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Iconic Neighborhood Restaurants: Manhattan Beach

The abridged story behind the christening of Manhattan Beach goes that early 20th century land developer John Merrill won the right to name it after his metropolitan hometown though a successful coin toss. However, the city is diametrically opposite of its namesake, reflecting divergences in attitude and lifestyle. Whereas a suit and tie is de rigueur in Manhattan, a pair of swim trunks and flip flops as uniform isn't an uncommon sight in this beach city.

Though disparate in address and style, the two cities do nevertheless share similarities with comparatively pricier properties in their respective regions. While Manhattan Beach's oceanside real estate tows on the higher listing end, its various inland neighborhoods aren't exactly inexpensive. The current median real estate sales price hovers above $1.9 million, according to Trulia.

Photo: Christine Chiao

Photo: Christine Chiao

Since it incorporated a little over a century ago, the city's downtown has become a popular destination for tourists and staycationers alike. There's an active outdoor sports scene that revolves around volleyball and surfing. It's also one of the prettier parts of the county. A picturesque pier sits at the end of the sloping Manhattan Beach Boulevard, noticeable from miles away. It bisects a well-filmed beachfront, which includes a 2.1-mile pedestrian walkway alongside some of the tonier homes in Manhattan Beach.

If the prevalence of breakfast-mostly joints is any indication, there's a particular appreciation for breakfast in this coastal community. Especially on weekends, you'll see lines of folks at restaurants on Highland Avenue or Manhattan Boulevard waiting for a blueberry short stack or a fully-loaded omelette. The general bustle dwindles by nightfall, as revelers retreat indoors to nearby restaurants and dive bars.

 

Photo: Christine Chiao

Photo: Christine Chiao

The Kettle: In Manhattan Beach, all culinary roads are somehow connected to The Kettle, the cornerstone of the Simms' family restaurant empire that bore Simmzy's, Tin Roof Bistro, and Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar, among others. If the Mimi's Café chain is included, their influence expands well past the South Bay. On one of the city's main commercial thoroughfares, The Kettle anchors the neighborhood, having dished modern American comfort breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the past 42 years or so. The 24-hour diner is even open on Thanksgiving, serving a three-course set with traditional fixings. 1138 Highland Ave, (310) 545-8511

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Uncle Bill's Pancake House: Established in 1961, Uncle Bill's Pancake House is a study in chaotic order. The servers, managed by the Van Amburgh family, may as well be performing a daily high-wire act from early mornings to 3 p.m. Every meal comes with the entertainment of witnessing them zippily weaving through tabletops with several platters perilously propped across each arm. 1305 Highland Ave, (310) 545-5177

 

Photo: M.B. Post

Photo: M.B. Post

M.B. Post : David LeFevre's M.B. Post is consistently praised by food enthusiasts and critics alike.The crowds haven't stopped forming for seasonal small-plates dinner or brunch at the four-year-old restaurant, which might otherwise be too young to be considered iconic if not for its impact. If the Kettle has been a longstanding beacon in the neighborhood, M.B. Post could very well be a lighter, helping ignite the town's otherwise sleepy scene. LeFevre's repeated the effect without reproducing the concept with Fishing With Dynamite around the corner, as well as newer restaurant (and steakhouse) Arthur J a few blocks away. 1142 Manhattan Ave., (310) 545-5405

 

Becker's Bakery: Though it's not a restaurant, Becker's Bakery is no less essential in the conversation on what feeds the locals. Since the early 1940s, many South Bay residents and restaurants have relied on the family bakery (founded by Harry Becker and his uncle Harry Neuman) for freshly baked breads, cakes and pastries -- among which the squaw bread is a signature. The bakery expanded with a deli in 1992 to offer made-to-order sandwiches. 1025 Manhattan Ave, (310) 372-3214

 

Sloopy's: Peter and Helen Kim have been running the 48-year-old Sloopy's since they took it over in 1990. Away from the more tourist-heavy Strand, Sloopy's caters to a crowd more local than not, equally fond of its somewhat eccentric décor and the motley of contemporary American standards. The latter runs the gamut from classic diner requisites like cheeseburger and fries to Californian fare like huevos rancheros or a vegetarian sandwich with hummus and alfalfa sprouts dubbed "Tree Hugger." 3416 Highland Ave., (310) 545-1373.

Honorable Mentions: Mama D's, Shellback Tavern, Ercole's, Pancho's, El Tarasco, Old Venice, and the Local Yolk.

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