The 19 Most Essential Restaurants in Manhattan Beach

From a Tunisian wine shop to a new Baja-inspired lounge and more.

Despite Manhattan Beach’s laidback, small-town vibes, its culinary landscape has a big-city feel—attracting award-winning architects, world-famous chefs, and discerning diners alike. Boasting swanky steakhouses, low-key sports bars, and intimate wine tasting rooms all just minutes from each other, this coastal city has an increasingly diverse dining scene that’s set to rival its busier northern neighbors, like Santa Monica or Venice. Here are 19 restaurants you should hit up the next time you need a bite in the South Bay:

esperanza
Photo courtesy of Esperanza Cocina de la Playa

Esperanza Cocina de la Playa

This recent addition to the neighborhood has quickly turned into Manhattan Beach’s liveliest spot—packed to the gills with well-dressed diners crowding the bar, which, by the way, boasts an extensive tequila and mezcal list. Designed by award-winning Icelandic architect Gulla Jónsdóttir, who completely transformed the former Shark’s Cove space, this striking restaurant is the place to see and be seen—that is, when you’re not noshing on white-wine-steeped scallops folded in warm homemade tortillas, lobster chimichangas blanketed in tequila cream sauce, or any of the restaurant’s five different types of ceviche. Although the menu (a contemporary take on traditional Sonoran cuisine) emphasizes fresh seafood, there is plenty of chimichurri skirt steak and filet mignon tacos for the carnivores. On Fridays and Saturdays, Esperanza stays open until 2 am, where you can keep the party going at its gorgeous upstairs bar—downing small-batch sangria and spicy artisanal margs alongside the who’s who of South Bay.
How to book: via Opentable.

barsha
Photo courtesy of Barsha Wines & Spirits

Barsha Wines & Spirits

Meaning “abundance” in Tunisian, Barsha is an approachable wine bar, restaurant, and shop that stocks everything you could possibly need for charcuterie night, from cheese and salami to a hand-selected array of small-production wines, spirits, and beers. Not in the mood to host? Open every day of the week, Barsha’s tasting room is one of Manhattan Beach’s best-kept secrets, with $15 flights and a selection of whites and reds from around the world. As for small bites, don’t expect ordinary cheese and crackers. The menu hints at co-founder Adnen Marouani’s Tunisian roots (he opened Barsha with his wife Lenora), including Tunisian-spiced almonds and date tapenade along with high-quality cheeses and cured meats. Every month, they curate domestic and global wines for their monthly club, offering membership perks like discounts on the tasting room and retail purchases. At some point, you’ll also want to check out the duo’s Hermosa Beach restaurant, which opened in 2018 and features cuisine inspired by both of their cultures and travels.
How to book: Walk-ins only.

El Sombrero

Fondly referred to as “The Hat” or “El Som” by locals, El Sombrero is a small, family-owned restaurant that’s been around since 1975. A wide-ranging menu of Mexican food—mouthwatering tostadas, huevos rancheros, and burritos large enough to feed two or three people—means you’ll always find something you’re in the mood for (there’s even a kid’s menu). However, those in the know show up for the insanely good deals on Taco Tuesdays, when tacos and beers are only $2.50 each from 3 pm to close.
How to book: Walk-ins only.

Joey

Following the success of its splashy downtown location, this restaurant opened an expansive 9,400-square-foot outpost in Manhattan Beach earlier this year—starring a beautifully landscaped patio that’s made for business lunches, happy hour hangs, and dates. Even the interior is designed to impress, thanks to a lush green ceiling installation that brings the outdoors in. While the globally inspired menu is sort of a hodgepodge—you’ll find anything from steaks and pastas to ceviche and sushi here—ingredients are sourced locally as much as possible. Daily HH runs from 3-6 pm, with deals on wine, beer, Aperol spritzes, and bellinis accompanied by upscale, mostly Asian-leaning bar bites, like Szechuan lettuce wraps and sushi cones.
How to book: Choose a location and make a reservation on their website.

coffee
Photo courtesy of Verve Coffee Roasters

Verve Coffee Roasters

Santa Cruz-based roastery Verve recently brought its pour overs and espresso drinks to a bright, welcoming space in Manhattan Beach, which you can order from an outdoor pick-up window if you don’t feel like venturing indoors. Their latest location sports a slew of creative, new, exclusive-to-here drinks and treats—like coconut sugar vanilla draft lattes and housemade oat milk soft serve—in addition to grab-and-go items like a brioche breakfast sandwich slathered in sundried tomato jam. If you prefer brewing your own coffee, you can also pick up bags of Verve’s whole beans in-store.
How to book: Walk-ins only.

The Strand House
Photo courtesy of The Strand House

The Strand House

This year marked The Strand House’s 10th anniversary, but this Manhattan Beach institution shows no signs of slowing down. The space recently underwent a sophisticated revamp, introduced live music on Thursday nights, and appointed a new executive chef, Craig Hopson, who’s trained at Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe. While the restaurant could serve canned food and still command crowds for its sweeping Pacific Ocean panoramas, its beautifully executed coastal fare lives up to the view. Hopson is making his mark with a slate of new, seasonally driven dishes, including tempura soft shell crabs in a chai-spiced tomato sauce and a beet and plum salad dressed in pistachio vinaigrette, but don’t worry: The restaurant’s signature mainstays, like buttermilk Parker House rolls, remain on the menu. Pro tip: Be sure to save room for wow-worthy desserts and post-dinner libations—like blueberry ricotta cakes with sweet corn ice cream and key lime martinis.
How to book: via Resy.

Simmzy’s

On any given day of the week, the original Simmzy’s—which has since expanded to Long Beach, El Segundo, and Huntington Beach—is still one of the most fun, energetic joints on Manhattan Beach Boulevard. Come for the rotating selection of excellent craft brews, which includes German pilsners, American IPAs, sweet stouts, and Simmzy’s own range of signature beers brewed at Smog City Brewing in Torrance. Stay for the bar-friendly bites like spicy-sweet wings, bleu cheese fries, and burgers, which you can enjoy indoors while you’re watching the game or outdoors while you’re people-watching.
How to book: Choose a location and make a reservation via their website.

zinc@shade

Part craft kitchen, part laidback lounge, this crowd-pleasing restaurant within the luxury boutique Shade Hotel is the perfect place to go when you’d prefer to stay in one spot all night. The menu offers an easy transition from dinner to drinks, focusing on tried-and-true favorites like truffle fries, pan-roasted branzino, and shareable pizzas, enhanced by an extensive list of California wines and craft cocktails. Although Zinc is open for brunch, lunch, and dinner, its cool, beachy ambiance comes alive in the evening, especially if you’re seated at one of the fire pit tables on the breezy, open-air terrace.
How to book: via Resy.

Nick's
Nick's

Nick’s Manhattan Beach

Nick’s is situated in a stylish outdoor shopping center, but the place is no ordinary mall restaurant. On the inside, the handsome space combines dark wood tones and cushy leather booths for an intimate feel, while its comfortable outdoor patio is spacious and inviting. While the menu is mostly classic New American comfort food, there are a few made-you-think-twice dishes—including an off-the-charts spicy Thai salad, highly appetizing deep-fried asparagus spears, and a wonderfully tender Scottish salmon served with caper mustard beurre blanc. Round out your meal with a drink or two—choosing between an expertly edited wine list that leans heavily on Napa Valley or light, refreshing craft cocktails.
How to book: via Opentable.

Photo courtesy of Manhattan Beach Post

Manhattan Beach Post

Chef David LeFevre kick-started Manhattan Beach’s restaurant renaissance by opening MB Post back in 2011, and while there’s a lot more competition in the area now, locals still flock to this OG spot. Here’s why: Brunch is reliably excellent with a range of sweet and savory dishes, like griddled banana bread and LeFevre’s famously fluffy bacon-cheddar biscuits (the perfect vehicle for an addictive maple butter spread). Meanwhile, the evening’s small-plates-focused menu is perfect for people who like to graze on cheese, cured meats, and scrumptious shareables, including seared diver scallops and ricotta-stuffed tortellini. Plus, there’s always an array of hand-crafted cocktails and well-curated wines on hand to round out your meal.
How to book: via OpenTable.

Ercoles 1101

Beloved Ercoles isn’t fancy, but you don’t need a cloth napkin to sop up the juice from this dive bar’s phenomenal burger. Expect a high-quality beef patty from next-door Manhattan Meats, loaded with toppings and tucked inside a small bun for a sloppy, satisfying experience that’ll set you back $10 (for an extra $3, they’ll add Louisiana sausage to your burg). But don’t just come for the food: Stay for a game of pool with the old-timers and beach volleyball players dragging sand in on their flip-flops, or enjoy a cheap pitcher while sitting in one of the well-worn booths, which have been around since Ercoles first opened in 1927.
How to book: Walk-ins only.

Photo courtesy of Love & Salt

Love & Salt

Love & Salt is more than a pizza place, but it’s hard not to focus all your attention on the pies, especially when you consider how making them is a labor of love. The dough recipe requires only four ingredients (flour, water, yeast, and salt), but a minimum of 48 hours—involving a long, slow, cold-fermentation process to create a crisp yet airy crust. As for toppings, you can’t go wrong with the duck egg (a long-time customer favorite with pancetta, potato, and rosemary), or anchovy and fried capers. Feel like branching outside of pizza? This vibrant Italian resto serves up roasted meat, seafood, and pasta dishes that are easy to share.
How to book: via their website.

The Arthur J

When you need to close the deal, whether it’s with your significant other’s parents or a potential client, take them to LeFevre’s swanky South Bay steakhouse—an oasis of cool, mid-century modern design. Premium beef, like marbled Japanese wagyu and wet or dry-aged steaks, anchors the menu, and meat is cooked over a live fire with smoking embers on a custom-made grill. The apps and sides are no afterthought either, with some meant to level-up the richness of the meal (roasted bone marrow toast and football-sized Emmenthal cheese popovers) and others designed to offset the protein-heavy entrees (heirloom tomato salad and carrot soup). Nightly specials range from veal parmesan on Wednesdays to whole grilled branzino on Fridays.
How to book: via OpenTable.

Fishbar

Like every sports bar worth its salt, Fishbar has themed days like Taco Tuesdays and Wine & Crab Wednesdays with killer food and drink deals. But the similarities end there, because this upscale spot doesn’t serve your typical bar fare. Instead, you’ll find sophisticated, seafood-centric dishes, like scallop skewers with applewood smoked bacon, truffled crab mac and cheese, and smoked salmon chowder. Don’t sleep on Fishbar’s excellent weekday lunch combo— mesquite-grilled salmon, your choice of salad, and clam chowder for $13.99 from 11:30am-2:30pm—or their popular weekday happy hour with wallet-friendly prices on drinks, bites, and oysters from 2:30-5:30pm.
How to book: Walk-ins only.

Photo by Marie Buck, courtesy of Fishing With Dynamite

Fishing With Dynamite

Another winner by LeFevre, Fishing With Dynamite serves up some of the South Bay’s best seafood—no small feat, considering the area’s full of fish-focused restaurants. The chilled seafood platters are stunning arrangements of succulent shellfish and oysters on beds of crushed ice, with raw options like sashimi and ceviche begging for a spot on your table. Meanwhile, hot entrees are delicious and inventive, like the coriander-crusted tuna or risotto-like Koshihikari rice, a creamy puddle of blue crab, shrimp, uni, and egg yolk. The menu also pays homage to East Coast seafood with New England clam chowder, Maryland crab cakes, and more—a nod to LeFevre’s childhood memories of summers on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
How to book: via OpenTable.

Photo courtesy of Rice

Rice

This low-key Japanese restaurant has flown under the radar for years, making gluten-free fare with mostly organic and natural ingredients. Although a large portion of the menu is vegan-friendly—a diverse mix of veggie dishes, ramen, and even rolls that incorporate buffalo cauliflower or avocado tempura—there’s plenty of sushi and izakaya-style seafood for non-vegans as well. In keeping with its healthful approach, the restaurant uses brown rice for its rolls and brown rice noodles for its ramen, as well as makes all of its sauces and dressings from scratch without artificial ingredients.
How to book: via Yelp.

Photo courtesy of Little Sister

El Tarasco

This hole in the wall has served up delicious Mexican fast food to locals for decades. With flip-flop-wearing beach-goers crowding inside and every surface smothered in cool stickers, this little yellow hut exudes a casual beach town vibe. Speaking of the beach, it’s the perfect spot for a pre- or post-surf bite—whether you go for a deluxe-sized burrito stuffed with all the carne asada you could ever want or the legendary chile relleno served wet with melted cheese.
How to book: Walk-ins only.

Manhattan Beach Creamery

Ice cream here comes in 28 made-from-scratch flavors, using 14% butterfat (an ingredient that helps lend a decadent, velvety mouthfeel) and only about 70% overrun. The latter refers to the amount of air whipped into the cream while it’s made; a lower percentage creates a creamier, smoother, and richer consistency. All the usual suspects, like cookie dough and salted caramel, are here, but so are some out-of-the-box offerings, such as maple bacon crunch, red velvet, and sticky bun crunch.
How to book: Walk-ins only. Pickup via Chownow and delivery via Postmates. Nationwide shipping is available on their website.

The Kettle

This landmark Manhattan Beach diner, which is open 24 hours a day, has something on the menu for everyone—and they mean it. You can customize any item to your liking, whether it’s the pot roast benedict, crab cake po’ boy sandwich, or spicy chicken parmesan. No matter what you decide on, though, you have to try The Kettle’s warm, homemade muffins (seriously, everyone talks about them), which they sometimes sample along with hot coffee during long wait times.
How to book: Walk-ins only.

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Tiffany Tse is a contributor for Thrillist. See what she’s eating and where’s traveling lately by following her at @twinksy.