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Seafood platter at Fishing With DynamiteEXPAND
Seafood platter at Fishing With Dynamite
Christina Gilmour

From Chicken & Waffles to Upscale Seafood: The Best Food & Drink in Southern L.A.

Read about this year's Best of L.A. Food & Drink issue here.

Best Upscale Fresh Seafood: Fishing With Dynamite

Fishing With Dynamite, a small, bustling lunch and dinner restaurant in downtown Manhattan Beach, serves tantalizing seafood to thrilled-to-have-a-reservation diners seated at close-set tables. The cleverly arranged menu offers several types of oysters with Littleneck clams and Peruvian scallops from the raw bar. Combination platters in three sizes ranging from "S.S. Minnow" to "Mothershucker" include oysters, clams, shrimp, lobster and mussels, with king crab legs on the larger serving. Chowder, crab cakes and shrimp or soft-shell crab (seasonal) po' boy sandwiches are listed on the menu as "Old School." The "New School" section includes grilled octopus, yellowfin tuna tataki and hamachi. Chilaquiles, shrimp and grits, and crab Benedict are featured at weekend brunch. Service is cheerful and professional, and dishes are artfully presented along with cocktails, beer and wines by the glass. —Patricia Doherty

1148 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach; (310) 893-6299, eatfwd.com.

Best All-Day Restaurant & Lounge: Sea Level @ Shade

Hotel restaurants have taken giant steps forward in food and ambiance, and Sea Level @ Shade in Redondo Beach is a prime example. Overlooking a colorful marina with boats of all sizes and views from Palos Verdes to Malibu, Sea Level offers dining inside or outside, at a communal table, bar or fire pit. Extensive breakfast choices from omelets to carnitas huevos rancheros come with an offer of bottomless bloody marys or bubbly. Return for lunch or Shade Hour, from 3 to 6 p.m., when a selection of appetizers and beverages is half-price. Dinner favorites include lobster mac & cheese, pan-roasted Alaskan halibut and Angus Sea Level burger. Pizzas, the raw bar or chef's board charcuterie are perfect for light dining. Service is friendly and casual; valet parking is available. —Patricia Doherty

655 N. Harbor Drive, Redondo Beach; (310) 921-8940, rb.shadehotel.com/dine/

MiddleBar MaryEXPAND
MiddleBar Mary
Michele Stueven

Best Bloody Mary: MiddleBar

The MiddleBar Mary is adorned with a spicy and crunchy mix of pickled celery, green beans, onions and cucumbers and is made with the restaurant's custom infused herbal vodka. All the vegetables are pickled in-house by co-owner Corrie Scully, who went to a fermentation academy to become a master pickler. The concoction holds the honor of winning the People's Choice Best Bloody Mary at the 2017 Bloody Mary Fest in Los Angeles. Head in on the weekends for the jazz and gospel brunch Saturdays and Sundays, and Soulful Saturday nights in the tiny corner stage. —Michele Stueven

MiddleBar., 129 N. Market St., Inglewood; (323) 454-7577, middlebar.com.

Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen beignets
Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen beignets
Susan Hornik

Best Latte Selection: Hilltop Coffee & Kitchen

Hilltop Coffee & Kitchen has such a creative, cozy vibe that you might just be tempted to spend hours there writing your novel/screenplay/TV series. The cafe offers a choice of lattes — turmeric, chai, lavender and matcha — all of which are delicious, hot or cold. And there is a lovely assortment of cold-pressed juices to energize you. If you're there for lunch, pair the latte with Hilltop's tasty poached tuna melt "droptop," a "hearty toast" made with olive oil, capers, lemon aioli, sliced tomato and provolone. Or try the house-cured smoked salmon droptop, which has basil cream cheese, pickled red onion, capers, soft-boiled egg, dill and cucumber, For dessert, the Nutella beignets are to die for! Plenty of free parking in the back. —Susan Hornik

4427 W. Slauson Ave., View Park- Windsor Hills; (323) 815-9833, findyourhilltop.com.

Best Fish Fest: San Pedro Fish Market

San Pedro Fish Market is a high-energy waterfront madhouse but worth it if you're looking to get up to your elbows in fresh fish. The largest restaurant in California, the deck alone seats 2,000. Line up at the counter, choose your fish from the massive seafood case and tell them how you want it cooked — grilled, fried, sauteed, spicy, in a sandwich. It will arrive mounded up on a family-style tray. You can choose your own crab or lobster from the crab tank (local spiny lobster season starts this month). On the weekends there are three fajita stands, where you can also order the famous shrimp trays made with jumbo shrimp sauteed with tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and potatoes, served with garlic bread. Or create your own with anything from Alaskan snow crab and king crab to squid or a whole deep-fried Mexican red snapper. The sky is literally the limit at this most Instagrammed restaurant for seafood. —Michele Stueven

1190 Nagoya Way, San Pedro; (310) 832-4251, sanpedrofish.com/locations/san-pedro-fish-market

Chicken and waffles at Pann's
Chicken and waffles at Pann's
Anne Fishbein

Best Chicken and Waffles: Pann's

One of our city's most iconic diners, Pann's in Inglewood is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. The business has been run by the Panagopoulos family since it opened in 1958. (The family also owned the similar-looking Hawthorne diner made famous in Pulp Fiction, which has since been torn down.) Grab a seat at the counter for quick service or settle into one of the red Naugahyde booths at the classic Googie-style coffee shop. The burgers are great, but nothing beats the chicken and waffles made with the original fried chicken recipe. Yes, everyone has their favorite around town, but Pann's comes with wings, so it's a sublime mix of crunchy and soft to go with savory and sweet. —Michele Stueven

6710 La Tijera Blvd., Westchester; (323) 776-3770, panns.com.

Best Ice Cream Sandwich: The Baked Bear

The Baked Bear originated in San Diego and now has locations in California, Utah, Arizona and Nevada. Hermosa Beach is lucky to have a bear in the neighborhood. Monstrous ice cream sandwiches are baked in-house and made from original cookie recipes like chocolate chip, peanut butter, snickerdoodle and cinnamon. Ice cream is available in bear batter, birthday cake, blackberry crumble, espresso bean, salted caramel and other rotating flavors. Build your own beast and top it with brownie bits, Fruity Pebbles, hot fudge, whipped cream and other sweet things that crunch. —Michele Stueven

49-A Pier Way, Hermosa Beach; (858) 886-7433, thebakedbear.com/ hermosa-beach/.

Best Hawaiian Food: Island Flavor Cafe

When true islanders want a taste of home they make their way to Torrance's Island Flavor Cafe for some pork laulau or furikake chicken. The kalbi short ribs plate comes with four nice-sized ribs, macaroni salad and rice. There's Hawaiian, shoyu, sesame, furikake and avo-style poké, which also come in bowls and plates. The kalua pork and steamed cabbage is a house favorite. Wash it all down with a Hawaiian Sun passion fruit juice. —Michele Stueven

16300 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance; (310) 324-2612, facebook.com/pages/ Island-Flavor-Cafe/223368055115492.

Best Classic Bar: Ercoles 1101

This quintessential old-man bar in the South Bay hasn't changed much since its doors first swung open in the late 1920s. Ercoles 1101 is the kind of place where everyone really does know your name, and familiar faces are greeted with a cold beer before they even sit down. Since it's football season, Monday nights are the time to head on over for free chili dogs. Enjoy the raucous roar as the upturned faces bask in the pale blue glow of TV screens. Cash only. —Janelle Bennet

1101 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach; (310) 372-1997.

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