First Look: The South Bay’s Newest Dining Destination Is a Chic, Baja-Inspired Escape

Esperanza Cocina de la Playa exudes luxurious coastal vibes, plus a Sonoran-inspired menu.

Photo courtesy of Esperanza Cocina de la Playa

Newly arrived in the South Bay, Esperanza Cocina de la Playa takes diners south of the border with a stunning new contemporary space that transforms the former Shark’s Cove sports bar with a sleek, wave-like facade, soft lighting, a striking bar, and lavish lounge seating on the interior. Located just two doors down from the popular Love & Salt restaurant, and not far from the team’s sister restaurant, Palmilla, in Hermosa Beach, the new culinary hot spot is situated in the heart of Manhattan Beach. 

The open-concept restaurant carries the breezy theme of elevated coastal ambiance with curvy tables amid a white marble bar, plush gold seats, handcrafted leather barstools, and artisanal ceramic light fixtures imported from Mexico, setting the candlelit tone throughout the 2,000-square-foot dining room. Designed by award-winning Icelandic architect Gulla Jónsdóttir, the vibrant restaurant and bar was inspired by Cabo San Lucas’ coastal aesthetic and Mexico City’s upscale neighborhoods, and is decked in hues of gold, bronze, and cream.

shrimp taquitos
Photo courtesy of Esperanza Cocina de la Playa

Longtime LA chef Ray Alvarez, whose resume includes Toca Madera, Tocaya Organica, Border Grill, Pink Taco, and more, helms a menu that offers a modern take on Sonoran cuisine with local and seasonal ingredients used in dishes like street-style tacos filled with USDA prime filet mignon, or vegetarian tacos de quinoa with crusted avocado, atop handmade tortillas. Also drawing influence from the coastal cuisine of Baja California Sur, the spotlight is on Alvarez’s noteworthy raw bar with five different ceviches, tartare, and aguachile. Other worthwhile seafood entrees include enchiladas mariscos suizas, prawns Pacifico con salsa, and a lobster and shrimp-stuffed chile relleno.

Adding to the lively atmosphere, the bar, which will transform into EZ After Dark from 11 pm to 2 am on Fridays and Saturdays, carries the largest tequila and mezcal list in the South Bay, including lesser-known, small-batch bottles from Mexican producers. Order inventive and playful tiki cocktails created by head mixologists Kevin Williams and John Fox, like the Scotch Matador with drambuie, sombra mezcal, yellow chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, apple shrub, fresh lime and pineapple juices, and amargo chuncho bitters; and El Orangutan, where an espresso martini meets a carajillo—or opt for one of 11 different margaritas on offer.

Esperanza is open Sunday to Thursday 4 pm to midnight and 4 pm to 2 am on Friday and Saturday.

Reservations are available starting July 29, by emailing reservations@esperanzamb.com, calling 424-422-0057, or via OpenTable

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Ramona Saviss is an LA-native who has a finger on the pulse of everything going on in the city. She loves to have a packed social calendar and is always planning her next adventure; you can find her byline in publications like The Hollywood ReporterVarietyTime Out LAFodor’s TravelBusiness InsiderBillboardLos Angeles Confidential and Angeleno