a Barolo from Italy, I travel in place, and also go back in time [to the year of the vintage],” he said. “That is captured in the essence of that bottle.”

The wine list at The Strand House favors Napa, Sonoma and Paso Robles, and strays from California into “old world France and Italy” as well, Herrera said.

Herrera worked his way up at The Strand House, from busser to runner to server, then manager.

“I’ve done it all here over nine years,” he said.

Herrera expressed special gratitude for his late mentor, Michael Morrisette, a partner in The Strand House, who elevated Herrera to manager.

Martin Herrera, The Strand House

117 Manhattan Beach Blvd

Manhattan Beach

(310) 545-7470

thestrandhousemb.com

 

Cris Bennet praises his dedicated and personable staff for Good Stuff’s success. Easy Reader file photo

Restaurant People

Good Stuff

The key to becoming the restaurant staff that our readers rave about is the “gift of hospitality,” according to Good Stuff founder Cris Bennett.

“We’ve got a system. We look for people who smile, and have the attribute of organization. But the real key is to find that person with the gift of hospitality,” he said.

“That’s more important than experience. Good service is vital, of course, but people who have that gift make the service really special.”

That quality is a mainstay of the 43-year-old eatery.

“It’s a big part of our culture. We’ve got a lot of longtime employees, and the newer ones learn from them. It’s kind of a pass-through. It’s weaved into the fabric of our restaurant,” he said.

“Another really important thing: they take ownership of their position. They understand what we’re trying to accomplish, and they really act like owners. They care about the customers, they help each other. It just works.”

Good Stuff

1286 The Strand

Hermosa Beach

(310) 374-2334

Eatgoodstuff.com

 

DJ 

Dj Black Sheep, American Junkie

Dj Black Sheep made his name as a high school kid in Torrance, and never looked back. Along the way he interned at Interscope Records and opened for big artists, and 17 years on he’s a professional, traveling, nightclub DJ, who keeps returning to the South Bay.

“The music demand here is a lot more diverse. In Hollywood it’s pretty much hip-hop based, and here you can do whatever you want,” he said.

Mixing multiple genres has long been his M.O. These days rock, house, hip hop, oldies, tech house and top 40 are in heavy rotation.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “Get everybody together, and just have a big party.”

Our readers singled out American Junkie, but Dj Black Sheep also appears locally at Baja Sharkeez and Tower 12.

He’s active on Instagram: @djblacksheep_.

Dj Black Sheep

American Junkie

68 Pier Avenue

Hermosa Beach

(310) 376-4412

americanjunkiehb.com

 

Lighthouse Cafe continues Hermosa’s live music tradition. Pictured is Justin Hopkins. Easy Reader file photo

Live Music Club

The Lighthouse Café

The venerable Lighthouse Café cornered the market with live music seven days a week, sometimes two or three times. Young and older patrons flock to hear jazz, salsa, upbeat cover bands, popular and engaging singer-songwriter Randy Coleman, and reggae, for which the Lighthouse has become well known.

The Lighthouse, an icon of West Coast jazz, reserves Monday nights for the genre. Tuesday it’s live salsa, complete with dance lessons.

Fridays the popular, genre-ranging Retrofit plays in the early evening, followed by cover bands that roam through the 80s and onward, playing The Cure, Elton John, Bruno Mars, you name it.

Saturday, live music starts in the afternoon, followed by Coleman until about 10 p.m., and Sunday it’s live reggae from about 5 to 9 p.m., with the popular band Wais in heavy rotation of late.

See the Lighthouse website for the latest.

The Lighthouse Café

30 Pier Avenue

Hermosa Beach

(310) 376-9833

thelighthousecafe.net

 

Dance Club

The Lighthouse Café

Our readers chose the Lighthouse for dancing, citing a fun atmosphere, an unpretentious vibe and of course, great music.

Jon Paul Gwozdz, the Lighthouse director of operations, noted the variety of ages that populate the dance floor, people in their 20s and up “who like a well-balanced cocktail” and love to “party, dance, and comingle.”

“There’s some magic out there for sure,” he said. The people get on their feet for Tuesday’s salsa, with live bands and dance lessons, and they stay for the weekend sounds of upbeat cover bands and live reggae. DJs take over after 10:30 on Friday and Saturday. See the Lighthouse website for the music schedule.

The Lighthouse Café

30 Pier Avenue

Hermosa Beach

(310) 376-9833

thelighthousecafe.net

 

Outdoor Dining

Good Stuff

All Good Stuff locations have outdoor dining, but they’re not all equal. The view of Pacific Coast Highway at the edge of Riviera Village has its charms, but can’t really compare with the people watching opportunities at the Promenade on the Peninsula. Neither can match the best of all, the Hermosa location. On a sunny weekend, there’s an unequaled view of the walkers, skaters, and cyclists (who will be walking their bikes if the lights are flashing, so may be observed for a greater duration) It’s a great place to dine even if the weather is less than wonderful, because then the crowd is thinner and you get that million-dollar view of the Santa Monica Bay in all its glory. People come from around the world to enjoy that view, and we just walk there.

1286 The Strand

Hermosa Beach 

(310) 374-2334

1617 S. Pacific Coast Hwy #102

Redondo Beach 

(310) 316-0262

550 Deep Valley Drive #151

Rolling Hills 

(310) 544-8000

eatgoodstuff.com

 

Peaceful, quiet dinner

The Bottle Inn

While many things about the modern dining scene are unequivocally positive, noise divides diners. If you like energetic spaces you think of the high volume as lively and exciting, and if you don’t, they’re just noisy. Those in the latter camp can be found at the Bottle Inn, where the decibel level is usually low both inside and out. The location on a cul de sac means traffic is minimal, and inside there’s enough music to enhance the mood but not drown out conversations. It’s the perfect balance for those who like a serene environment, which makes them a favorite among people who actually enjoy talking with their dining companions.

The Bottle Inn

26 22nd Street

Hermosa Beach

(310) 376-9595

Thebottleinnhermosa.com

 

Romantic Dinner

The Bottle Inn

We have separate categories for first date and romantic dinner, and some people have questioned the difference. The winners this year explain the difference. The Strand House has a buzzy environment, so if things don’t click you’re in a place where there are other distractions. The Bottle Inn is quieter, more intimate, a place where a soft word can be heard, a meaningful silence savored. The old school Italian selections are comfort food, perfect when you’re comfortable with your dining companion. Your fellow diners probably include those who are celebrating anniversaries of relationships that blossomed here, and that could have something to do with it too.

The Bottle Inn

26 22nd Street

Hermosa Beach

(310) 376-9595

Thebottleinnhermosa.com

 

Sandwich Shop

Cultured Slice

The Cultured Slice won in the first year in which they were eligible, and that’s no surprise. The little sandwich shop on Pier Avenue is short on dining space but long on innovation, making the most of quality ingredients and inventive, sometimes even wacky ideas. Don’t make up your mind based on online menus, because on any given day they may be trying out some combination they’ve never made before. There are surprises in-store even for repeat customers, and if you get the same thing you liked last time, you find yourself wondering how the flavors in that daily special would go together.

Cultured Slice

229 Pacific Coast Hwy

Hermosa Beach

(424) 390-8153

culturedslice.com

 

Special Occasion Restaurant

The Arthur J

There’s a certain grandeur to The Arthur J that starts with the elegantly retro mid-century decor that extends down to the serving utensils and dinnerware. Everything fits together to create a posh space in which to enjoy curated food and drinks that draw from classic American ideas but aren’t shackled to them. The space is special, and makes you feel that since you’re there maybe you are, too. As a bonus, that lovely room will look great in the background of the pictures you take to memorialize the occasion.

The Arthur J

903 Manhattan Avenue 

Manhattan Beach 

(310) 878-9620

thearthurj.com

 

Specialty Salad

Bluewater Grill

We’re not sure which salad our readers were thinking of, because there are a couple here that aren’t often seen on local menus. The crab and shrimp Louie salad is a classic from the early 1900s, a mound of greens topped by seafood, cucumber, egg, avocado, and tomatoes with a tangy dressing made with mayonnaise and chili sauce. The crab and avocado salad and Mediterranean ahi salads aren’t quite like anything you’ll find in most restaurants either. They have a caesar and a wedge too, and they’re good but you can get those at many places. Consider trying something different and experiencing the items unique to this establishment. 

Bluewater Grill

665 N. Harbor Drive

Redondo Beach 

(310) 318-3474

bluewatergrill.com

 

View

The Strand House

When you hear that The Strand House won for best view, anyone who has enjoyed the sunset from that upstairs dining room nodded their head and thinks, of course. The restaurant has been laid out so that every table has a view of the bay, and from the ones right by the window you can see from Palos Verdes to Malibu. It is delightful at any time and in any weather, from the dazzling afternoons that are captured on postcards to blustery days where the wind blows the palms below. There is nowhere else in the South Bay to match it, and you’ll want to text pictures to friends. Make sure to get some of the food in the foreground so they’ll be doubly envious. 

The Strand House

117 Manhattan Beach Blvd

Manhattan Beach

(310) 545-7470

Thestrandhousemb.com

 

Sports Bar Food

Hennessey’s Tavern

Food at sports bars isn’t always good for the same reason that food at sports stadiums isn’t – the patrons aren’t really there for the meal, but for the games. They’ll eat a burger or hot dog and not notice much about it if the action on the field is riveting. Hennessey’s is different, because though they are sports bars, they are owned by someone who also owns fine dining restaurants and gastropubs. Paul Hennessey makes sure the food at places that bear his name are up to a high standard, and that’s true at every outpost of his empire. You may only notice the food during the commercials, and while the refs are mulling over a call, but it will be worth savoring. 

Hennessey’s Tavern

8 Pier Avenue

Hermosa Beach

(310) 372-5759

1712 S Catalina Avenue

Redondo Beach

(310) 540-8443

313 Manhattan Beach Blvd

Manhattan Beach

(310) 546-4813

hennesseystavern.com

 

Vegetarian/Vegan over $20

Pura Vita

The items you love at any classic Italian restaurant are here, made vegan with extraordinary care to authenticity of flavor. You know that from the moment you step through the door, and experience the heady scent of herbs, and sauces that are cooked down the old, slow way. Chef Tara Punzone finds the freshest produce, and the vegan cheeses that have the flavor and texture of the Italian originals, and uses them with her handmade pastas and pizza doughs. Vegan-curious omnivores who try them may be amazed at the results. All the food here is vegan, but all the customers aren’t – some of them are just here because they appreciate culinary artistry.  

Pura Vita

320 S Catalina Avenue

Redondo Beach

(424) 304-2247

Puravitalosangeles.com

 

Vegetarian under $20

The Green Temple

If you stroll inside and look at the place, it may seem unlikely that Green Temple won the modestly priced vegan category. The restaurant is lush with beautifully arranged plants, and the space is upscale and serene. The prices on the menu are a shock in a good way, with nothing over 20  dollars, and that’s remarkable in a place that uses so much local organic produce. Green Temple is a healthy, affordable luxury, and that has earned them a loyal following.

The Green Temple

1700 S Catalina Avenue #103 

Redondo Beach

(310) 944-4525

greentemple.net

 

Craft Beer Brewery

HopSaint

There are actually four patron saints of brewers and beer, so if you see a table of spiritual beings on your next visit to Hop Saint, they might be stopping in to visit the restaurant and brewery named in their honor. Brewer Brian Brewer (that’s his real name, not a typo) crafts a wide variety of beers in different styles, so on any given day there will be pilsners, wheats, IPAs of various levels of bitterness, a brown or two, and a porter to round things out. That’s just from the house taps – there are guest taps and bottles for those who want to compare beers by other producers. There’s no need to drink on an empty stomach, because the Southern-inspired food here is well worth a visit even for those who have no interest in quaffing a foamy pint or three.

HopSaint

5160 W 190th Street

Torrance

(310) 214-4677

hopsaint.com

 

Craft Beer Restaurant Bar

Hermosa Beach Brewing

There have been debates about whether Hermosa Beach Brewing should be regarded as a brewery that serves food or a restaurant that serves beer. True, all the beers served here are brewed by the company that owns the place, but they’re crafted in Torrance. They also qualify as a restaurant because they’re very food-centric thanks to the genius of Chef Aaron DuBois, who keeps a steady flow of daily specials coming out of the small kitchen. Cicerone Dave Davis is on hand to suggest the best combinations of beer and food, so drinkers and diners get the best of both worlds.  

Hermosa Beach Brewing

1342 Hermosa Avenue

Hermosa Beach

(424) 398-0014

hbcfoodonline.square.site

 

Happy Hour

Vida Modern Mexican + Tequila

Our readers must include a lot of thrifty folks who enjoy modern Mexican food, because they’ve zeroed in on a place that offers a wide variety of items at a discount between 3 and 6 p.m. Forget the places that only offer very limited specials – Vida offers deals on most of their tacos and three entrees, plus wines, beers, and margaritas. Stop by on a Margarita Monday or Taco Tuesday and there are even more options, like the popular Max’s Marg priced at six dollars instead of thirteen. It’s enough to make you take off work early so you can order while that menu is still on the tables.

Vida Modern Mexican + Tequila

1723 S. Catalina Avenue

Redondo Beach 90277

(310) 430-7787

eatdrinkvida.com

 

Among Esperanza’s many Best of the Beach inventive cocktails is this Pineapple margarita with serrano pepper and cilantro. Photo by JP Cordero

Inventive Cocktails

Esperanza

The art of mixology is alive at Esperanza, where the bartenders have an arsenal of spirits, wines, juices, herbs, and fruit and use them artfully. The margaritas you’d expect at any Mexican restaurant worth their salted rim are here, both in frozen and liquid versions, and they sometimes get exotic. Where else can you get a coconut pineapple margarita, or one with watermelon and cilantro? The bar really shines on the section called “Inventive cocktails,” which include mai tai, martini, and mojito variants as well as some concoctions with no historical precedent. If you drink for flavor, drink at Esperanza. 

Esperanza

309 Manhattan Beach Blvd

Manhattan Beach 

(424) 422-0057

esperanzamb.com 

 

Liquor Store

Mickey’s Deli

We don’t often question the motives of the people who vote in these polls, but we have a sneaking suspicion that Mickey’s won the liquor store category because if you buy booze at Mickey’s, you have an excuse to grab a sandwich while you are there. Or maybe you want to take a stroll on the beach before buying that bottle, or perhaps (gasp!) you’re going to put it in a brown bag and take that walk on the beach, after which the bag will be lighter. Mickey’s does have a solid selection of alcohol at decent prices and serves the south Hermosa community, but isn’t really a place that you would single out unless you have ulterior motives. 

Mickey’s Deli

101 Hermosa Avenue

Hermosa Beach

(310) 376-2330

mickeysdeli.com

 

Greg and Paul Newman with two of their specialty margaritas from the expansive selection.

Margarita/Restaurant Bar

Palmilla Cocina y Tequila

If you ask the bartender at Palmilla to recommend a margarita, there’s one they can refer you to immediately – it’s on the menu as Recommended Margarita. There are 10 others on the menu with varying levels of sweetness and spice, and depending on your tastes you might like one of those better, but the Recommended has a particularly fine balance. The drinks here are from the same masters who won our Inventive Cocktails award for sister restaurant Esperanza, and have the same adventurous style, so if you just tell the bartender the flavor profile you enjoy, they’re sure to please. 

Palmilla Cocina y Tequila

39 Pier Avenue

Hermosa Beach

(310) 374-4440

Palmillarestaurant.com

 

Neighborhood bar

Shellback Tavern

The bartending style at the Shellback isn’t flamboyant, and there are other places on the same block with a larger selection and more inventive cocktails. The attraction here is the atmosphere: friendly locals that makes a neighborhood bar such a desirable place. The accumulated bonhomie of decades of existence, saturates the environment, and blends the familiarity of a classic locals’ hangout with just a bit of magic. 

Shellback Tavern

116 Manhattan Beach Blvd

Manhattan Beach

(310) 376-7857

Shellback-tavern.business.site 

 

Wine List Restaurant

Primo Italia

Primo Italia is a destination for serious wine lovers, as attested by the frequency of wine dinners and the speed with which they sell out. No one has to wait for a wine dinner to find plenty of things to pair with a great meal, because the everyday wine list is excellent. Everything is from Italy and California except for a few Champagnes and a rosé, but so many wines that suit this cuisine come from their own soil and ours that this is appropriate. The best vintages of two Mediterranean climates await you at a restaurant that celebrates all that is great and Italian.

Primo Italia

24590 Hawthorne Blvd

Torrance 90505

(310) 378-4288

eatprimo.com

 

Sports Bar

Shellback

Our readers have voted Shellback as the best sports bar, which is surprising when you consider the distractions that might beset a fanatic for the game. There’s a view of the beach and lively street scene, and the passing parade on a sunny day encourages you to watch people who are not engaged in chasing, throwing, or kicking a ball. The food and drinks might encourage attention to wander too, because they’re a cut above the average. We have to guess that sports fans in the South Bay are good at multitasking, and can enjoy the game, environment, and flavors all at once.

Shellback Tavern

116 Manhattan Beach Blvd

Manhattan Beach

(310) 376-7857

Shellback-tavern.business.site 

 

Tequila Bar

Palmilla Cocina Y Tequila

Palmilla doesn’t have the largest tequila menu in the South Bay, but there is more to being a great tequila bar than just a collection of bottles. The thirty-odd varieties on offer here are all from quality producers, and the bar staff know their selection in a way that isn’t possible at places where ostentatious but seldom opened bottles line the shelves. They’ll steer you through a variety of tequilas and mezcals that represent the best of Mexican imbibing.

Palmilla Cocina Y Tequila

39 Pier Avenue

Hermosa Beach

(310) 374-4440

Palmillarestaurant.com

 

Wine Bar

Friends of the Vine 

On any day when you’re not invited to a party where a group is enjoying wine and cheese, you can invite yourself over to Friends of the Vine for a reasonable approximation of the experience. Well, not any day – they’re closed Sunday and Monday, but the rest of the week genial hosts Fred and Sam greet regulars while pouring, serving, and explaining their wares. It’s easy to get to know people over tastes, and if you particularly enjoy something you tried, you can buy a bottle. Maybe you should buy two, because if you click with people you meet there, you might invite them over on a Sunday or Monday when Friends of the Vine is closed.

Friends of the Vine 

221 Avenida Del Norte

Redondo Beach

(310) 792-5940

friendsofthevine.net

 

Wine Store

Uncorked

The Uncorked store on Pier in Hermosa is Wine Event Central for the South Bay, with a variety of programs during any given week. These might include live music, tastings hosted by winemakers or the store’s exuberant owner Mark Wyoming, or a group reading by a psychic. Some events are wacky, such as wine pairings with Girl Scout cookies, Halloween candy, or sports stadium junk food, but you’re always likely to learn something. Talking to the staff is a learning experience too, because they know their stock and are passionate about it. Whether you’re dashing in for a party bottle or lazing at a tasting, there’s something for you at Uncorked.

Uncorked

302 Pier Avenue

Hermosa Beach

(424) 247-7177

1000 Manhattan Avenue

Manhattan Beach

(310) 382-2021

UncorkedWineShops.com

 

Caterer

Mickey’s Deli

Having a major life event catered by Mickey’s is possibly the best way of saying you’re a South Bay local without ever saying those words out loud. It’s a good idea for another reason – they have a much wider selection than you might expect, whether it’s cold cut platters or full hot dinners you’re seeking. People who have been enjoying Mickey’s food for everyday meals might be surprised to see the big trays of marinated roast chicken, eggplant parmesan, or tofu and sauteed peppers enlivened with Mickey’s marinara. There will be compliments on your good taste, whether you’re serving out-of-towners or people who started walking to Mickey’s as soon as they were old enough to walk.

Mickey’s Deli

101 Hermosa Avenue

Hermosa Beach

(310) 376-2330

mickeysdeli.com

 

Hermosa Brewing Company Cicerone Dave Davis and partner Jorge Delgado enjoying the view from their downtown Hermosa restaurant. They recently opened a new brewery in torrance. Photo by Brad Jacobson

Cicerone

Adam Aro

You probably associate Spain with wine, but that country is one of the largest beer producers in Europe. Spanish food goes quite well with the gift of the barley, and Gabi James keeps a selection on tap – mostly Californian, because most Spanish beer is consumed locally  Cicerone/co-owner Adam Aro will be happy to guide the curious who would like to know what will pair best with their paella, Moorish salmon, or other delights. South Bay locals enjoy their beer and expect variety, quality, and staff who know their stuff, and they get the best advice from Adam and his staff.  

Cicerone

Adam Aro 

Gabbi James

1810 S Catalina Ave

Redondo Beach

(310) 540-4884

gabijamesla.com

 

Bartender Mickey Jerome “knows everybodys name at Shellback and Hennessey’s. Photo courtesy of Mickey Jerome

Bartender

Mikey Jerome

Shellback Tavern, Hennessey’s Tavern

The capable, hospitable and naturally personable Mikey is beloved-behind-the-bar as no other in the South Bay.

“If I won the lottery, I’d do it for free. At least I’d do a few shifts,” he said. The 16-year veteran works “the best jobs there are,” tending bar at Shellback in Manhattan Beach and Hennessey’s in Hermosa Beach.

He’s a fast bartender, a great multi-tasker. But his real gift is being a people through-and-through. Mikey’s mom was “a very social person,” he said, and it rubbed off.

“My main goal is to make you feel good. That might be cracking a joke, or talking about what you love – I want you to have a great experience,” he said. 

After his shift, Mikey stays in touch with his guest through social media. 

“Everyone has the same drinks, the same beer. People want to make a connection,” he said.

Shellback Tavern

116 Manhattan Beach Blvd

Manhattan Beach

(310) 376-7857

Shellback-tavern.business.site 

Hennessey’s Tavern

8 Pier Avenue

Hermosa Beach

(310) 372-5759

hennesseystavern.com

 

 

 

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