Downtown & North Manhattan’s Top Watering Holes
Want to party in Los Angeles? Then head to Manhattan Beach.
Longboarders and shortboarders have long known Manhattan Beach to be the center of surfing in the South Bay. Yet it is also the birthplace of beach volleyball and represents the true culture of a Southern California beach city.
Manhattan Beach is place is full of history. The Beach Boys lived here and many actors, actresses and athletes come for its legendary bars. It is, first, foremost and forever, a casual surf community.
With a Beverly Hills budget.
No matter the place, feel free to go out in shorts and sandals. Men have been dressing in those Charlie Harper shirts and shorts for years. Girls always dress up more than the guys, something they have complained about for decades, but the men just shrug because they like the “hang loose” feel of going out casually in in this fun and relaxed beach community.
Manhattan has two bar areas, downtown and the north end (also referred to as El Porto in recognition of its colorful past). Downtown used to the THE party spot in all of California, but when neighboring Hermosa opened up Pier Ave., the heavy party crowd headed to HB.
Manhattan may be a bit more mellow than its sister to the south but the crowd is local and kicked-back.
And people here can definitely party, especially after one of the major downtown events (Manhattan Open, Hometown Fair, Holiday fireworks).
And it doesn’t all happen after the sun goes down.Click here for the Best Happy Hour Bars in the South Bay.
Manhattan Beach Downtown Nightlife
An intoxicating mix of bar greet PubClubbers in downtown Manhattan Beach. From seaside dives to restaurant/bars and upscale lounges, this four-block area looking down on the Manhattan Beach Pier is dynamically diverse.
It’s a friendly place, laid-back and slam ’em back, as comfortable as the crowd primarily in shorts, sandals and tees would indicate.
Where are all those passersby heading to on Manhattan Beach Blvd? To Shellback Tavern, of course! The first bar off the beach, Shellback is a rustic dive that is much a part of the landscape and culture of downtown at the beach. It’s where tired and thirsty volleyball players go on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, joined by equally thirsty rollerbladers and bike riders.
They enjoy thermostat-controlled chilled beer (oh so nice after a day on the volleyball courts) and “beach pours” on cocktails. After the sun sets over the Pacific, this classic pub with the best jukebox in town can become an all-night party. Lately, it’s been the roaring 20s on weekends; that is, people in their 20s are packing the place.
With its motto of “No Bad Days,” Shellback can help start those days with the Best Bloody Marys on the Beach, ideal with its awecome omlettes.
It also has the South Bay’s Best Fish Taco, the incredibly awesome (is that a good enough description!?) San Felipe fish taco. $2.75. And worth every. Delicious. Bite.
Locals often become human pinballs between “the Shell” and the other bars near the Pier. Right across the street, in fact, is the new hot spot, Strand House, an upscale restaurant/bar right at the Pier. How upscale? Beers are $9, and it’s $11 for wine and $13 for mixed drinks.
Dinner? Delicious, but put it on the expense account. The place is really nice and it’s got the buzz at the moment. For those familiar with the area, it’s formerly Beaches.
There are lines around the block for the bar on weekends and getting table for dinner can take two hours on Friday or Saturday night. The place is beautiful and elegant – a far cry from what the location was when PubClub.com first moved to town (La Paz!) – and there’s no shorts or hats after 9 p.m. The lone complaint is that the bar area is very loud.
One doesn’t have to love beer to love Simmzy’s. But it helps. A beer and wine bar, it has 24 beers on tap priced at $6-7, an adequate menu of burgers, salads and sandwiches (plus breakfast until 2:30 on weekends).
Yet its best attributes are its “come in and just have fun” attitude and patio overlooking Manhattan Beach Blvd. With only about a dozen tables, the place is small but the intimate atmosphere invites friendly bantering between other patrons and the open doors give the place an indoor-outdoor feel even at the bar. It’s fun for lunch, dinner or drinks and because of all this it’s wildly popular.
The best drink in town is The PubClubette at the small bar of the nice Italian restaurant, Mangiamo. Mixed to expertise by bartender Wayne, it’s a tribute to PubClub.com’s PubClubettes, it’s a potent and unique martini, the Best Mixed Drink in Manhattan.
Mangiamo is a small, quiet bar popular among some locals who call it home. It’s sometimes called the “fish bowl,” because of its big window that looks out over Manhattan Beach Blvd. It’s a positive attribute; this is a good place and a PubClub favorite drinking spot.
Rock ‘N Fish is a terrific seafood restaurant with a bar that is often as popular as the food. After about 10, the diners give way to drinkers and this has become one of the beach’s best “upscale” hangouts (keep in mind, it’s the beach). The part-owner is also involved with the Brewco (formerly Manhattan beach Brewing) next door as well as Strand House, Shade and Mucho’s (keep reading).
They’ve got it made at Shade’s Zinc Bar at the upscale downtown hotel.
Some say when you live in Manhattan, you have it made in the shade. Perhaps they are just hangin’ out in the lobby bar of the upscale hotel Shade.
The bar, called the Zinc Lounge, brings in the nicely-dressed crowd, and not always from the South Bay. If there’s a celebrity hangout in the South Bay, this is the place. The space is well designed, comfortable and offers couches for seating and places for leaning. Drinks are pricey ($7 for beers, up to $14 for some martinis) so the clientele is often more mature than anywhere else in the predominately mid-20s beach cities bars. In fact, there’s more cougars prowling in Shade than in the Santa Monica mountains. But there’s also younger cats in this fun crowd, too.
Shade, which by archaic Manhattan Beach liquor laws for new bars must give last call by 11, is in a newly developed section of downtown Manhattan. The area includes an upscale Greek restaurant, a bakery, deli and the kinds of eclectic shops that make one wonder how the heck they stay in business (though $500 tables and chairs at the furniture store could explain a lot). What it does is create a ripple-down effect to give neighboring bars a lively life after-11 life.
One prime example is Shark’s Cove. Shark’s Cove is a combination of pub and nightlife in a single setting. A sports bar by light of day, it puts a small band in on weekends, has plasma TVs everywhere – even at some of the booths – and behind the bar is a really cool blue light panel that, at first glance from a distance, appears to be an aquarium.
This gives the place a club-type feel but it’s still casual and comfortable and later at night it cranks with live music and a very fun crowd. There’s 18 beers on tap, too.
Still, many of those from Shade prefer to make the 5-minute walk down to Manhattan Ave., to local landmark Ercoles.
Our vote as L.A.’s Best Dive Bar, Erc’s serves cheap drinks, has a classic jukebox, wooden booths and a pool table. This cozy atmosphere picks up at midnight and goes to closing at 1:30. Both here and at the Shell, the crowd is comprised fun people who like to drink, mingle and meet in a shorts-and-sandals casual climate (Erc’s after midnight is mainly a 30s crowd). T
he hamburgers, so juicy it takes a stack of napkins to stay clean, are unarguably the Best in the World. Those awesome burgers are two-for-one on Wednesday nights.
The cool and hip Downstairs Bar across from Erc’s is a small yet energetic lounge/club with a wild Cajun heritage bartender named Morgan.
It’s only about the size of your living room but is as popular as your best wine party. The crowd and atmosphere is upscale but it pulls it off without pretension. This small place has a DJ playing really cool “almost club” tunes, meaning its a bit Euro but not the thump-thump-thump of a big nightclub. It’s best to get there before 10:30 to avoid the inevitable line. Lucky girls who arrive early get a seat on the cozy blue couch.
The long-standing traditional Manhattan Beach bar is Hennessey’s. Back in the day, South Bay’s singles would swarm the place for dollar beers on Thursdays. The guys would get there an hour or two before the special expired at 8, and the girls would roll in just after 8. And be handed a dollar beer! (Often, they were expecting more but hey, it’s the way we roll at the beach.)
Now PubClub hardly ever goes into Hennessey’s since they put up that damned wall between the diners and the drinkers.
North Manhattan/El Porto Bars Reviews
Once a town of it’s own identity, the north end of Manhattan Beach is known to locals as El Porto. It runs from just south of Rosecrans to 45th Street.
The focal point is Sharkeez. The parent of the Hermosa establishment, this is the original location (others are in Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and Santa Barbara). It features a tropical decor, potent drinks and the same festive atmosphere as its siblings. The crowd is mostly locals who walk in and stagger home.
There’s almost always something going on at Sharkeez – a sporting event, birthday party, work celebration or bachelor or bachlorette bash. Happy Hours featuring 2-for-1s until 7 p.m.
Tuesdays feature Taco Tuesday and when the sorority girls from Loyola Maramount come in for their regular socials– which is nearly every Thursday – it’s like walking into a Bud Light commercial.
OB’s is a pub for local dwellers who like the 50 bottled and 10 draft beer selections. On Tuesdays, it’s SRO for the South Bay’s Best Taco Tuesday.
Be patient and grab a drink while waiting for a table to clear; it’s worth the wait. The tacos – chicken, fish and marinated beef – are huge; two is plenty even for big appetites (scarf down 10 and earn your name on a plaque). This is complemented by $1 domestic drafts and margarita specials.
On other nights, OB’s huge bottled beer selection is a draw, as is the varied menu. Wednesday is stirfry night and it’s an awesome meal and Thursdays’ “Burger and beer” night is also popular.
The BBQ sandwich is so good one might think they are in Texas (except the hot waitresses are not in cowboy hats and just about everyone is wearing sandals). This is a pub-type place, great for watching sports and hangin’ loose, like the surfboard logo indicates.
There are no lines and no cover, but a crowded bar, across the streets at Pancho’s. A Mexican restaurant with a small cantina, it has had hot live music on weekends with a young, hip crowd.
Pancho’s is a rock n’ roll all-star show with bands featuring, among others, the guitar player from Tom Petty, the drummer from Styx, the bass player from Kenny Loggins, you name it (the primary drummer, Jimmy Paxson, has toured with Stevie Nicks, Edgar Winter, Keiko Matsui, Alanis Morrisette, Rod Stewart, among others).
Even Jay Spell of Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band (with Michael Utley in the audience) has been jamming on the small stage. Sometimes, the bands just blow the roof off the place! Day of Daze is the regular band with great rock covers.
The bar is small and it’s often shoulder-to-shoulder but for up-close live rock it’s awesome. After Taco Tuesday at OB’s, many people go to Pancho’s for karaoke, their singing inhibitions largely removed by those OB’s drink specials.
Just across Rosecrans, FishBar is yes, a seafood restaurant. But the place in the original Sharkeez location is also a bar, and it’s been cranking on Fridays for its Happy Hour with half-priced drinks (5-6:30 p.m.). Plus weekend nights are good for singles sitting at the bar after the diners are dwindling down starting about 9.
The food is fantastic and the people pack the place. Expect to wait close to an hour for a table on Friday nights, it’s so busy. That’s a tribute to the owner, who has welcomed locals with open arms, the chef and the employees who are constantly smiling. Some Sharkeez regulars eve come here to have drinks and watch sports, they are so comfortable in the place.