The Best Restaurants in the South Bay of Los Angeles

Pho, Little Sister | Photo: Simon Nicholls/Little Sister


The South Bay is one of the most culturally diverse regions in Los Angeles. It's always provided a multitude of places to enjoy great food from across the world - from delicate handmade soba to fried shrimp tacos doused in salsa. But with a wave of ambitious chefs riffing and expanding on the culinary traditions they were raised on, this quiet beach-loving community is becoming a dining destination all over again. Here are ten of the best places to eat in the South Bay.

Al Watan Halal Restaurant, Hawthorne | Photo: Al Watan Halal Restaurant

Al-Watan



A 900-degree tandoori oven firing at full blast is a formidable sight and at this strip mall Pakistani restaurant in Hawthorne, some of the best roast meats, rice pilafs and curries in town have arisen from its fiery depths. The char-speckled mixed tandoori platter is a must order, stacked with brick-red chicken, cubes of lamb, and long beef seekh kebabs. The classic chicken tikka masala--creamy, spicy and sweet at once--lands on almost every table. Accompany your meal with basketfuls of fresh garlic naan, a thick mango lassi and cilantro-mint yogurt; save room for kheer (cardamom-scented rice pudding) when it's time for dessert.

Pescado Zarandeado, Coni'Seafood | Photo: Coni'Seafood

Coni’Seafood



One of LA’s best seafood destinations is located in the shadow of LAX’s flight path. Owner Connie Cossio and chef Sergio Penuelas import fresh fish from the Mexican coastlines almost daily, which is essential for their classic Nayarit-style dishes such as smoked marlin tacos smothered in avocado slices, chile-soaked shrimp aguachile, a dozen types of ceviche, and the famous pescado zarandeado, a whole butterfield snook lacquered with soy sauce and grilled over charcoal. Grab a table inside the surprisingly modern and slick restaurant space and make sure to ask the staff about off-menu daily specials, which might include such briny treats as raw Baja scallops or sweet langoustine lobsters sauteed in lemon, chile and lots of garlic.

Pizza, Eatalian Café | Photo: Eatalian Café

Eatalian Cafe



Not many places take the time to make their own bread, pizza, and pasta in Gardena. That’s probably why the sprawling Eatalian Café seems perpetually packed with locals clamoring for well-cooked Neapolitan pizzas and freshly-rolled pasta dishes such as spinach and ricotta tortellini or pillowy potato gnocchi with beef ragú. Owners Antonio Pellini and Eugenia Catellani have created a space filled with so many different Italian treats - including house-churned gelato, pastries, and cheese - it’s nearly impossible to sample it all in one visit. But as Eatalian's regular will tell you, making time for a second visit won’t be a problem.

Ceviche de Pescado, El Pollo Inka | Photo: El Pollo Inka, Facebook

El Pollo Inka



Just because this massively popular Peruvian restaurant is a part of a chain - locations include Gardena, Hermosa Beach, Lawndale and Torrance - that doesn’t mean you should turn your nose up at their famous, crisp-skinned roast chickens. The Lawndale location might be considered the flagship, featuring a long banquet hall with a dance floor and live music on weekends. It’s here that you should load up on plump beef heart antichuchos, wok-tossed lomo saltado, and the flavorful Peruvian chicken fried rice known as chaufa de pollo. Make sure to slather it all in their addictive aji verde, the potently spicy green sauce in squeeze bottles on every table.

Mothershucker Platter | Photo by Rick Poon, courtesy of Fishing with Dynamite

Fishing With Dynamite



Former Water Grill chef David LeFevre revolutionized South Bay dining with the opening of M.B Post in 2011. Several years later, his modern American restaurant is as popular as ever, and still a can’t-miss destination for diners. Even more exciting though, is LeFevre’s newest project, located a few doors down from M.B. Post inside a tiny space that resembles an East Coast beach house. Fishing with Dynamite serves a seafood-centric menu composed of "old school" classics such as clam chowder, crab cakes and fried calamari as well as "new school" dishes, which range from black miso cod with red beans to albacore tuna tartare enlivened with shrimp chips and kimchi furikake. The raw bar, which includes a dozen or so varieties of oysters, is one of the best in LA.

Pho, Little Sister | Photo: Simon Nicholls/Little Sister

Little Sister - Manhattan Beach



Another South Bay culinary pioneer, chef Tin Vuong of Hermosa Beach favorite Abigaile, opened Little Sister in July 2013 as a way to showcase his love of Southeast Asian cuisine. With its bumping hip-hop soundtrack and terrific craft beer list, this restaurant is one of the most hip and unique endeavors to hit the South Bay in a long time. Inspired by the rough charm of a Singapore shophouse, Vuong's expansive menu hops between cultures with ease. Choose small plates such as vibrant red Myanmar okra curry with saffron-seasoned rice, eggplant-beef tartare studded with Sichuan peppercorns, or the green papaya salad with sugar-cane grilled shrimp. In the short time it's been open, the kitchen has already produced a cult favorite dish: a sweet and fiery Singapore chile crab banh mi, spread with spiced tomato relish. Don’t miss it.

Green Eggs and Ham, mar'sel | Photo: mar'sel

mar'sel



Perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean in scenic Palos Verdes, mar’sel is the marquee restaurant at the ritzy Terranea Resort, as well as one of the South Bay’s biggest standouts when it comes to fine dining. Chef de Cuisine Rebecca Merhej puts her spin on traditional California cuisine with the addition of seasonal and locally-grown ingredients, such as with the grilled hanger steak paired alongside roasted brussel sprouts, fuji apples, and a crispy horseradish-topped potato cake. Both lunch and brunch shouldn't be missed either, notably the signature “green eggs and ham,” a stack of cured pork belly and fried eggs slid onto toasted brioche and painted with colorful salsa verde.

Salmon nigiri at Nozomi | Photo by Garrett Snyder

Nozomi



The South Bay may be scattered with hundreds of terrific sushi bars, but if you want to experience a top-tier omakase meal for much less than you’d pay in Beverly Hills or Hollywood, head to Nozomi. Head chef Yasu-san is rumored to have great connections with Santa Barbara uni importers, meaning that your quivering lozenge of sea urchin nigiri will taste as if it just leapt from the briny depths. But that’s not all Nozomi does well: Your immaculate multi-course meal might include rare delights such as massive sweet shrimp plucked from the tank and flash-fried, tender chawanmushi custard studded with scallops, or soft squares of squid dotted with umeboshi plum.

Chicken yakitori at Shin-Sen-Gumi | Photo: Garrett Snyder

Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori



When you first enter the wood-paneled hole-in-the-wall that is Gardena’s Shin-Sen-Gumi, you’ll be welcomed by booming shouts of welcome from the Japanese staff. The meal only gets more exciting from there. In the center of the room is a long charcoal grill, where juicy sticks of yakitori - bamboo skewers of chicken parts - are grilled and then served searing hot. You can choose between sections of thigh meat sprinkled with sea salt and green onion, breast meat covered in shiso and pickled plum, fatty rolls of chicken skin, or plump chicken meatballs called tsukune. Fortify your meal with the addition of asparagus wrapped in pork belly, grilled quail eggs, and slightly charred enoki mushrooms. Then, like the rest of the crowd stuffed inside, stumble out into the night smelling of smoke and Sapporo beer.

The Napoleon | Photo: The Standing Room, Facebook

The Standing Room



Who says you need chairs to be a great restaurant? In the back of a rather unremarkable liquor store in Redondo Beach sits this crowded deli, where chef Lowell Bakke churns out awesomely impressive new-wave burgers. Spring for the “Napoleon,” a hulking patty topped with braised short rib, smoked gouda and a fried egg. With locally-sourced angus beef and pan de mie buns from Bread Bar, The Standing Room elevates burgers to a higher plane. Locals know that the best menu items are those with an Asian twist, including the soft shell crab sandwich spread with Thai mayo, or the pulled pork sandwich with hoisin BBQ sauce. Check the chalkboard menu for rotating plate lunch specials as well.