King Harbor and the Redondo Beach Pier offer a perfect seaside eating and drinking experience. Still to be scrubbed off and "spiffed up" with boring chain restaurants and the like, the sweeping area provides a real treasure with one of the west coast's largest seafood markets, rounded out by great bars like the craft beer-obsessed Naja's and old-school dive Tony's. Follow us as we tour the eating and drinking options at King Harbor and Redondo Pier in this week's strip search.
When seafood lovers die and go to heaven, it would probably look something like Quality Seafood on a day when no one else is around. Unfortunately, when it gets sunny, this mega-seafood market more closely resembles hell with its abandon-all-hope, take-a-number-and-join-the-scrum waiting system. But even waiting while melting in the sun is worth it for the incredible catch here. This pier stalwart is basically a tight network of tanks teeming with live shellfish, with an attached fish market. You pick the critter and the guys behind the counters shuck and prepare your bounty. On offer is a massive range of impeccably fresh oysters (priced at $1.50 to $2.50 each depending on the variety), local and Eastern lobsters steamed on the spot ($29 and $23, respectively) along with Dungeness, blue, and local crab ($17, $7.19, and $4.69, respectively, per pound). The market is seemingly endless, even offering typical Pier-style comfort cooking on its right flank.
But if you love shellfish, this is truly the place to be for live clams and oysters, while uni lovers are in for a very special treat. Off to the side, the crew will crack a live urchin priced at $7.99 a pound. You take your split prize to a table upstairs and scoop out some of the freshest uni you've ever tasted, while the friggin' urchin continues to wiggle its spines and crawl across the table. It's hard not to feel like Hannibal Lecter chowing down on Ray Liotta at that point, crouched over a cracked living orb scooping its five or so gonads out (for realz) while the thing lamely moves. Wow! It's seaside treasures like Quality Seafood that make the Redondo Pier a must visit, just try to get there before the summertime hordes do the same.
Quality Seafood, 130 South International Boardwalk, Redondo Beach. 310-372-6408.
If you're still scared of Troyka despite (or maybe due to) our endorsement, Gambrinus is a very approachable Russian restaurant with a wall that stays open to the harbor, bringing in breezes and giving ample opportunity to watch the scenery stroll by. Service is very friendly and they even have a few couches to cozy up on and watch the game or Friday's live jazz. The menu offers standard versions of typical Russian comfort favorites like the pink-dressing drenched salad Olivier, blini, vareiniki, and shuba salad, as well as a decent fish 'n chips. While the food is pleasant enough, the real draw is for the bar scene, which finds a number of beers bottled and on draft, including a deadly range of Russian Baltika beer that goes in number from one to nine over styles like porter, pilsner, and pale ale. The open sided entry welcomes and unites more than its share of flirty Russian ex-pats and South Bay flip-floppers.
Gambrinus, 136 N International Boardwalk, Redondo Beach. 310-376-9215.
Meal-done and it's time for your digestif. Kona Koffee offers just what its name promises, a signature blend of 100% kine Hawaiian coffee, along with various brews from across the world. It is not made to order, but it is still rich and smooth, while the place has better views than any Starbucks we know. There is also a selection of edibles like biscotti, cookies, pastries, as well as smoothies, hot chocolate, hot and cold coffee creations, and iced tea. Small and selective, but mighty.
Kona Koffee, 138 N. International Boardwalk, Redondo Beach. 310-937-5140.
If you want an incredible range of beers on tap, it's a foregone conclusion that you'll be at Naja's (along with everyone else) for its staggering selection of 88 drafts. If you're an older slightly salty local and in need of an old-school cocktail (the mai tai is a signature), you probably head to Old Tony's. The bar is full of character and characters, leaning like an aged vessel breaching on top of the Redondo Pier, inside musty and a little dark, with a true past-its-prime Reagle Beagle vibe. Head straight upstairs for incredible sea views and a circular central bar. Everybody is very friendly here, with lots of regulars and instant friendships. The food isn't particularly compelling, but the vibe is perfectly preserved seventies funk walking on water. Worth a visit for the atmosphere, views, personalities, and just to while away an hour staring at the deep blue yonder below.
Old Tony's, 210 Fisherman's Wharf, Redondo Beach. 310-374-1442.