The 27 Best Restaurants In The South Bay

The 27 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 takeout window serving one of the best breakfast burritos in town, you almost can’t run out of amazing restaurants to try in the South Bay. So we’ve filled this guide with 27 of our favorites to help get you started.

The Spots

Zam Zam Market imageoverride image

Zam Zam Market

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.

Al-Watan sits exactly a half block up from Zam Zam, but is a very different experience – it’s a full-service restaurant with a long menu of Pakistani and Indian staples. If you come during the peak lunch rush, you’ll struggle to find a seat, but the food is worth traveling long distances for. Get the mixed tandoori plate.

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.

The Best Italian Restaurants In LA guide image

LA Guide

The Best Italian Restaurants In LA

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.

This family-operated Turkish/Mediterranean restaurant in Hawthorne is one of our favorite places in the South Bay for shawarma and falafel. You’re obviously getting the hummus sampler (nine different kinds of hummus for $7), but the best thing on the menu is the zucchini dumplings. They’re basically deep-fried balls of zucchini and cheese, and we’d drive back during rush hour just to eat them again.

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 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.

Where To Get Indian And Pakistani Delivery in LA guide image

LA Guide

Where To Get Indian And Pakistani Delivery in LA

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.

Many people know Shin Sen Gumi as a very good ramen chain where you can customize your soup down to the firmness of noodles. But fewer know that the original location is actually a tiny yakitori shop in Gardena. Open since 1992, Shin Sen Gumi Yakitori is an institution you visit to eat perfect meat skewers in a low-key space. Our favorites are the marble kobe beef, bacon-wrapped quail egg, and chicken meatballs.

If you think you’re in the wrong place, that means you’ve arrived at Eatalian Cafe. Located in a giant warehouse next to other giant warehouses, Eatalian Cafe isn’t exactly a cafe. It’s a giant Italian food emporium that feels like a laidback version of Eataly. There’s a long wrap-around pizza counter with a kitchen, espresso bar, gelato stand, and bakery. It’s overwhelming, so here’s your game plan: start with one of their pizzas (the prosciutto-topped Mimmo is our favorite), end with a cup of gelato, and take a box of pastries for your bedside table.

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LA Guide

The Best New Pizza In Los Angeles

We like to come to this casual Vietnamese strip-mall spot for a quiet solo lunch. The egg rolls come out so freshly fried that you won’t be able to eat them for at least 15 minutes, and the “small” bowl of the filet mignon pho is still plenty big, especially considering the rich, flavorful broth. Soon enough, you’ll be a regular with a usual order - just like almost everyone else in here.

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.

With locations all over the South Bay and even Miami, El Pollo Inka has become our go-to chain for a casual Peruvian meal. At their original location in Lawndale, you order at the counter and seat yourself in one of the big black booths that wrap around the massive dining area. Anything involving their rotisserie chicken is going to be good, but we’re partial to the lomo saltado. It’s full of tender beef that tastes like sirloin, juicy tomato slices, crispy french fries, and white rice that’ll have you frantically texting your favorite group chat.

The Best Peruvian Restaurants In LA guide image

LA Guide

The Best Peruvian Restaurants In LA

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.

Love & Salt has become one of Manhattan Beach’s old reliables. The menu at this Italian place is both crowd-pleasing and interesting, with lots of pizzas and pastas, plus an excellent brunch burger and English muffins so good you should eat them at dinner. This is a place that works for almost any occasion, whether that’s dinner with your parents, a solo pasta and glass of wine, or a laid-back brunch.

M.B. Post was one of the first restaurants that people outside of Manhattan Beach made a point of going to, and while it isn’t quite the destination it once was, it has earned its place as a neighborhood staple. That’s especially the case at brunch, when you can order those cheddar bacon biscuits and enormous slabs of french toast.

If all that sitting on the beach and looking at the ocean has made you hungry for seafood, head to Quality Seafood on the Redondo pier. This multi-level spot has tanks full of fish, oysters, and crabs, and is pretty chaotic, so you’ll need a strategy. 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.

The Best Places To Eat Hawaiian Food In LA guide image

LA Guide

The Best Places To Eat Hawaiian Food In LA

We’ve had plenty of build-your-own, assembly-line poke bowls over the past few years, but Jus’ Poke is different and resembles what you’d find in Hawaii - meaning it’s super fresh and you won’t be able to overwhelm your bowl with too many options. There are six types of pre-marinated tuna (get the original or spicy) or a tofu option, to which you can add rice or seaweed salad. The servings are enormous, and the crowd is mostly local office people picking up lunch.

You’re at this cash-only breakfast spot on PCH for one reason – the carne asada breakfast burrito with avocado. It’s the perfect way to start a slow-moving weekend when you’re near the ocean. There will probably be a line (you’re not going to be the only one here trying to make your head hurt a little less), but service is quick and the coffee is great.

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.

The Best Oaxacan Restaurants In LA guide image

LA Guide

The Best Oaxacan Restaurants In LA

Torihei is a strip mall izakaya with long lines and fantastic robata. 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, just make sure your order includes the butter scallops and wasabi beef tongue.

Back Home In Lahaina’s interior – complete with string lighting, street signs, and giant paintings of humpback whales splashing in the ocean – looks a bit like a restaurant you might find in an aquarium. Don’t let the cheesy aesthetic fool you, this casual spot in Carson serves tasty Hawaiian staples across the board. The loco moco is one of our favorite versions in LA and their Hawaiian-style fried chicken is sweet, crunchy, and flat-out addicting. A slice of the haupia cheesecake at the end is mandatory.

King’s Hawaiian Bakery doesn’t just make the grocery store rolls we’ve been devouring at cookouts since we were kids, they’ve also got a restaurant in Torrance with pretty forgettable food. But the restaurant isn’t why you’re here – the bakery up front serves a huge variety of excellent, mostly Hawaiian pastries. The almond stars are good, and the malasadas are the biggest, fluffiest donut holes you’ll ever eat. You’ll get them to go, but probably spend a few minutes on the patio eating one by yourself before you take them back to the office.

This old-school fish counter is in a strip mall across from the StubHub Center. It’s Louisiana-style here, meaning you’ll pick between snapper, sole, catfish, or shrimp, and they’ll fry it right in front of you. Everything is available a la carte, but we like the combo specials, which get you several pieces of fish and two sides (you want the hush puppies) for well under $10.

Sushi I-Naba is like the Rainbow Road of seafood restaurants – simply put, it’s not for beginners. This tiny spot in Manhattan Beach feels less like a sushi bar and more like a meeting of the Secret Society of Seafood. For now, this place is only doing to-go orders, serving elaborate chirashi bowls in shiny, lacquered boxes that invoke the spirit of an ancient initiation rite. For $70, you can get their special nama omakase, 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 crustaceans and seafood you’ll find on dry land.

The Best Breakfast Burritos In Los Angeles guide image

LA Guide

The Best Breakfast Burritos In Los Angeles

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.

Right next door to Chori-Man is the original location of Colossus, one of LA’s best bakeries. They’re 100% committed to using only naturally leavened dough (code for no commercial yeast), and only bake using organic flour. And it shows – their country loaf is thick and doughy, the kouign-amanns are salty and sweet, and the sticky buns combine the texture of a buttery croissant with plenty of pecans. Stop by in-person to select your own fluffy baked goods, or plan ahead with one of their assorted pastry boxes – they come with six sweet treats, based on “availability, farm selection, and whims of our chefs,” and we like to think of it as a breakfast omakase.

Even during the pandemic, Izakaya Hachi maintained its title as a premier party spot. They’ve got a decently sized tent out front where you’ll find the full spectrum of the human experience, from 21-year-olds celebrating birthdays to groups of Japanese men who will ultimately outdrink everyone around them. And yet, it’s hard to nail down what exactly makes this place so special. The food’s a huge part of it – all of the 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 different dishes. Either way, if you’re looking to party like it’s 1999, or whatever year, this is the place to do it.

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