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This must be Manhattan Beach

The corner of Manhattan Beach Boulevard and Ocean Drive tells a tale of two eras: Manhattan Beach’s surf bum past and its glitzy present. On the south side of the intersection sits Shellback Tavern. Preserved within its blacked-out beachfront windows and memorabilia-covered walls — signed by volleyball gold medalists Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings and other local icons — is one of the last places in the neighborhood where you can buy a few beers with only the damp, crumpled 20-dollar bill in the pocket of your swim trunks. On the north side, there’s the Strand House, a multistory bar and restaurant built mostly of steel and paneless glass windows, which serves $50 entrees and provides diners with an unencumbered view of the beach, the sunset and the turquoise Manhattan Beach pier.

Get to know Los Angeles through the places that bring it to life. From restaurants to shops to outdoor spaces, here’s what to discover now.

“Manhattan Beach was a small, quiet beach town for most of its history, and many residents like to cling to that image,” said Gary McAulay, a retired policeman and former head of the Manhattan Beach Historical Society, who has lived in Manhattan Beach for 40 years. “In some ways, it actually is still a close-knit community, but skyrocketing real estate prices and hyper-gentrification, as well as burgeoning tourism, have had their effect on the town’s character.”

Angelenos who find themselves in Manhattan Beach may wonder if they accidentally landed in an idyllic beach town instead of an incorporated city off the 405, just south of LAX. Stroll around the hilly, pedestrian-only walk streets to find groups of friends barbecuing in front yards from morning to night. Pop into a cafe for a lemonade or a boutique for a seashell-covered home decor item. Take a bike ride along the beachfront promenade, the Strand, where maybe you’ll stop to watch a volleyball tournament — or just lust after the homes. At the end of a beach day, summit Manhattan Beach Boulevard and take a seat at 厂颈尘尘锄测’蝉 for an ahi tuna starter, burger and sangria.

As in the rest of Los Angeles County, median home prices in Manhattan Beach have doubled over the last 10 years. For better or for worse, depending on who you ask, the upscale-ification has helped make the beach city an even more popular weekend destination. Manhattan Beach Post and Fishing With Dynamite (both helmed by chef David Lefevre) have received numerous accolades, including spots on The Times’ 101 Best Restaurants list, over the years. The Strand House is part of the Zislis Group portfolio, which also owns the swanky Shade Hotel and other restaurants and gastropubs dotting Manhattan Beach Boulevard and the surrounding areas.

The long-standing neighborhood classics are still there — the Kettle and 笔补苍肠丑辞’蝉, for instance — but as blogger and longtime beach cities resident Jennifer Richmond notes, “Those are definitely few and far between from the more high-end, three- and four-dollar-sign restaurants.”

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This guide encompasses both the neighborhood’s roots and its modern reality. You’ll find more quaint character in the north Manhattan Beach neighborhood of El Porto, new and old gems in the downtown area and true community both further inland and throughout. And, as befits a beach city, the best things are still free.

“Take a stroll along the ocean and get your toes wet,” advises McAulay. “Watch the sunset. It’s beautiful.”

What's included in this guide

Anyone who’s lived in a major metropolis can tell you that neighborhoods are a tricky thing. They’re eternally malleable and evoke sociological questions around how we place our homes, our neighbors and our communities within a wider tapestry. In the name of neighborly generosity, we included gems that may linger outside of technical parameters. Instead of leaning into stark definitions, we hope to celebrate all of the places that make us love where we live.

Showing  Places
A dog stands next to a man in a black T-shirt and blue board shorts, who gives a hang-loose hand gesture, in a surf shop
(Sydney Krantz / For The Times)

Find what you need for the day's waves at El Porto Surf Shop

Manhattan Beach Surf Shop
Perched above a liquor store in El Porto (don’t fall prey to real estate agent-speak and call it “North Manhattan Beach”), you’ll find the friendliest, stoked-est, down-home-iest surf shop in the South Bay.

Come by to learn about surfing, rent boards and wet suits, and meet the sandy-footed owner, Woodrow “Pack” Landfair, and his dog, Porto. Nearby LAX makes the shop a hub for international surfers, says Pack, and to prove it, he displays a pinboard map showing where visitors have come from all over the world. (And the shop accommodates just about any time zone they’re functioning on — it’s open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. every day of the week.)

You can’t leave without getting an infusion of authentic posi vibes, driven home by the hand-painted message over the stairwell on your way out: “Surf like a champion today.”
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A person about to hit a tossed-up ball in front of beachfront houses.
(Sydney Krantz / For The Times)

Ride, roll or stroll along the Strand

Manhattan Beach Attraction
Santa Monica and Venice might have their famed boardwalks, but you’ll want to head to the Strand for a truly laid-back experience of ocean-front beauty. The Marvin Braude bike trail is a 22-mile-long bike and pedestrian path that stretches from the Pacific Palisades down to Torrance. For a five-mile stretch from north Manhattan Beach to south Hermosa, the path becomes noticeably wider and better maintained, and it’s elevated above the beach for a pristine view of the sand and the sea. At times, it splits into a bike section and a pedestrian path.

While it can get crowded on sunny weekends, the area generally sees fewer tourists (and drum circle participants) than other L.A. beach hot spots. And the fact that it mostly abuts houses — not parking lots, restaurants or souvenir shops — makes for an overall calmer experience. There are plenty of benches to sit on, happy dogs to admire and beachfront mansions (and older bungalows) to ogle, and you can always amble off the path and into downtown Manhattan Beach for a refreshing drink.
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People seated in wooden chairs in a cafe, the door open to reveal more people seated outside.
(Sydney Krantz / For The Times)

Indulge in a macadamia nut stack at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House

Manhattan Beach Restaurant
Nautical decor, an ocean view and, of course, the namesake flapjacks make this breakfast spot a must-visit. Opened in the early 1960s, it expanded through the years to take over the barber shop next door and eventually added on an expansive patio with views of the beach.

The varieties of pancake stacks include macadamia nut, pineapple coconut and pumpkin spice. If you’re with kids, try the bite-sized “dollar” cakes. Craving lunch? Locals rave about the tuna melt. Expect a wait for a table on weekends, but the payoff is solid classic American fare and the feeling that you’re on vacation in a quaint beach town.
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An aqua tray holds a plate with three tacos, a container of tortilla chips, and small containers of guacamole and salsa
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Scarf down the ultimate breakfast burrito at Amigos Tacos

Manhattan Beach Tacos
Any number of outstanding local taco and burrito shops could have made this list — looking at you, El Tarasco and El Sombrero (“El Somb” as it’s affectionately known). Amigos gets the spot for one standout item: the breakfast burrito. Eggs, cheese, an addictively delicious salsa cream sauce, potatoes and three types of breakfast meats make it the greasy bullet you need to bring with you to the beach after a night out. Located next door to Mira Costa High School, Amigos has fed generations of hungry Manhattan Beach teens on their lunch breaks and anyone cutting out early to hit the waves.
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An adult and two young kids admire a sea star in an aquarium tank
(Sydney Krantz / For The Times)

Find the delightful surprise at the end of the pier (Psst, it's Roundhouse Aquarium!)

Aquarium
The picturesque Manhattan Beach Pier, with its turquoise railings, is the image that pops into most people’s heads when they think of the city. A beach day here wouldn’t be complete without a stroll down its wide walkway. But what is that circular building at its terminus? It’s the Roadhouse Aquarium, a place where kids and grownups can explore a touch tank with starfish and get spooked by large eel and jellyfish tanks.

The aquarium is free to enter and staffed by local volunteers, who will help visitors learn about the area’s aquatic wildlife and ecological challenges and innovations. One exhibit depicts how long different pieces of refuse take to biodegrade (or not) in the ocean. A peephole in the floor gives a glimpse of the ocean, integrating the aquarium with its natural environment.
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Two children sit eating ice cream outside a colorful storefront
(Sydney Krantz / For The Times)

Get a scoop of Sticky Bun Crunch ice cream at Manhattan Beach Creamery

Manhattan Beach Ice Cream Shop
It’s not really a proper beach day without ice cream. At Manhattan Beach Creamery, you can indulge in a cone of the small-batch homemade kind. While popular Portland, Ore.-based chain Salt & Straw recently opened across the street, this locally owned shop features classic and inventive flavors, delectable baked goods and a whiz-bang candy selection that will make any kid’s eyes bug with delight. And the seasonal decorations are an over-the-top spectacle in their own right.
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Two beach volleyball players face each other, holding their bent arms up to make muscles
(Sydney Krantz / For The Times)

Lay out a blanket and catch a volleyball game on the sand

Manhattan Beach Beach
Fair warning: If you start taking your kids to Manhattan Beach — and we’re talking about the literal beach — you may just create a beach snob for life.

Locals say no other beach has a wider expanse of sand or better waves. Scores of volleyball posts and nets make it a popular spot for both professional and amateur tournaments. Plop down by a net and you’ll more likely than not be blown away by the level of play. You can start your own game or get involved in the Manhattan Beach volleyball community through the California Beach Volleyball Assn.

The biggest catch is the parking: Manhattan Beach has multiple public lots, but they are small and fill up quickly. The best bet is to arrive early, do some circles and pray for good parking karma.
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A man stands behind a counter at a bookstore
(Sydney Krantz / For The Times)

Discuss the latest mystery or nonfiction barnburner at Pages: a bookstore

Manhattan Beach Bookstore
With an event calendar packed with author signings, story times for kids and multiple book clubs (ranging from nonfiction to mystery to cookbooks) Pages: a bookstore has a big-time community feel. Need a book rec? Knowledgeable staffers will gladly share their favorites over a cider or mug of tea. Stop in to the shop before starting your beach day — you might just find a hardcover signed by your favorite author.
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Neighborhoods Guides Manhattan Beach
(Sydney Krantz / For The Times)

Take in living history at Bruce’s Beach Park

Manhattan Beach Park
Tucked among beachfront houses and cafes is a piece of living Southern California history. Following years of protests and a fever pitch of calls for justice during the national racial reckoning propelled by the murder of George Floyd, Los Angeles County returned a beachfront parcel of land to the Bruce family in 2022, acknowledging that an eminent domain seizure in the 1920s was a racist act of theft. The family has since sold the land back to the city, but the move remains an unprecedented act for Southern California and an example of what reparations in action really look like.

Earlier this year, the city unveiled a new plaque, recognizing the troubling history and the attempt to make things right. It sits atop the sloping park, now named in honor of the Bruce family.
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An arched doorway leads to a restaurant courtyard.
(Sydney Krantz / For The Times)

Embrace the old-school ambience (and margaritas) at 笔补苍肠丑辞’蝉

Manhattan Beach Restaurant
Serving margaritas, gigantic plates of rice and beans and live mariachi music since the ’70s, 笔补苍肠丑辞’蝉 is an old-school hangout that holds down the food and drink scene in north Manhattan Beach. Some aspects, like the troubling logo and straightforward menu, are dated, while others — like $30-plus entree prices — have kept up with the neighborhood. The live music in the bar and the multistory brick, vine and eccentric Mexican-decor-spangled space make this a neighborhood staple for locals and visitors alike. A visit to 笔补苍肠丑辞’蝉 always feels like a special SoCal indulgence.
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A manipulated photo of trees in a park
(Sydney Krantz / For The Times)

Work up a sweat at Sand Dune Park

Manhattan Beach Park
Athletes are some of the South Bay’s most famous residents, and Sand Dune Park is where pros and amateurs alike come for a borderline torturous challenge. Manhattan Beach was originally entirely sand dunes: The sand was even reportedly exported to Hawaii in the 1920s and ’30s to make the beach at Waikiki.

Today, just one intimidating sand dune remains, and athletes run, walk, shuffle and do all manner of mind-boggling drills on the steep and unforgiving 100-foot slope. Head on down to give yourself a challenge or simply be wowed by the local talent.
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Three women sit at a restaurant table with an ocean view out the window next to them.
(Sydney Krantz / For The Times)

Take in 180-degree views of the ocean at the Strand House

Manhattan Beach Restaurant and lounge
For a beach city, a bar and restaurant with a view of the sand and sea is surprisingly hard to come by in Manhattan Beach. That’s thanks to the fact that all the beachfront real estate is devoted to multistory mansions — except at the termination of Manhattan Beach Boulevard at the pier. That’s where the Strand House sits, and it makes the most of its location with a glass-ringed upper story that gives patrons a phenomenal view. The food and drinks are pricy, and you’ll need a reservation for a table with a view of the beach during prime times. But, c’mon, a crisp white wine and a decadent appetizer overlooking the pier at sunset? That’s what you come here for.
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Decor in a bar includes a red Budweiser sign and a big fake check to a volleyball tournament winner.
(Sydney Krantz / For The Times)

Have a cold beer at Shellback Tavern (where sandy feet and boogie boards are welcome)

Manhattan Beach Bar
At the corner of the Strand and Manhattan Beach Boulevard is a surf bar that couldn’t care less about the views. The windows are covered with an almost opaque black film, the tables are sticky, “Sweet Caroline” is blasting. But if you’ve ever spent a day playing in a volleyball tournament, this is the spot to celebrate — surrounded by big checks made out to legendary winners over the years. Your sandy feet and boogie board are welcome. The standing-room-only tables provide the perfect setting for a potential meet-cute with a beach babe or surfer dude. And the beer will make the steep trek up Manhattan Boulevard feel a whole lot easier.
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A young child reaches into a container to get food for the birds.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Climb a galleon ship at Polliwog Park

Manhattan Beach Park
The largest park in the South Bay is 18-acre Polliwog Park. It has multiple play areas, shade structures and even a respectably sized pond with goose inhabitants. In September, the city debuted a newly renovated 12,500-square-foot playground with updated padded flooring and multisensory play structures that incorporate music, climbing and discovery — though locals need not worry about too much change, since the “galleon ship” play-yard design from the 1970s still conceptually anchors the colorful space. The park also houses the headquarters and small museum of the Manhattan Beach Historical Society in a red beach cottage originally built in 1905. In summertime, the amphitheater hosts free community concerts on Sunday nights. Grab a lawn chair to make a night of it. Pro tip: Watch out for goose poop.
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A dish of spaghetti in a meat sauce with a cocktail on a wood table
(Sydney Krantz / For The Times)

Order a round of bacon cheddar buttermilk biscuits at Manhattan Beach Post

Manhattan Beach Restaurant
With a menu described in a 2014 Los Angeles Times review as “exotic by South Bay standards,” M.B. Post first planted the flag for Manhattan Beach as a dining destination when it opened in 2011. Since then, it’s offered cuisine one might characterize as somewhat Southern comfort, but worldly in its array of small plates. Its industrial-rustic-chic decor pays homage to the site’s midcentury roots as the neighborhood post office.

The restaurant has evolved over the last decade-plus. It underwent a remodel during the pandemic that transformed its sophisticated barn aesthetic into an airy, plant-covered beach house. And it’s no longer the lone fine-dining offering in the area: Chef David LeFevre’s oyster bar, Fishing With Dynamite, is right next door, and upscale steakhouse the Arthur J. is just on the other side of Manhattan Beach Boulevard. But 10-plus years in, the food remains excellent, and it’s still the area’s worthy approachable-gourmet standard bearer. Don’t miss the “world-famous” bacon cheddar buttermilk biscuits, which are moist, cheesy and generous in both size and fillings; the “blistering” blue lake green beans that have just the right balance of sweet and spicy; and the decadent chocolate pudding dessert called the “Elvis.”
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A person stands outside a takeout window, in which another person is visible.
(Sydney Krantz / For The Times)

Toast old and new friends at the ultimate local dive, Ercole's

Manhattan Beach Dive Bar
If Shellback Tavern brings in the beach-going 20-somethings, Ercole’s is the spot for locals of all ages. People have been blowing off steam here for the last century. Yep, this beer bar and grill has been around since the 1920s, and has the mishmash of memorabilia — old signs, vintage photographs, stained pool table and retro beer logos — to show for it. With affordable pitchers flowing, it’s easy to while away an evening in one of the booths, assuming you manage to grab one the moment another patron leaves. The eclectic and friendly crowd makes the dive-y vibes unbeatable.
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The Kettle's black kettle sign hangs above the restaurant's roof.
(Sydney Krantz / For The Times)

Grab a midnight snack with other hungry locals at the Kettle

Manhattan Beach Restaurant
People-watching and tasty diner food are on the menu at this 50-year-old establishment parked on the corner of Manhattan Beach Boulevard and Highland Avenue. Diners of all ages — the menu features an “under 9 and over 90” section — pack into spacious carved wood booths inside or a large brick wraparound covered patio outside. With food served late (it’s open 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays, and until midnight every other night of the week), it’s a favorite stumbling ground for both local teens and bar-goers who need to soak up those brews with a patty melt or some fat steak-cut fries.
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