Surfers’ Stomp: Riviera Mexican Grill
Photos by Ed Solt
A Dewey Weber “Performer Model,” a Greg Noll “Da Cat Model,” a Rick “UFO,” a Bing “David Nuuhiwa Model,” and a Hap Jacobs Balsa as well as other local surf memorabilia adorn the ceilings and the walls of the Riviera Mexican Grill in the Riviera Village of Redondo Beach. While many restaurants go for a surf theme on the advice of their corporate consultants, “the Riv,” just is. Nineteen years ago this October, owner Danny Williams set out to make his restaurant a reflection of his South Bay surfing upbringing.
“One day I took my wife ML to lunch at this Mexican restaurant that was on the verge of bankruptcy, with a menu that wasn’t really Mexican, and tattered booths,” he said. “I asked her, ‘What do you think?’ I think I am going to buy it.’”
Williams, who had been in commercial real estate for 20 years , confessed that he really didn’t know what he was getting into. He invited his buddy, architect Ben Burkhalter, to help him.
“I said to Ben , ‘You know what? Let’s do what we want,’” Williams recalled. “‘Let’s make a surf joint.’”
“I was from San Pedro, surfing one-to-two foot Cabrillo slop almost every day. Catching a ride to surf Torrance Beach was like going to the North Shore,” he said. “Seeing the Irons brothers [pro surfers Andy and Bruce’s uncles and father] out in the water, I was in awe.”
Right next to the beautiful Hap Jacobs balsa surfboard is a framed copy signed of Alex Gray’s first Surfing Magazine cover; under it is a framed memorial to Alex’s brother, Chris. Nearby is a Catalina Surfers Clothing ad from the ’60s featuring South Bay surfers John “JJ” Joseph, John Teague, and Bob Moore.
“JJ comes in whenever he’s in town and likes to sit by his ad,” Williams said. ”Hap Jacobs likes to come in on Tuesdays at four and jokingly gives me guff about any posters taped to his balsa board by the hostess stand.”
Williams coached Peninsula High surf team with another local legend, Chris Bredesen Sr. If you were in the South Bay Surf League in 1990s and early 2000s, you remember coming to Riviera Mexican Grill for all league events. League memorabilia are on the walls.
“I’m very fortunate to have the local community involved,” Williams said. “Without them, we wouldn’t be what we are.”
Riviera Mexican Grill supports local paddle competitions like the R-10 race as well as local surf teams and the St.Baldricks foundation. And it Williams supports local surfers by having them work in his restaurant.