NFT Los Angeles El Segundo / Manhattan Beach

El Segundo / Manhattan Beach

The mutation continues while Marvel Studios is making movies down the street. This area now includes its own mini-Hollywood; CSI: Miami and other shows film at Raleigh Studios. Planes from LAX rip the sky, and the 405's congestion encroaches, heightening the odd juxtaposition of Main Street coziness and increasingly obvious pollution. Generally, LA natives seem to prefer Manhattan to any other beach, smog and chemtrails notwithstanding -- it's an international volleyball and wave-catching mecca, and the place where the Beach Boys first saw people surfing.

This mostly residential community boasts a more laid-back, mature nightlife scene than its scrappier neighbor Hermosa Beach. There's an abundance of eccentric shops and cafes. Café Pierre, a French bistro, has been a local fixture since '77. The area near the main pier of Manhattan County Beach draws the biggest crowds, and stays lively at night after the beachcombers, volleyball players, and metal detector dudes clear out. Savvy locals love the nearby El Porto Beach for its quiet(er) shores and massive waves.See more.


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Going Along the Sand in South Bay

By David Horvitz
Do you know the strand from Black Flag's song "Wasted"? No? Then you're not from South Bay. Let David Horvitz show you around.

On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Uncle Bill's Pancake House
I love breakfast. I love eggs, coffee, and carbohydrates. I love it for lunch, for dinner, for dessert, and as my mysterious Fourth Meal. I also love the beach. Like most Angelenos, I have a particular affection for Manhattan Beach, the purdy seaside community where the Beach Boys first saw people surfing. If you're going to hit MB on a warm weekend, you'll face a Hobbesian parking situation and you'll need to get up extraordinarily early. If you can beat the rush, why not celebrate with pancakes? Personally, I love it best on weekdays, when it's off-season and grey and the existential reverb is exquisite. I can usually force myself out of bed in time for Happy Hour, and I can usually make it to Bill's before it closes at 3 pm. (If you're still around when they're cleaning up, tip generously.) What makes this joint special? It's not the food, which is hearty but standard-issue diner fare. It's not that it's any kind of a secret--if you miss the weekend sweet spot by seconds, you may have to wait for hours. But, come on: It's breakfast at the beach. It's the view and the people and the smell of suntan lotion. More than that, it's the oddball decor and character, the sense that you're part of a small-town inside joke. That's worth another lathering of syrup.

Posted By:  Susan Milam
Photo:  Susan Milam

La Parilla Mexicana
Whenever I want to eat a Mexican breakfast underneath an umbrella festooned with colored lights, I always stop in at La Parilla. For the longest time I didn't know this restaurant was one of a chain of four that has been showing up on best of lists for years. It has such a colorful (and I mean that literally), idiosyncratic personality that I just assumed it was one of a kind; I know for sure its huevos borrachos are one of a kind. Fried eggs on top of corn tortillas with, of course, salsa, beans and--for me--flour tortillas. The egg seeps down into the corn tortilla creating a kind of Mexican French toast. Be aware that the menu is entirely in Spanish and your server will assume that you know what you’re getting--which is okay because whatever you get will be good.

Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Chevron Oil Refinery
I think of El Segundo with detached admiration. It's an ultra-conservative response to the surrealism of its upbringing. Tomorrow ain't promised in LA County. Much like New Orleans, we're conspicuously earmarked for a dramatic, premature exit, and when the evacuation orders come down, most of us will be packed. But in the cozy, absurdly expensive enclave of El Segundo, the prom date with fate is highlighted on the day-planner, and it's blacklight-sensitive. Stroll the Mayberry-like main drag and ingest its desperate blandness, and you'll hear jets from LAX tearing overhead, cutting cryptic farts into your air supply. And you'll see the Chevron Oil Refinery belching out smoke. The final report on its environmental legacy isn’t due for a hundred years, by which time El Segundo might be a hazy myth. This refinery is its namesake--"the second" refers to the second Standard Oil refinery on Pacific Time, since bought out by Chevron. Welcome to a pastoral playland of contrived comfort, spread-eagle in worship of chilling, epic ugliness.

Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Like any self-respecting dive bar, Erc's is a cash-only joint; if you can slide dimes across the bar, you can keep drinking, but the wizened barkeeps won't take your money unless they can see it. On weekends, it's a brisk meat market, stocked with spillover from Shellback Tavern and the rest of Manhattan Beach's main strip. On school nights, the clientele dwindles to a few chatty regulars. At all times, it smells like beer, vomit, urine, sweat, sunburn, people… like a dive bar. (Miss the smoke yet?) Service can be slow for neophytes, and the place only serves Dodger Dogs sometimes. But if you want to meet MB locals who've never jogged with a stroller, performed plastic surgery or represented OJ, this is the place.

Posted By:  Kevan Peterson
Photo:  Gillian Wee

Shark's Cove
It's a sports bar and it's got a cheesy sign that makes it look like a restaurant right off The O.C. TV set so it really shouldn't be that good. But this place is good. The waiter I got was so calm you could have punched him in the face and it wouldn't have fazed him a bit. Perhaps it's being so close to the beach, or maybe he was just stoned, but the mood in this place is one of the most laid back sports bars I've ever been to. When I asked if I could have half curly fries and half regular he accommodated. When I asked for garlic bread as a side, something that was off the menu, he said the cooks should be able to make it. Go here expecting not to be stressed. Unless of course, halfway through your meal a couple of obnoxious bikini-clad high school girls end up sitting across from you, telling each other how great they all are. That may make you want to take your delicious fajita platter and toss it their-a-way.

Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Blue Butterfly Coffee Co.
Named for an endangered species native to Southern California, the Blue Butterfly does not offer WiFi, free or otherwise ("You can catch a connection from next door," the clerk tells me, though an informal survey indicates that connection is catch-as-catch-can). While it doesn't provide the area's "industry" denizens a chance to rack billable hours on their laptops (does anyone here have a real job... like, a job that requires going to work?), the BBCO does host live music, serve crisp wraps, bring people together, and generally function as a small-scale cultural institution. And sleepy, postcard-worthy 'Gundo needs a cultural institution, on any scale, even one that closes at 8 pm. Plus, its "Orange Blossom Blend" (a mocha poured over a lot of orange syrup) is a good cold buzz in the summertime.

Posted By:  Rhea Lewitzki
Photo:  Rhea Lewitzki

Finally, a café to make you feel like you’re dining in a greenhouse with a nautical theme! Think 1970’s exotic plants-growing-out-of-driftwood décor, barrel tables, knotty tree benches, old lanterns, and anchor chains that hang from a skylight-patched ceiling. Sit indoors and enjoy the fire pit, or out on the patio near the fountain. For breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Sloopy’s provides an extensive selection of what one might call American/Californian cuisine. I like the Mother Nature sandwich, but careful, it’s difficult to eat on account of its height: ten different veggies and two types of cheese stacked extra, extra high on a honey wheat bun. You definitely run the risk of losing part of it in your lap or on the floor. Order and pay at the counter, they’ll call your name when it’s ready. This walk-up-to-the-window style might seem oddly paired with the arboreal ambience, but the laidback (lack of) service and moderate prices are a refreshing contrast to the rest of upscale Manhattan Beach.

Posted By:  David Horvitz

When you are two blocks from the beach why would you want to be anywhere else but the beach? Because you're hungry. In Manhattan Beach, about a block from the sand is a small Mexican restaurant (practically a stand with walls) called El Tarasco. This is positioned in walking vicinity from all the shitty beach bro bars. This basically means that post-2 am it will be filled with annoying drunk douches who disgrace the art of sandal wearing. But if the food is good, who cares? I'd drive through El Salvador in the '80s just to get the perfect pupusa. I'd go into Oaxaca in the middle of a police riot for that rich mole. What's a handful of drunk beach-bros? This place is known for their burritos, so I suggest one of those for first-timers. This is a perfect supplement for a day (or night) at the beach. I usually buy some tacos at 2:30 am and then walk down to the water to eat them.

Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  Sarah Wallin Wightman

Il Fornaio
Good bread, tasty pastries, and a steaming—non-burnt—cup of coffee? Sign me up. There are too few places where you can find chocolate croissants that actually balance the light and flaky with the rich and gooey, but Il Fornaio’s Bakery Café is one of the tasty few. The freshly baked bread is amazing; while my friend C.W. makes the best bread in the world, Il Fornaio’s is a close second: never hard, stale, or crumbly. All the coffee drinks taste the way they’re supposed to—the lattes have rich foamy tops while the coffee never tastes like it’s been in the holding tanks for hours. My own prejudices held me back from visiting for a long time; I was sure that because Il Fornaio was a chain, it would be all stale bread, burnt coffee, and corporate suits behind the counter waggling their fingers, Mr. Burns style. Instead, I leaned back in my chair in the charming outside patio, surrounded by weekend newspaper readers, and actually enjoyed my pseudo-Euro-style.

Posted By:  Jeremiah Hahn
Photo:  none

Skirball Cultural Center
Listed every other week in black and white print in the local paper is an ad for the ongoing AFI Cinema’s Legacy screenings at the Skirball Cultural Center located at the Getty Museum. These screenings involve a world renowned filmmaker presenting a film that has influenced them or that they feel is a work that deserves some attention. It’s a great way to see old films on the big screen and also to hear some very interesting talks by some of the world’s greatest film writers and directors. In December, Paul Haggis (writer of “Million Dollar Baby”) presented Jean-Luc Goddard’s film “Breathless.” I would have described this film as an example of over-hyped academic pretension, but having the chance to hear Mr. Haggis talk about the film almost made me like it… almost.

Posted By:  Sandee Curry
Photo:  none

Old Town Music Hall
It is completely worth the drive past the smokestacks and industrial wasteland and into charming El Segundo for this experience. Since 1968, this has been the place in Southern California to see silent movies with the accompaniment of The Mighty Wurlitzer. And when I say “Mighty,” I’m not at all exaggerating; the organ alone is worth the trip. It’s an enormous pipe organ with each piece painted in fluorescent colors that glow in the dark! As the organist plays, the pieces move, creating a unique and surreal visual that accompanies the music filling the theater. Prepare for a good old-fashioned night at the movies starting with a sing-along complete with lyrics and that happy bouncing ball. That’s followed by a few short features, such as Laurel and Hardy, then a great silent film or classic musical featuring the likes of Fred Astaire or some other fine old hoofer. The theater has also recently been a venue for bluegrass, ragtime, Dixieland, and other “vintage” music acts. If you go during the arctic Southern California winter, be sure and warm up with a cup of hot cider.

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