Developers John Merrill and George Peck flipped a coin in 1901, or so the story goes, to see who would name the beach enclave. Merrill, a New Yorker by birth, won. These days the real estate between El Segundo to the north and Hermosa Beach to the south is among the county’s priciest. The 91-year- old pier remains a much photographed spot, and in its shadows the sport of beach volleyball came of age. The town was a bedroom community for the aerospace industry, while artisans flocked to work at the Metlox pottery factory after it opened in 1927. The plant is now the site of a luxe retail plaza that mirrors the showy homes.
1. A Team Shoe Shop
At Adrian Vaughan’s shop, the retro Nike, Asic, Converse, and Onitsuka models are displayed like art, and the staff can give you chapter and verse on anything you touch. Dress sneakers are de rigueur, and the basketball pros who call the town home will find their sizes here. » 1112 Manhattan Ave., 310-376-0100.
2. Manhattan Beach Creamery
Summertime, and the eatin’ is easy at this old-school emporium, where aficionados of the house-made ice cream, sorbet, sherbet, and nonfat frozen yogurt perch on white patent leather chairs and watch the sun move across the Pacific. We’re fans of the frozen bananas, covered in chocolate, and of the ice cream sandwiches, too. » 1120 Manhattan Ave., 310-372-1155.
The brothers Simms (Chris and Mike) are behind this new-kid-on-the-block pub dedicated to craft beers (24 rotating taps) and boutique wines. That the burger can be dressed up with balsamic roasted shiitakes and blue cheese fries is another clue this place doesn’t produce your standard bar fare. The design is reminiscent of a Southern juke joint—all wood and open to the street. » 229 Manhattan Beach Blvd., 310-546-1201.
The modernist patio and minimalist interior—outfitted in shades of beige—are packed with devotees of the haute Greek cuisine. Epirus cheeses are among the standouts, starting with the spicy kafteri dip. There’s a dress code after 5. » Metlox, 451 Manhattan Beach Blvd., 310-545-4100.
5. Pages: A Bookstore
Leather chairs and a bean- bag-filled children’s nook encourage lingering. The shop offers a weekly storytime session and regular author appearances (Mona Simpson, Kelly Corrigan, Lisa See). The surfing section is rad, naturally. Coffee and doughnuts are served just inside the Dutch doors, and the selection of special occasion cards is praise-worthy. » 904 Manhattan Ave., 310-318-0900.
6. Manhattan Denim
Impromptu wine tasting is part of the allure at this shrine to denim. The music is turned up to dance volume, and the necklaces and earrings sparkle in test tube displays. Obtain a frequent-buyer card and your 11th pair of Rockstars or Joe’s is free. Dark flip- flops—an essential piece of the teenage uniform—spill out of suitcases on the floor. » 920 Manhattan Ave., 310-798-5326.
7. Tabula Rasa Essentials
The lotions, potions, candles, and gifts have a beachy bent. Southern California native Jessica Kernochan’s LaLicious line is available, as are Malibu gal Gaye Straza’s gardenia-infused Kai products. » 919 Manhattan Ave., Ste. A, 310-318-3385.
Caryn Van Dyke’s boutiques wed New York chic with L.A. casual. The Manhattan Avenue store focuses on clothing, the Highland Avenue site on accessories. Local designs include T Los Angeles boyfriend shirts and Hammitt handbags. » 1014 Manhattan Ave., 310-376-5450; 1146 Highland Ave., 310-545- 2264.
This home decor shop does indeed sell seashells—of the large, polished variety—by the seashore. At Jill Johnson and Suzanne Ascher’s whitewashed cottage, bright pillows dress up classically muted furniture, and wall hangings invoke the names of surfing locales. Even the coffee-table books follow an ocean theme. Johnson or Ascher is usually on-site to help shoppers choose from the fabric samples displayed along the walls. » Metlox, 451 Manhattan Beach Blvd., 310-545-3175.
Just the Facts
Population: 34,000. Local landmark: The old Manhattan Beach lives on at Ercole’s, a classic dive bar that opened in 1927 and does not take credit cards. Pay to stay: Bring lots of change, go to the lowest level of the Metlox parking structure, and buy up to ten hours. Good sports: Clipper phenom Blake Griffin and Laker stalwarts Luke Walton and Brian Shaw are among the many pro athletes who reside here. Star turns: Look for the pier in the film version of Starsky & Hutch, in the finale of Falling Down, and in a Point Break cameo.
Photographs by Lisa Romerein