The Best Restaurants in Playa del Rey

Chicken Waterzooi at The Tripel | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Playa del Rey, which resides at the crossroads of Marina del Rey and the South Bay, has always been convenient to LAX and a great place to bike or run. Now the neighborhood has become a good place to eat, and options are bound to get even better with the influx of tech companies like Google and Yahoo to neighboring Playa Vista. Learn about 10 top Playa del Rey restaurants.

Shaking Cheesesteak at ASAP Phorage | Photo by Joshua Lurie

ASAP Phorage

This Phorage spinoff from Chef Perry Cheung and his partners resides in back of an Alka Water market. Order at a bolted stainless steel counter fronted by reclaimed wood and take your haul to the adjacent picnic table with steel benches, or to sidewalk seats. ASAP Phorage’s Vietnamese food falls into four primary categories: pho, salad, broken rice plates and banh mi. The counter’s baguette sandwiches have been known to get particularly creative. The Jungle, in homage to the surrounding neighborhood, pairs five-spice smoked brisket with shrimp and fish ceviche. Shaking Cheesesteak is a shaking beef and cheesesteak hybrid starring brisket cooked in pho broth, a four-cheese blend and tangy pepperoncini. Squiggle on smoky house-made Sriracha or a spicy green Serrano and jalapeño sauce. Bonus: the chicken is Mary’s or Jidori, the pork is Berkshire, and the beef is Washugyu (American Wagyu) when used for pho.

Chef's Salmon at Bacari PDR | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Bacari PDR

This sequel to University Park’s Bacaro comes courtesy of brothers Danny and Bobby Kronfli and Chef Lior Hillel. The airy restaurant with reclaimed wood siding, an inviting patio, blackboard menu and wine bottle ceiling occupies a prime PDR corner. The food focuses on mix-and-match cicchetti - small plates that are typically rooted in Venice wine bar roots, but demonstrate Mediterranean leanings at Bacari PDR. Sure they sell pizza and Panini, but the fare gets far more creative. For instance, slow-baked salmon sports a walnut crust and arrives on a bed of garlic parsley bulgur. Looking for something cold? Poached shrimp luxuriate in citrus chile sauce. Bacari PDR also has two burgers: a signature open-faced beef burger with Worcestershire aioli on pain de mie; and a grilled lamb burger with kale tahini sauce on grilled sourdough.

Pizza at Cantalini's Salerno Beach Restaurant | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Cantalini’s Salerno Beach Restaurant

This corner spot sports a red, green and white coat, matching the colors of the Italian flag. Placemats promote Italy, the "sunny, historic land of enchantment," and murals of the ocean and wine grapes depict Italy. Lisetta Maria, whose family hails from Abruzzi, Italy, opened Cantalini’s in 2000 using grandma's recipes. New York style pizza is popular, with zesty tomato sauce and a range of toppings. Pastas are highlighted by house-made ravioli with fillings like seafood or chicken and herb. Gnocchi Salerno stars prosciutto, peas, mushrooms and garlic cream sauce. They also deliver hearty combos, like chicken piccata that comes slathered in a white wine, caper and lemon sauce and arrives with a side of fettuccine Alfredo. After dinner, retreat to The Harbor Room, a tiny triangular bar in the back corner of the building with nautical theme, blue and white façade, and a sign by the door that reads, OPEN BUT DON’T EXPECT TOO MUCH.

DR Muffuletta at Del Rey Deli Co. | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Del Rey Deli Co.

"Sandwiches are our business" thanks to Corrina Murdy and Tim Edwards, who opened Del Rey Deli Co. in a Playa del Rey strip mall in early 2013. The glass-fronted space features picnic tables out front, wood tables, cold case and blackboard menu. The DR Muffuletta is a play on the New Orleans classic with capocollo, mortadella, prosciutto, salami, pepperoni, ham, Swiss, Provolone, and house olive spread on ciabatta. Pork Cubano riffs on the Caribbean original, with roast pork, ham, Swiss, mojo mustard, mayo and pickled on a toasted roll. Chef Vince Howard also gets creative with sandwiches - the BLT sports silky house-cured salmon and caper mayo. You can also build your own sandwich, raid the deli case or look to the specials board, which features some progressive salads and sandwiches.

Wild Boar Bibimbap at Destini Cafe | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Eugene Lee’s "smart healthy" pan-Asian restaurant features an orange awning, back patio with red cover and trickling Buddha state, and view of the Ballona Wetlands. The front room features a wall of jarred classic and rare teas like 100 Monkeys and Oolong Flower Ball, all brewable. The menu primarily draws influences from China, Korea and Thailand. Highlights include a Wild Boar Bibimbap served in a hot stone bowl that delivers a crispy crust. Menu descriptions can get pretty elaborate. For instance, they note that your boar is "free of lingering rancid pork after taste." Also, dorper lamb has “no musky odor” - it's tender and flavorful, in a spicy red curry that also contains carrots, onions and zucchini and pairs well with wild rice.

Meatball sandwich at The Good Pizza | Photo by Joshua Lurie

The Good Pizza Playa del Rey

Ferdinando “Nando” De Stefano now has two Italian restaurants, starting in Westchester and expanded to Playa Del Rey Center in early 2012. This westernmost location has bright yellow walls lined with Italian art and a casual vibe. Pizza slices await the masses on racks by the kitchen, or you can order whole pies fresh. Pizza dough also has other applications; for instance, pizza bread made with the aforementioned dough helps to frame panino sandwiches. Meatballs make an especially strong filling, featuring soft beef and breadcrumb orbs with marinara sauce and smoked mozzarella cheese. They also have classic salads plated in visually appealing ways. The Cobb salad is a rainbow of romaine and iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes, avocado, toasted crumbled bacon, Gorgonzola, grilled chicken, hard-boiled eggs and house ranch dressing.

The Gobbler sandwich, chicken soup and Heart at The Mad Carrot | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Darren Dowler, Mike Grant and a silent partner debuted The Mad Carrot in Matilla Village Center to start 2015. The strip mall space features green and orange walls, an overhead menu and sidewalk tables. Sandwiches are on the simple side, but still popular, including The Gobbler with thick-sliced organic turkey breast, tomato, spinach, olive oil, mayo, spicy mustard, Swiss and avocado on 21-grain bread. Each sandwich comes with either organic tortilla chips or gluten-free crackers. What’s stewing in the pot by the register? That could be chicken soup, crafted with the stock of a whole chicken, shredded meat, potatoes, spinach and carrots. Juices are a star of the show, and yes, carrots factor into several blends. For example, Heart combines carrot, spinach, beet, and ginger.

Broiled sardines at Playa Provisions

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Playa Provisions

Chefs and spouses Brooke Williamson and Nick Roberts are turning Playa del Rey into their culinary playground. Playa Provisions is their multi-faceted establishment with four different concepts under one roof. Up front, King Beach Café and Small Batch Ice cream parlor sport sleek wood design, sea blue and bright green furniture. Dockside restaurant faces the water and Grain whisky bar resides in back, complete with bourbon barrel shelving. King Beach primarily features breakfast and lunch, including biscuits with dulce de leche and sea salt; and a breakfast sandwich with turkey-bacon sausage, Gruyere, fried egg, vinegar cooked collards and avocado with house pickled habanero hot sauce on ciabatta. Lunch brings sandwiches like the patty melt and one with fried sand dabs. Retreat to the airy patio for dinner, where the couple serves seasonal California fare like broiled sardines with melted lardo, sorrel chimichurri, and pomegranate seeds; or perhaps grilled pork porterhouse doused in sharp blue cheese garlic citrus butter. Kristin Feuer contributes fun desserts like frozen banana sundaes, popsicles and choco tacos.

Shack Burger at The Shack | Photo by Joshua Lurie

The Shack Playa del Rey

This Playa del Rey institution has been under the same ownership since 1972 and has spawned spinoffs. The original features worn blue booths and barstools, and wood walls sporting black and white photos of bygone Playa del Rey scenes. Up front, you’ll find a blue and brick open-air patio, which is great for watching beachgoers pass by. The Shack Burger is the signature item, with a griddled patty, butterflied Louisiana hot link, and choice of cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo and ketchup on a toasted bun. Enormous chicken wings tossed with spicy sauce is another crowd-pleaser. Cold beer also comes in handy.

Chicken Waterzooi at The Tripel | Photo by Joshua Lurie

The Tripel

Playa Provisions co-owners Brooke Williamson and Nick Roberts planted their first PDR flag with The Tripel, a gastropub with exposed wood rafters, communal tables and a wood wall inlaid with the recipe for the first beer from Sumeria’s “Hymn to Ninkasi.” Yes, the couple encourages social “Lubrication,” as proven by the sign above the bar and the healthy craft beer selection. The menu is quite eclectic. Spicy Thai coconut milk curry biscuits come with clotted cream. Chicken Waterzooi is a classic Belgian stew starring chicken, fenugreek, gremolata and vegetables. You’ll also find comforting sandwiches, salads topped with popcorn, and squid ink spaghetti with ground shrimp, chiles and bottarga. In back, Williamson and Roberts now run a culinary shop called Tripli-Kit, with a pastel green and white color scheme and views out back of adjacent Ballona Wetlands.