Manhattan Beach used to be a prime surfing and shopping destination in the South Bay, with its dining scene placed comfortably on the back burner. Now? People come from all over Los Angeles to eat in this oceanside neighborhood. Seafood restaurants, fine-dining spots and casual cafes serving brunch are garnering attention not just in the South Bay, but in Southern California and beyond. The next time you head to MB for some dedicated beach time, make a couple of reservations in advance. Just remember to wait an hour after eating before you get in the water, kids.
RECOMMENDED: A full guide to Manhattan Beach
13 best Manhattan Beach restaurants
At Little Sister, chef Tin Vuong's Southeast Asian-inspired restaurant, stenciled butterflies spew out of a machine gun plastered on a splotchy gray wall, and paintings of grenades are mixed in with an "I'm planning a big surprise" quote. Vuong, who is originally from the San Gabriel Valley, channels the food of his youth into some of the most beautiful, creative dishes in the South Bay. Beef tartare with a quail egg trembling on top is smeared with bone marrow paste, while a medley of shrimp, crab and pork imperial rolls provide a somewhat lighter bite. The scallops, too, are a dream: quick fried and tossed with shrimp in a shallow pool of Malaysian curry, they're a perfect bite when spooned over red cargo rice. The one downside? Little Sister is so popular that reservations must be made weeks in advance. Get to it!
Chef David LeFevre's passion for fresh bivalves is best showcased at Fishing with Dynamite, where sterling specimens of jumbo shrimp, live Peruvian scallops, littleneck clams, PEI mussels and oysters grace the restaurant's showpiece shellfish towers. The tiny space—roughly 35 seats are available—feels like a seafood shack on the East Coast, but the cuisine makes it a true dining destination. The menu changes frequently, but cross your fingers for LeFevre's koshihikari rice with blue crab, chicken dashi, shrimp and uni (sometimes made with lobster). And to finish, one dish that never changes—Dynamite's legendary key lime pie.
Just steps from the beach, brunching at Manhattan Beach Post (more affectionately known as MB Post) has become a South Bay right of passage. On weekend mornings, diners delve into ricotta-stuffed French toast and truffle honey-laced fried chicken; during the week, couples gaze at each other over family-style servings of squid ink tagliatelle and duck prosciutto. MB Post's biscuits are legendary at this point: bacon cheddar buttermilk beauties served with a side of maple butter. An extensive wine list, along with beer and handcrafted cocktails, ensures that this spot in the bubble is all you really need in the morning.
Chef Michael Fiorelli is doing some fantastic things at Love & Salt, a lofty Italian-inspired restaurant featuring small plates, pizza, pasta and snacks, like a corned lamb tongue panini and crispy chicken oysters. The homemade English muffins are a great place to begin, and before you raise your eyebrows at muffins as a starter, consider this an upgrade to your standard bread basket. The warm, airy discs of dough come with a housemade rosemary butter—it's hard not to become addicted. A duck egg pizza is a fan favorite, as are the ricotta pancakes served during brunch. To drink, the wine list can be slightly intimidating, but ask your server for some guidance and they'll steer you in the right direction.
Fishbar's decor is maritime kitsch in the best possible way, with buoys and surfboards hanging overhead and TVs in every corner for the sports fanatic. Don’t be fooled by the Long John Silver’s facade, though: When it comes to fish and chips, this place means business. Available with either cod or salmon, the fish is fresh and flaky, and packaged in a light golden crust that defies the deep-fried, oily taste that is so often this dish’s demise. The chips, though closer to American-style fries, are uniformly crisp and well-seasoned. Wash it all down with a Fishbar Brew—the house honey blonde—and immediately make plans for your next visit.
Mad Men may be over, but the martini drinking, steak consuming era of the '50s still lives on. In Manhattan Beach, it comes in the form of The Arthur J, a steakhouse by chef David LeFevre. Curved booths and geometric patterns decorate the space, accompanied by an equally decade-appropriate menu. Steaks—big ones, so you'd be wise to share—are available in various cuts, wet or dry, with both obvious sauces (Bernaise) and ones that might make you pause (Vietnamese Caramel). Kansas City Strip, Ribeye, Wagyu, NY Strip and more are all represented here, but we'd start with the popovers, which come with a strawberry butter that is thoroughly addicting. Once you've made it through the steaks, old school desserts await on the other side: strawberry shortcake, maybe, or a light blueberry cheesecake.
Nick's is a throwback to classier dining days, when putting on a jacket for dinner didn't mean your meal was going to be stuffy, and a martini was a viable lunch option. Comfortable while still elegant, the interior of Nick's could be likened to a train's dining car: smooth, caramel-colored leather booths and plenty of wood lend a warm touch to the space. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all available—the filet and lobster Benedict is a solid morning order, as is the El Jefe breakfast burrito. Later in the day, opt for buttermilk fried chicken, Chilean sea bass and a bevy of salads. As for the aforementioned martini, they have that, too—a spicy paloma version with basil, grapefruit and jalapeño.
When dining at The Strand House, it's almost as if you're in a friend's oceanfront apartment: sitting on the patio, you can taste the salt air as you bite into black truffle risotto and Dayboat scallops. As part of the neighborhood's expanding culinary scene, The Strand has been a MB mainstay since its opening, acting as an ideal date night spot or a place to catch up with friends over drinks during the week. And because it wouldn't be legit without a brunch menu, make sure to stop by on the weekend for the stuffed French toast.
It's hard to choose where to sit once you've arrived at Tin Roof Bistro. Outside, a quaint patio and garden set the stage for a romantic meal; inside, the dark wood and masculine vibe is just as enchanting. The Manhattan Beach restaurant has been a go-to destination for charm since it opened in 2009, and the menu is just as enticing: rustic pizzas; homemade noodles; woodfire roasted chicken; and to-die-for Brussels sprouts, caramelized and smothered in garlic, lemon, anchovies and butter. A robust wine and spirits list rounds out the menu.
Four Daughters Kitchen started as a tiny hole in the wall—just a place where Manhattan Beach families could come for a cup of coffee, and where original owner Clint Clausen's four daughters could start the day with a solid meal. It has since grown into a breakfast, lunch and dinner destination, serving everything from the massive Longboard Burrito to pan-roasted salmon and pastas. At happy hour, sangria and house wine are just $5, and nightly specials from chef Liber Arce are both affordable and comforting.
Manhattan House is a garden-to-table gastropub where you're just as likely to find grilled lamb meatballs as you are black-eyed pea fritters. A newer addition to the neighborhood, the restaurant and bar serves as both a local watering hole for watching the game, or a casual date night spot where you can cuddle against tufted leather banquettes (as long as you don't mind the game playing in the background). Craft beer and wine are available, as are multiple variations on the classic Manhattan cocktail.
With locations in both Hermosa and Manhattan Beach, The Rockefeller is one of the South Bay's best spots to settle down with a beer and quality comfort food. Pork belly sliders, pot pies, fish tacos and a hefty Rockefeller burger make up some of the heavier menu items, but there are salads and plenty of vegetable-based dishes for when you're craving something a little lighter (zucchini fries are definitely healthy for you, right?). A massive beer and wine list make The Rockefeller a prime drinking destination, and with a happy hour that runs throughout the work week (Mon-Thu 5-7pm, Fri 3-7pm), you'll have money leftover to come back tomorrow.
Manhattan Beach is rife with seafood restaurants, but Rock'N Fish somehow manages to hit the sweet spot by being both casual and creative. Diners come here for surf and turf, but also for the famed oak grilled artichoke—it's smothered in garlic aioli, so don't even tell yourself it's a legit vegetable. Friendly service, big portions and an impressive spirits menu turn first-timers into regulars, though you will still need to wait for a table on a busy Saturday night. For dessert, the behemoth Kona Pie—made with chocolate, vanilla and coffee ice cream—declares that it serves two, but four people could comfortably dig into the massive slice and leave stuffed.