Playa del Rey is the little town that time forgot. While Manhattan Beach to the south got all the bros and bougie homes and Venice Beach to the north got everything else, PDR slipped happily through the cracks. Not to be confused with the techie-hub Playa Vista next door, Playa del Rey is a sleepy beach enclave with the kind of laid-back, 70’s beach-bum culture that simply doesn’t exist anymore. Playa del Rey is a true LA relic.
It’s also home to some serious spots to eat and drink. From classic, old-school dive bars, to modern gastropubs, to family-run Italian joints, PDR is no longer that little area you simply pass through on your way down to Manhattan Beach. This is the area you stop and spend the day and realize everything here is way more fun anyways. PDR may be small, but there’s a lot to do here, so let’s get going. Surfs up.
Bacari is one of the newer spots in PDR, but it’s safe to say it’s been welcomed with open arms. And it’s easy to see why. The laid-back wine bar tapped into what makes this town tick - a casual, beachy atmosphere with good food and extremely reasonable prices. As in, pay $25 for a 90-minute open bar reasonable. So grab a few (or five) glasses of white, build your own cheese and meat platter, and run to the beach afterwards because life is good.
The opening of Playa Provisions was a big one for this beach community, but also one that caused concern. Was this the moment PDR would change forever? Playa Provisions is a big concept - actually, it’s four separate concepts: a casual morning coffee and brunch spot, a more upscale dinner space, an all-day ice cream shop, and a late-night whiskey bar in the back (more on that later). Needless to say, it’s got a lot going on - but it’s also surprisingly unpretentious, and the kind of landmark dining spot Playa del Rey deserves.
Say hello to the best breakfast in Playa del Rey. Cafe Milan is a strong PDR staple - stroll in on a Saturday morning and you’ll see everyone from last night’s beach BBQ trying to snag a table as well. The tiny strip mall cafe serves solid, simple breakfast at dirt cheap prices. We’re extremely partial to the breakfast burrito, but frankly everything at Cafe Milan is good. There isn’t a better way to start your weekend than soaking up some rays (and eggs) on its front patio.
Close your eyes. Now picture the most quintessential beach dive bar that has ever existed. Now open them. You were imagining Prince O’ Whales. This is a PDR classic and the type of place you go to on a Wednesday night for a beer and walk out hammered with a P.O. Box number written in pen on your palm. There’s karaoke three nights a week, live music on the weekend, beer pong in the back, and plenty of TV’s playing god knows what. This place is the heart and soul of PDR nightlife.
This old-school family Italian restaurant is not just the cornerstone of the PDR restaurant scene, it is one of our favorite Italian restaurants on the entire Westside. Owned and operated by an Italian-born, East Coast-raised family, Cantalini’s is excellent, and has remained untouched by all modern Italian trends flying around town. Think veal parmigiana, garlic gnocchi, and the best house-made ravioli you’ve had in a long time. The festive vibe inside is perfect for anything from a fun date night to dinner with your sister (and all her kids).
One thing you don’t immediately assume about Playa del Rey is that it must be home to some good pho. Let alone good pho in the back of a local convenience store. But it is. ASAP Phorage is the second location of the popular Mar Vista pho spot, located in the back corner of Gordon’s Market. It’s not going to jump out at you, so we advise seeking it out, because this is as good of pho as you’re going to find in LA - seriously. And the beef curry banh mi is a game-changer. Order from the counter and then go enjoy the tables out front.
You could probably pass Senor G’s a hundred times and never take it seriously. And that would be a huge mistake on your part. Because this tiny order-at-the-counter Mexican cafe is cranking out some seriously good Mexican food. Come in the morning for huevos rancheros and grilled cactus, or later in the day for tacos and any one of their “super” burritos. And if you’re wondering what makes them so super, just order one and you’ll understand.
Playa del Rey’s dive bar scene is a strong one, but upscale whiskey bars? Not so much. And that’s why the fourth concept in the Playa Provisions dining metropolis has proved to be such a smart one. The somewhat hidden whiskey bar (under the red light in the back) is serving over 200 different kinds of whisky, scotch, and bourbon each night, and it is glorious. The wooden interior gives it a cool, dark feel and everyone here is serious about their whisky drinking. Bar food served till midnight on the weekends doesn’t hurt either.
Del Rey Deli Co. is fairly new to the PDR scene, but we can confidently say this is the best deli sandwich you can get down here. The casual spot is cranking out both cold and hot sandwiches that will fulfill all your lunchtime needs, and that spicy turkey on pretzel bread with “the works” on tops is our go-to move. Just don’t forget about the Saturday brunch either. They’ve got a sneaky good bagel and lox situation.
Acai bowls? In Playa del Rey? The future is now people. You might not come to the sleepy beach town craving pureed fruit, but if you do, The Mad Carrot is your spot. Their smoothies are the perfect pre-beach snack, but their sandwiches and salads aren’t anything to scoff at either. The turkey reuben is excellent, and as a plus it won’t kill you nearly as quickly either. MUST ORDER: Guacamole.
It’s been a long day at the beach, everybody’s kind of hungover, and you need pizza. Make it Good Pizza. This tiny strip mall spot has some of the best pie on the Westside, let alone Playa del Rey. The service is quick, with either pickup or delivery available, and there’s really not a bad house pizza on the menu. They even do by-the-slice if you’re not in the mood to share. Just be sure to check their website for deals because you can always find something good. It’s like Domino’s, only way, way better.
Hank’s is where you go when it’s 1am, you’re a little stoned, and could seriously use some mozzarella sticks in your life. Hank’s has been catering to the local munchie crowd for over 45 years now and while nothing on the menu is life-altering, it’s all exactly what you want. And with everything from pizza to subs to buffalo wings, you’re going to find what your heart desires.
If you’re watching the game this Sunday, you’re heading to Mo’s Place to do it. The divey sports bar has won the heart of every football fan in the area with cheap drinks, excellent bar food, and flat-screen TV’s in every single direction. There’s also four pool tables and some arcade games if your team sucks and you can’t watch anymore. Just don’t miss their Monday Night Football experience - door prizes, raffles, and absolutely prime people watching.
Destini Cafe is a small, authentic Asian tea room and restaurant that Playa del Rey has no business even having. But thank god they do, because this place is excellent. You come to Destini when you’re a bit under the weather or on a rainy day to drink some tea (over 20 varieties) and eat some fantastic bibimbap. The service is excellent and the serene, low-key patio right next to the wetlands is exactly what the doctor prescribed.
While Prince O’ Whales and Mo’s will always be the major players in PDR’s dive bar scene, it’s The Harbor Room that’s perhaps most iconic. This wedge of a bar is smaller than most people’s bathrooms, there’s a sign out front that reads “Open but don’t expect too much!”, and the vested bartender inside has probably been pouring cocktails since before your parents were born. This is all-around excellence. Harbor Room is where you go when you want nothing more than a strongly-poured, well-made cocktail and to reminiscence about a time when that was the purpose of most bars.
There’s nothing like waking up on a foggy Sunday morning in Playa (because you drank too much last night and also because it’s actually foggy out), and heading to Tanner’s for some coffee. This local joint has been serving good, strong coffee to PDR for a while, and its eclectic vibe inside makes it the perfect spot to post up and enjoy the morning. The pastries are solid, and there’s wifi if you want to bring your laptop and get some work done, too.