The South Bay is absolutely massive. Situated right below Los Angeles proper, this mega-conglomerate brings together fifteen different cities including Inglewood, El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Gardena, Rancho Palos Verdes, and more. Realistically, you could spend a lifetime here and still not get through all of it. But if you only have an afternoon, here’s how to make the most of it.
Driving: When it comes to actual, current-day transportation, it’s best to travel by car. For those on the Westside, all it takes is a drive down the 405; Eastsiders and beyond can choose between the 10 or 110, before transferring to 405. Traffic shouldn’t be too bad on a weekend, but make sure to leave yourself some extra time for parking.
Other: If you don’t have a car, there are also some public transportation options, like the green Metro C line (which is a straight shot to the heart of Lawndale) or you could bike there (be warned, it’ll take two hours though).
STOP #1: BREAKFAST AT CHORI MAN
Rise and shine, it’s time for the most important meal of the day. Our first stop is Chori Man, a small chorizo stand in San Pedro that makes one of our favorite breakfast burritos in the city. During the week, owner Humberto Raygoza sells various types of pork to local restaurants on wholesale but opens his shop up to normal people like us on the weekends. There are four types of chorizo, which come serves in tacos, quesadillas, or burritos, but we like the “Toluca Green” one the most. Hot, spicy, and filled with poblano chilis, it’s exactly what we need when coffee just isn’t enough in the morning.
STOP #2: GARDENA BOWL COFFEE SHOP
This incredible doubleheader isn’t as much of a secret anymore (it was featured on David Chang’s Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner), but it’s still a great place to spend the afternoon. Half bowling alley, half incredible Hawaiian restaurant, Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop is a manifestation of the two things we love most in this world.
First, start off with bowling a few games. The alleys are fully back open, so feel free to channel your best The Dude impression to your heart’s content. Each game only costs $5 per person until 4pm. Need inspiration? Just click here.
Now it’s time for the main event – lunch. Built right into the bowling alley, Gardena Bowl Coffee shop isn’t much of a cafe, but rather a fantastic Hawaiian restaurant serving favorites you usually don’t see on this side of the Pacific Ocean. The Hawaiian Royal reigns supreme - it’s a generous plate of sweet Portuguese sausage, eggs, and green onions, which are scattered throughout a bed of rice like gems in a crown. We also like the loco moco and wonton saimin, the latter being especially great whenever the weather gets cold (read: below 75 degrees).
STOP #3: COFFEE BREAK
It’s the late afternoon and if you’re anything like us, you need caffeine in your system. The coffee at Gardena Bowl is essentially just drip, so make your way to Sip & Sonder in Inglewood instead. Established in 2017, this do-it-all coffee shop also functions as a creative studio, event space, and bonafide community hub. Their flagship outpost on Market St. hasn’t reopened for indoor seating yet, but there are tables outside where you can enjoy a variety of espressos, hot teas, and pastries.
FINAL STOP: POKE, BEACHES, AND SUNSETS
If we hosted Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, we’d change it to Poke, Beaches, and California Sunsets. Sure, it doesn’t have the same alliterative ardor, but this end-of-the-day combo is the perfect conclusion to a day in the South Bay.
First, head to Ali’i Fish Company. Located in El Segundo, this pint-sized poke counter understands a fundamental truth: Quality fish is king (they source theirs from the Honolulu Fish Auction). From succulent cubes of ginger soy ahi to a slightly wasabi-y ponzu salmon, everything here tastes exactly like something you’d get from a Foodland poke counter in Hawai’i, which is the highest honor.
Whatever your mode of transportation is (the 109 bus heading Southbound will take you straight there), it’s time to visit Manhattan Beach. Unlike other beaches in the area, it’s never too crowded, there’s a parking lot right on the sand, and if you time things just right, you’ll get there just as the sun is beginning to set. Use this sacred time to check in with yourself, soaking in the beauty of the natural world and your divine place in it. Pay attention to the words of your heart.