The Best Restaurants In LA's South BayThe 25 best places to eat in the South Bay, from El Segundo to San Pedro.
The South Bay is, to put it mildly, gigantic. Stretching from LAX down to San Pedro, there are almost as many places to eat here as there are beach volleyball courts. From a tiny Pakistani market that’ll surprise you with whatever they feel like cooking to a Japanese yakitori specialist that serves any chicken part imaginable, you almost can’t run out of amazing restaurants to try in the South Bay. So we’ve filled this guide with 25 of our favorites to help get you started.
Ryla is the most exciting thing to happen to Hermosa Beach since the time Jack Black lived in the neighborhood. Unlike most restaurants that sit 1000 feet from a coastline, Ryla falls into the category of "Sexy Sit-Down Restaurant To Be Cool At." The candlelit dining room is loud enough for you to identify which R&B song is playing, but not so loud that people wouldn’t notice you singing along. And practically all of the Japanese-Taiwanese dishes at Ryla are worth braving the traffic on PCH for. We especially like their Hokkaido milk bread, sea bream soaked in a limey coconut broth, and the Penicillin with tea-infused Japanese whiskey. Come to Ryla if you’re looking to impress someone who will appreciate snacking on inventive seafood or sipping a couple rounds of top-notch cocktails.
This pint-sized poke counter in El Segundo, with a second location in Torrance, 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. If it's your first time, try their loaded surf and turf bowl. It comes with your choice of poke flavor and a generous serving of kalua pork over perfectly cooked sticky rice.
Come any day of the week (except Mondays when they’re closed) and you’ll find a sizable crowd of parents, hip Gen-Zers, and grandmas running errands all waiting in line outside Sakae Sushi. It’s a cash-only, family-run shop that’s been open since the ’60s, hidden behind an office building in Gardena that serves simple handmade sushi. Get a box of seven pieces for about $10, wrapped up in beautiful white parchment paper and a green bow, so you can try each kind of sushi on the menu. There are bright yellow tamago maki enveloped in a fluffy, sweet egg blanket and tongue-curdling sabazushi, a bite-sized piece of pickled mackerel placed on a mound of vinegared rice.
Set back from the beach in a spacious Hermosa Beach shopping center, Barsha is the kind of unpretentious, under-the-radar restaurant that South Bay residents probably don’t want anyone outside of their zip code to know about. But sorry to them, it’s too charming (and reasonably priced) not to share: The food at this breezy, indoor-outdoor spot leans North African, with a good mix of small plates like falafel sliders and roasted cauliflower alongside larger, shareable entrees like juicy lamb meatballs or a rich seafood stew. And since the owners also run a wine shop nearby, you’ll find a fantastically priced list that offers various-sized pours to suit however many people you’re drinking with.
Sushi Chitose has a fantastic, affordable omakase in an almost impossible-to-spot building on PCH. It gets pretty crowded, so come early or make a reservation, preferably at the bar where you can watch baseball behind the heads of the people preparing your fish. For $75, you’ll get somewhere around 15 pieces of fish, plus an appetizer, some belly cuts, and a dessert. All the sushi here is great, but you’ll probably end up asking for another piece of the fantastic, shiso-topped snapper.
Before they opened in Torrance in 2018, the owners of Aunty Maile’s ran restaurants in Kona and Las Vegas, spreading legit island cooking across the mainland like Johnny Appleseeds. Now, they call the South Bay home, where they’ve become a local name for huge portions of dishes like chicken katsu loco moco and oxtail soup in a casual, counter-service setting. Though they also offer a few flavors of ahi poke, our move is the mixed plate. Pick two proteins—we like the sweet-and-sticky furikake fried chicken and the meaty grilled kalbi—and they’ll load a plate (or takeout box) with rice and a big scoop of their peppery mac salad. Keep an eye on the daily specials, too. The sweet and sour spareribs on Tuesdays and beef stew on Saturdays are certified winners.
If In-N-Out is usually your first LA meal after landing at LAX, it’s time to switch it up and try Al-Noor. That’s because this little restaurant between a cigar store and a Domino’s in Lawndale is home to the best Indian and Pakistani food in Los Angeles. We have lost many hours of sleep thinking about their chicken korma, lamb palak, tikka masala, and perfectly cooked garlic naan. And even if we had to travel hours in blistering, rage-filled traffic, we would gladly take the journey for a top-notch meal here.
Best known as the wood-roasted chicken spot that you can smell from a quarter-mile away, Pollo A La Brasa Vermont is the older sibling of the extremely popular Peruvian-style chicken spot in Koreatown, Pollo A La Brasa Western. Much like that location, there's a huge glass wall in the kitchen, where you can watch hundreds of golden chickens slowly roasting on spits. Quarter, half, or whole birds—which come with sides like fries, beans, or salad—are every bit as salty and juicy as you want the rotisserie chicken to be. If you're dining in, you may have to borrow a bottle of the spicy green aji sauce from the table next to you, but it's what you should be smothering your chicken in anyway.
Coni’Seafood isn’t just one of the best restaurants in Inglewood, it’s one of the most essential mariscos spots in all of Los Angeles. The Mexican seafood specialist on the southern tip of the neighborhood is definitely a bit more expensive than other restaurants in the area, but that’s the price you pay for some of the most delicious seafood in the city. You can’t go wrong with any of the ceviches or aguachiles, but the marlin tacos and whole snook need to hit the table or you can’t actually tell your friends you came here.
Here’s how a meal at Zam Zam, a tiny Pakistani market in Hawthorne, generally goes. You walk in, ask the lady behind the counter for a plate of what’s cooking, and 20 minutes later you’ll be staring down at a giant platter of whatever curries, kebabs, tandoori, and naan they felt like making that day. This is the best biryani rice we’ve ever eaten, so whether or not you live or work in the area, Zam Zam is a destination everyone needs to experience even though there’s no real menu or service to speak of.
If you know the laws of eating food inside of bowling alleys, you know to generally steer clear altogether. Break that rule at Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop. This tiny diner inside a neighborhood bowling alley has a very good menu of every American breakfast staple in the book, but you’re here for their Hawaiian/Asian fusion dishes. The kimchi bacon fried rice is excellent and we wish we were eating the Hawaiian Royal—a massive plate of eggs, rice, chashu, and Portuguese sausage—right now.
Located in a downtown El Segundo strip mall, Jame looks more like a Panera bread than a very legitimate Italian restaurant. But make no mistake, this tiny spot is home to some very good food. Whether it be the giant plate of prosciutto, the pesto mandili, the pork shank, or the best kale salad we’ve ever eaten, the food at Jame is delicious across the board, and everything outside of the big plates falls under $25.
Fishing With Dynamite is a very small seafood spot with a handful of tables and one of the best raw bars in the city. While there’s an easygoing feel here, don’t get too comfortable. You will certainly be asked to wear shoes if you try to come in straight from the beach for crab cakes, chowder, and piles of oysters. It’s a great spot for a date or an extravagant lunch, but we especially love getting off a plane at LAX and waiting out the traffic here with multiple orders of Peruvian scallops.
Madre is an excellent place for a casual weeknight dinner, business lunch, or a date with someone you don’t know very well. This updated Oaxacan spot has plenty of space, so your conversation isn’t going to get derailed because the table next to you is having a heated argument about whether Tupac is still alive. Get the mezcal margarita and order the queso fundido to start. For entrees, focus on the moles—we like the coloradito best—with either chicken thighs or short ribs.
Many know tonkatsu, or Japanese fried pork cutlet, from its stint accompanying curry or served at those broadly Asian restaurants whose names often sound like they were ripped from a generator. But at Kagura, tonkatsu isn’t just some dish on the menu—it’s the dish on the menu. The chill Torrance izakaya specializes in it, from premium filets to leaner loin cuts smothered in cheese (all of which pair very well with beer), and serves it alongside an elegant tray of rice, miso soup, and salad. But the star of the show here is their signature millefeuille. Made in the style of the French pastry, fatty slices of black pork are folded and layered on top of one another, then battered and deep-fried, resulting in a dish that’s soft and juicy on the inside, and fantastically crispy on the outside. The color reminds us of what we imagine the contents of Meryl Streep’s trophy case look like – brilliantly golden.
The Lunasia location in Torrance has become our favorite dim sum destination in the South Bay. There’s just something great about kicking off your morning with plump pork buns, jumbo pork siu mai, and crispy, crunchy shrimp rolls on their string-lit patio. All of the ordering is done via the QR code at your table, but the made-to-order dim sum dishes come so quickly, you won’t miss the roving carts. Come with a group after 11am on weekends and there will almost certainly be a wait—the space is enormous, though, so hang in there and you’ll probably be eating within 30 minutes.
Otafuku is a family-run Japanese restaurant that treats soba noodles with near scientific precision. The three kinds of soba here vary in texture, size, and taste, but all are made in-house every day with flour imported from Japan. In other words, you don’t see them elsewhere around LA. The all-white seiro is our favorite, but whatever you choose will be served cold on a bamboo plate with a tiny dish of garlic soy sauce for dipping on the side. It’s simple, fresh, and exactly what we want during a heatwave.
The Arthur J is the Jeff Goldblum of steakhouses—we haven't met anyone yet who is immune to its charm. The dark leather booths and sleek walnut ceilings inside this Manhattan Beach spot radiate laidback luxury, the kind you'd usually find in a members-only supper club. The steaks are cooked over a wood-fired grill, which gives the meat a deep, gloriously smoky flavor. Once you've decided which cut you want, choose a couple of sauces, butters, toppings, and sides to round out your red meat dream. We're partial to their filet mignon, cooked medium rare, with a side of chimichurri and a little slab of foie gras right on top. Keep this spot in mind when you want a steak dinner that feels both classic and cool without being too over the top.
Ayara Thai is a neighborhood staple in Westchester that also happens one of the city's best Thai restaurants outside of Thai Town. The family-run spot has been cranking out tremendous classics like khao soi and pad see ew for years, and they even sell their own Thai curry kits in case you want to make their family recipes at home. You can’t go wrong with any order here, but the muay thai wings are a sleeper hit. Each plump wing is marinated for maximum flavor, fried naked, then served with a dipping sauce that takes the dish to a new level.
The name of the game at Carnitas El Artista in Inglewood is Michoacan-style carnitas—tender, slow-fried chunks of pork that are beautifully crisp and bronzed along the edges. You’ll find excellent pork shoulder carnitas at this father-and-son operation, but El Artista also goes whole hog by mixing in other cuts, from pork ribs and chicharron to lengua and cabeza. Whether you go with their hefty tacos, a torta, burrito, quesadilla, or a big plate of chilaquiles topped with a fried egg as your carnitas vessel, you’ll catch serious aromas of garlic and lime rising up from the juicy, caramelized meat. For our money, you won’t find a more memorable carnitas experience west of the 110.
Quality Seafood is a massive, two-story restaurant on the Redondo Pier filled with tanks of shellfish, lobsters, crabs, and fish. Ordering here is a grab-a-ticket, build-your-own meal situation, which given the usual crowds, can be pretty chaotic. One person should order at the counter (prepare to be shout-asked how you want your fish cooked) and someone else should position themselves to claim a picnic table in a game of survival of the fittest. If you’re having a hard time making a food decision, here’s where to start: steamed littlenecks, raw Pacific Northwest oysters, and fried snapper.
Torihei is a strip mall izakaya with long lines and fantastic skewers. Make a reservation if you can, otherwise, they hold some tables for the line of walk-ins. When you do eventually sit down, pick something from the long and affordable list of sake and soju, and then order the karaage and xiao long bao oden (Chinese-style shrimp dumplings in Japanese hot pot) to start. The robata choices are all excellent—they'll expertly grill up just about any chicken part you can imagine—but make sure your order includes the butter scallops and wasabi beef tongue, too.
On a residential street in San Pedro, The Chori-Man is a chorizo shop that mostly sells to restaurants. But four days a week, any regular person can walk in and get a few sausages, tacos, or a truly fantastic breakfast burrito. There are four different types of chorizo you can add to any of their dishes, and while they’re all good, we especially like the poblano chili-heavy green pork one. Just keep in mind that this is a takeout window with no outdoor seating, so you’ll probably end up eating your glorious tortilla-wrapped meal while standing on the sidewalk. Occasionally, The Chori-Man also serves homemade blueberry and strawberry horchata—if you see either one, don’t hesitate.
Sushi I-Naba is like the Rainbow Road of seafood restaurants—simply put, it’s not for beginners. This tiny omakase spot hidden inside I-Naba Restaurant in Torrance feels less like a sushi bar and more of a meeting of the Secret Society of Seafood. For now, they only offer a very high-end omakase for $280 per person, filled with symmetrical cuts of ultra-fatty bluefin toro, impeccable golden eye snapper, and 10-day-aged amberjack. It’s all prepared with an expert hand, combining a mix of hard-to-find cuts of fish with some of the freshest crustacean and seafood you’ll find on dry land. And be warned: despite the luxury pricing, reservations often book out at least a month in advance.
On any given night, Izakaya Hachi is filled with everyone from 21-year-olds celebrating birthdays to groups of Japanese men who will ultimately outdrink everyone around them. It's hard to nail down what makes this Torrance izakaya so special, but the food is a huge part of it—all of their grilled meats are excellent and worth your attention, like medium-rare beef tongue that tastes buttery and tender, or salty, chopped pork cheek accompanied by a biting yuzu sauce. But it’s also the celebratory atmosphere, and the fact that most dishes are made to share, like the pork shabu shabu, or family-style omakase that requires four people seated at the table (house rules) and involves a parade of over 13 dishes.