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Catch A Wave In The Booming South Bay Food Scene: Here Are 11 New Restaurants To Try

A low tide washing up on the sand under the Manhattan Beach pier at sunset.
Manhattan Beach pier at sunset
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Axe-throwing, smash burgers just steps from the ocean and a spectacular remodel from an Icelandic architect — these are just a few of the highlights that can be found in some of the South Bay’s newest eateries.

More than 50 restaurants have debuted in the region since 2021, despite the industry's significant economic and pandemic-related challenges.

Several well-designed, chef-driven eateries have already made an impact, like M.B. Post, chef David LeFevre’s upscale Manhattan Beach gastropub inside an old post office; its next-door neighbor, Fishing With Dynamite, the tiny East Coast-inspired seafood house also run by LeFevre; and the Spanish-influenced Gabi James, a hip dinner and weekend brunch go-to in Redondo Beach’s trendy Riviera Village led by Mozza alum Chris Feldmeier.

Here are 11 other new standout restaurants, wine bars, cafés, and pop-ups worth checking out as soon as possible.

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Hawthorne

Polanco

Nestled in the ground floor of the Ayres Hotel just a couple of miles from LAX, this impressive Mexican steakhouse might be one of the most underrated restaurants in the South Bay. The stylish Polanco, named after an affluent Mexico City neighborhood, serves a variety of grilled steaks, delightfully fresh seafood, and high-end Mexican and Californian wines a few hundred feet from the 405 freeway.

The spacious dining room is reminiscent of a Napa Valley wine cellar, and the adjoining lounge with a fireplace seamlessly connects the restaurant to the glamorous hotel lobby. Veteran chef Daniel Godinez is running the kitchen, focusing on simply seasoned USDA prime ribeyes, porterhouses, and tomahawks; seafood items like ceviche, mussels, oysters, and Spanish octopus; and an obligatory house burger.

Miguel Valencia oversees the bar program, putting spins on classic cocktails with mezcal and tequila while also offering a hyper-local list of varietals, including a few blends from Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe region. While it may be a little surprising to find such elegance and sophistication literally right next to a freeway overpass, Godinez has previously found success at restaurants in similar locations in the O.C., specifically Tustin’s Fonda Moderna Taqueria just east of the 55 and the city of Orange’s Anepalco, which is less than a block from I-5.

14400 Hindry Avenue, Hawthorne
(310) 616-3047
https://www.ayreshotels.com


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El Segundo

Sauced BBQ & Spirits

Is there anything better than socializing with close friends and family over a few beers or cocktails, mouthwatering smoked and grilled meats, and scrumptious, home-cooked sides? Add in yard games like shuffleboard and bocce ball, wall-to-wall TVs, and rustic kitsch, and you get Sauced BBQ & Spirits, the perfect place to spend an afternoon.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the best part … they have axe-throwing cages too! Sauced is a mini-chain started by two cousins in Northern California 10 years ago. The freshly minted El Segundo location is their sixth overall and second in Southern California (the other is in Orange County).

The menu runs the gamut of regional styles, including sizeable portions of Kansas City burnt ends, Carolina pulled pork, St. Louis spare ribs, and Texas sliced brisket. The sandwiches are monstrous, and the chopped brisket with applewood bacon on Texas toast will easily feed two to three people. As for those scrumptious sides, go with the jalapeño cheese grits (which have a kick) and follow that up with the sweet honey cornbread or fried Oreos.

The playful drinks list features summery cocktails like a watermelon margarita, spiked lemonade, or hurricane, a daily craft beer-and-whiskey shot combo, and a couple of Sauced Brew Co. beers, namely the hoppy Deuce Pigalow DIPA. Next time you and a few pals want to get together and grill, head over to Sauced instead; this place is an immersive barbecue playground for children and adults, though be sure to wear close-toed shoes if you plan on throwing a few axes.

2015 Park Place, El Segundo
(310) 426-8783
https://www.saucedbbqandspirits.com/


Manhattan Beach

Un Caffé Altamura

When traveling, I particularly enjoy checking out local eateries and watering holes to feel the culture and explore parts unknown (just like Bourdain). There is a certain romanticism about many places in Europe specifically. I have fond memories of enjoying a lukewarm pint and Sunday roast at a proper British pub before a Premier League match, piping hot beef bourguignon from a tiny little fondue spot in Paris’ 5th arrondissement, seafood paella on a warm Mallorcan evening in the main plaza, and a schiacciata sandwich next to an incredibly old fountain in Florence.

Even in metropolitan areas, life moves slower and the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells just hit differently. Very few places in Southern California can replicate those feelings, but a little slice of northern Italy lies in the heart of downtown Manhattan Beach.

Led by Le Cordon Bleu-alumna Alexa Altamura, Un Caffé Altamura is a chic yet approachable daytime café and evening wine bar with a distinctly European flair. Maybe it’s the striped awning, racing green brick exterior, or wispy black stencil-work adorning parts of the off-white interior. Still, I can see this warm, modern space thriving on a busy street in Milan or a cobblestone road in Tuscany.

Come and linger a while in the morning on the shaded parklet, sipping an espresso while picking at a croissant. Feel free to order the avocado toast, egg white frittata with feta, or a matcha too, since we’re still in Southern California after all. As breakfast turns to lunch and dinner, the restaurant quiets down a bit and makes the wine bar transition.

Soft music plays in the dining room as white wines from Alsace and Loire in France, rosés from Sicily and the Basque region, and numerous red blends from Burgundy and Sardinia are served. Though subject to change with the seasons, the food menu typically features a panzanella salad, caprese chicken, Italian sausage, black ink tagliatelle, and grilled salmon on brioche, with each item intended to complement the wine list. Order a glass of rosso from Toscana and a mini-baguette, grab a barstool against the front window, and watch the South Bay go by. If I close my eyes, I almost feel like I’m back in the Old World.

1140 Highland Avenue, Manhattan Beach
(310) 546-4663
uncaffealtamura.com

Esperanza

When people think of the South Bay’s restaurant and nightlife scene today, the newer fine dining spots tend to get most of the shine. The legacy dives and greasy spoons still resonate with locals and visitors alike, but there have been some casualties as tastes and budgets have evolved.

Seeing an opportunity, local father-and-son team Ron and Greg Newman stepped in and began resurrecting some of these distressed assets, turning closed or dilapidated properties into extremely popular places like Sharkeez, Tower 12, Palmilla, and their newest gem, Esperanza, which opened in summer 2021.

The Newman duo tasked Icelandic architect Gulla Jónsdóttir to completely revamp the old Shark’s Cove, a dime-a-dozen sports bar in downtown Manhattan Beach, into a structural masterpiece reminiscent of a breezy Cabo resort. The whole remodel took about two years, but the Newmans nailed it with the upscale Mexican vibe, massive plates, high-quality ingredients, an expertly curated drinks list including hard-to-find Mexican craft beers, and a versatile setting that can easily host a lazy Sunday brunch with the family, bachelorette party, first date, and dudes drinking beers while watching football.

All meals start with complimentary homemade tortillas and a salsa flight, and then the possibilities are almost limitless. One option is to start with the braised short-rib taquitos appetizer and then try the chicken machaca tacos with rice and beans as the main course. Another route includes the Caesar salad followed by a shrimp-and-lobster relleno, scallop fajitas, or ceviche. There are also a few specials from the grill, including a 12 oz. NY strip, a 14 oz. aged ribeye, and chimichurri asada made with filet mignon.

Feel like breakfast? Stop by on a Saturday or Sunday morning for fluffy macadamia nut pancakes, a monster breakfast burrito, savory huevos rancheros, and a mimosa. Day or night, the service is attentive, the food and drinks plentiful, and the prices reasonable. From the outside, Esperanza might be part of the flashier, "new-school’" South Bay, but the Newmans know Manhattan and Hermosa inside and out and made sure that their hot spot stays true to the area’s fun, laid-back past.

309 Manhattan Beach Boulevard, Manhattan Beach
(424) 422-0057
esperanzamb.com

Hermosa Beach

Slay Hermosa

Is a local rivalry brewing between tenured chef-owner David LeFevre and relative newcomer David Slay*? LeFevre and the Simms Restaurant Group have dominated the area for the last 15 years with their collection of excellent steak and seafood spots like Arthur J,Tin Roof Bistro, and Fishing With Dynamite, but well-established chef extraordinaire David Slay has been building a mini surf-and-turf empire of his own since 2019 with the quite successful Slay Steak & Fish andSlay Italian restaurants in downtown Manhattan Beach (which just so happen to neighbor some of LeFevre’s best-sellers).

Chef Slay, a lifelong restaurateur/vintner and South Bay transplant, recently added a third to his portfolio with the debut of Slay Hermosa, which is housed in a quirky, two-story corner lot across from the legendary North End Bar. The business casual seaside bar-and-grill (which leans more business than casual) took over the beloved El Gringo in the summer of 2022 and serves elevated comfort food. Since there are only a few tables in the cramped downstairs dining room, head upstairs to the heated patio for ocean views and a delectable grilled cheese sandwich with wild mushrooms.

Be sure to also tack on bacon-wrapped scallops, lamb meatballs, and a steak sandwich to the tab while taking in a beautiful South Bay sunset amongst cotton-candy skies; maybe enjoy a couple of glasses of wine from the owner’s self-titled central coast vineyard as well. Even if the Slay name is everywhere you look, the quality and scenery are first class — Chef LeFevre and the Simms team might have some company at the top!

*In all honesty, the Davids are cordial and have no beef even though they are both overseeing some of the hottest restaurants in the region.

2620 Hermosa Avenue, Hermosa Beach
(310) 921-8779
slayhermosa.com

RYLA

A lot of digital ink has been spilled over the newest restaurant in the Simms Empire, Japanese/Taiwanese fusion standout RYLA in Hermosa Beach, which is living up to the hype. As soon as the doors swung open in early 2022, the ‘izakaya’ style-barstaurant has been jam-packed. Chef Cynthia Hetlinger and her husband Ray Hayashi are running the show, bringing their collective experience from Providence, Arthur J, Fishing With Dynamite, and M.B. Post into the fold.

Some of the menu hits on the food side include the addictive Hokkaido milk bread starter, hot chicken karaage app, a hefty portion of sausage fried rice, an oxtail curry dish, and the decadent black forest mochi cake for dessert. The cocktails and décor are stealing the show as well, and fun drinks like Grandma’s Cigarettes (a penicillin with ginger liqueur and honey) or the Shiver Me Timbers old fashioned have kept the bartenders busy.

The dark, plant-filled space which Laurel Tavern used to occupy has been radically improved, especially the sleek wooden bar, and the dining room and patio feel more intimate compared to its predecessor. Weekend brunch was smartly introduced by the Hetlinger/Hayashi duo, and I’d be willing to bet there aren’t many places in greater LA where a puffy Japanese pancake, cinnamon apple pop tart, loco moco, and pork tonkatsu sandwich are all available and worth ordering.

RYLA has been drawing diners from near and far since day one, and it’s no surprise that reservations are hard to come by since it seems like everything the Simms Restaurant Group touches turns to gold.

1220 Hermosa Avenue, Hermosa Beach
(424) 247-9881
eatryla.com

Redondo Beach

Pura Vita

There is no denying that plant-based food has come a long way in a short period of time, but do vegan versions of their animal-based counterparts taste as good? While the debate continues, the narrative has changed over the last few years.

A big part of that shift in L.A. is due to Italian-American chef Tara Punzone, founder of the entirely plant-based restaurant group Pura Vita. Raised in an Italian-American family in New York City, chef Tara knew she wanted to open a restaurant since she was little, especially after watching her grandparents run a successful deli in Brooklyn.

She’s also an animal lover and has been vegan since age 12, so she was constantly tinkering with dishes that blended her dietary lifestyle and Italian heritage. After cooking in a few kitchens in NYC and L.A., Punzone set out on her own and opened the immediately popular Pura Vita restaurant in West Hollywood in 2018, one of the country’s first vegan Italian restaurants. Pura Vita Pizzeria followed in 2020 right next door, and her third Pura Vita installment took over the old Enrique’s space in South Redondo in February 2021.

Though the Redondo Beach location doesn’t have the coziness of the typical red tablecloth Italian spot, chef Punzone's food more than makes up for the slight lack of ambiance. There are savory wood-fired pizzas (request the “Americana” that includes cashew mozzarella, tangy San Marzano tomato sauce, seitan pepperoni, green onion, and standard char marks on the dough); crunchy yet creamy mozzarella sticks with cashew mozzarella and a side of marinara; a carbonara pasta dish with avocado sauce and shiitake bacon; and traditional Italian dolci desserts like zeppole donuts, gelato, and even a nutella pizza. Most of the menu items taste remarkably identical to their non-vegan foils, and fans of well-executed Italian cuisine should swing by Redondo’s Pura Vita for a taste of the “pure life.”

320 South Catalina Avenue, Redondo Beach
(424) 304-2247
puravitalosangeles.com

Tigre’s Fuego

Every SoCal neighborhood worth its salt has a go-to taco joint, but Redondo Beach is lucky enough to have two within a couple hundred feet of one another. El Burrito Jr. (LBJ’s for short) is the OG and has been a consistently solid walk-up for years, serving a simple menu of tacos, burritos, and tostadas from its bright red and yellow A-frame building on South PCH.

The NKOTB is Tigre’s Fuego, a passion project from the Baran’s 2239 team looking to expand their horizons beyond their upscale spot in a Hermosa Beach strip mall. Previous Baran’s sous chef Jimmy Tapia took the reins at Tigre’s Fuego, and his bill of fare is short and sweet, focusing on a few variations of tacos, burritos, tortas, and ceviches. The quality and prices are a little higher than the more blue-collar LBJ’s just up the road, but Tigre’s Fuego’s portion sizes and value are still plenty reasonable.

Try the turkey carnitas taco and the Peruvian ceviche with thick corn kernels and sneaky jalapeño heat, and then cool down with a thick house-made coconut horchata for dessert. Just a heads up…Tiger’s Fire is more takeout than dine-in, and they don’t currently offer delivery or work with third-party apps.

The wait times in line are usually no more than 10-15 minutes though, and there are a few bright green stools and tables inside and outside if you want to dine onsite. Admire the trompo and ornate Mexican tile while you feast, and you’ll leave happy and mostly full. If you really want to finish strong, why not swing by LBJ’s for some chips and salsa and a bean and cheese burrito so you can experience the best of ‘old’ and ‘new’ casual South Bay Mexican in one glorious afternoon.

1223 South Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach
(310) 921-8293
tigresfuego.com

Proudly Serving

Smash burgers are enjoying an extended moment in greater Los Angeles, and Redondo Beach’s Proudly Serving is slinging the best version in the area. What began as a pop-up turned into a smashing success story, all thanks to the power of social media, a solid product, and inclusive messaging (their motto is “smash racism, sexism, fascism, and burgers'').

Proudly Serving LA (or PSLA) started when self-taught grill master Matt McIvor lost his job as a PR exec at the onset of the pandemic, flipped smash burgers for friends and neighbors out of his Redondo Beach driveway to pass the time, and quickly earned a loyal Instagram following. After outgrowing the neighborhood scene, McIvor brought chef friend and pop-up veteran Kevin Malone aboard and branched out to feed customers at tap rooms like Redondo’sSelect Beer Store, Hawthorne’sLA Ale Works, and Boomtown in downtown LA among others.

Business was good and fun times were had, but they felt like nomads constantly on the move. Their big break came in early 2022 when they were offered a permanent residency in the Project Barley Brewery kitchen on the Redondo Beach Pier’s International Boardwalk, and they jumped at the opportunity. '

Now operating just steps from the ocean Wednesdays through Sundays, PSLA has two versions of the signature smash burger (one with griddled onions and another with raw diced) available as well as duck fat tots or fries and a delectable chocolate chip cookie covered in sea salt.

136 International Boardwalk, Redondo Beach
(310) 376-0003
proudlyservingla.com

Jiayuan Dumpling House

Doesn’t it seem like some of the best restaurants are in strip malls? That is certainly the case in the South Bay where holes-in-the-wall with interesting backstories sit in random locations, such as South Redondo’s Jiayuan Dumpling House. Neighboring a math tutor, physical therapist, and sandwich joint Riera's Place, Jiayuan has been serving excellent Northeastern Chinese cuisine since chef Emily Sang, husband Eric, and daughter Linda moved their operation from Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada to Redondo Beach in 2021.

The family took quite the circuitous route in getting to Southern California; Emily, Eric, and Linda emigrated to the U.S. from the Northeastern Chinese province of Heilongjiang in 2004, settled in Iowa, moved to Canada to open the first iteration of Jiayuan in 2013, and then eventually landed in the South Bay after daughter Linda finished her undergraduate studies at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Master’s in Toronto.

Despite all the relocating, the family-run restaurant has featured Emily’s authentic homemade cooking in each stop, notably the doughy, pan-fried dumplings which are a hit with customers. Some of her other Northeastern Chinese dishes, such as the crunchy, juicy sweet and sour pork or tossed salad with roasted walnuts and sesame oil, are also just as good.

More mainstream Chinese plates like Mongolian beef, kung pao chicken, and scallion pancakes are available too, and portions are hefty enough to bring home leftovers. The quality remains high throughout, so expect to pay a little more compared to your neighborhood Chinese takeout joint — it’ll be worth every penny.

1904 South Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach
(310) 792-6789
jydumplings.com

Torrance

APL BBQ

BBQ is a way of life in cities like Memphis, Kansas City, Austin, and Charleston, but Los Angeles has rapidly developed its own diverse style over the last 10 years. Pop-ups like Zef BBQ and Smoke Queen are setting up shop all over town, old-school restaurants like Bludso’s and Phillips BBQ have been revitalized, and newer brick-and-mortar establishments likeMoo’s and Slab are getting rave reviews both locally and nationally.

In the South Bay, Willingham's on PCH has been smoking meats in a Redondo Beach strip mall since 2017,Joey’s in Torrance has been around for over a decade, and Carson’s My Father’s BBQ has been run by female pitmaster Shalamar Lane for several years.

The local scene continues to evolve, especially with Sauced’s recent debut, so it’s only right that BBQ Hall of Famer Adam Perry Lang crashed the party too. After some permitting issues with the county were finally sorted out, Pitmaster Lang (or APL for short) took up a highly-anticipated weekend residency at Strand Brewing Company in September 2022.

He and his team are serving up Flintstones-sized beef ribs, sticky pork ribs, lip-smacking burnt ends, honey butter cornbread, creamy coleslaw, and other accouterments out of the South Bay’s oldest craft brewery. Word to the wise — APL’s BBQ is second-to-none so lines get Howlin’ Ray’s-long and prices run higher than expected. However, the brewery offers outdoor games and libations for patrons to manage the more-than-worthwhile wait and small hole in your wallet.

2201 Dominguez Street, Torrance
(310) 517-0900
aplbarbecue.com
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