I kept saying that I was going to LA. And when I got back I kept referencing the "trip to LA." I'm not really sure how the geographical and cultural boundaries work out there, but it occurred to me that spending time in Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Laguna Beach, perhaps meant that I wasn't in Los Angeles at all. Is that the case? Someone tell me.
Either way, after landing in LA (I assume LAX is considered to be in "LA"), I knew the one between me and lunch was getting the rental car. I had been obsessing over this transaction since sitting in Newark. This is just about always a hassle (SFO has to be the absolute worst that I've experienced), for some reason that is beyond me. However, being a Hertz Gold member actually paid off this time: the car was waiting with the keys in it (although my name wasn't on the board, and I had to go inside, and get on one of the virtual customer rep things, and then go wait in the Gold line after that). Will wonders never cease. Then it was off to the very lovely Beach House in Hermosa Beach to unload, and off to lunch.
I was looking for something near the water, with tacos, cocktails, a view, some local beers, interesting food, a clean and focused menu, and bar dining, because bar dining is always preferable. I'm very easy to please. Some quick googling yielded The Strand House, in Manhattan Beach. The menu looked pretty damned interesting to my starving eyes, and included a burger, fish tacos, hamachi crudo, charcuterie, and a few cocktails ta boot. Turned out to be very pleasant.
The Strand house has a glorious view of the beach and Manhattan Beach Pier. <aside>Since it is me we're talking about, it was of course cold, windy, and raining. Palm tree-bending windy and rainy. No matter where I go, the weather is shitty. I cannot remember how many times I've heard "this is so weird, it never rains here" during my travels to places where it was raining but where it doesn't ever rain.</aside> The bar is situated upstairs, raised above the adjacent dining area, and was manned by a very friendly and competent fellow. <aside>Everyone during this trip was so nice, I got the feeling they were putting it all on, just for me. But I don't think that's the case. I think people are just generally nice in that part of the world.</aside>
A rum drink sounded like a good idea, in the form of a strawberry mojito type of deal. Served in a tall glass, made with fresh fruit and herbs, this was a very refreshing and well-balanced drink. The cocktail list seemed to skew toward the sweet end of the spectrum, but as I generally say, if you're on or near a beach, some sugar and seltzer in your cocktail isn't a bad idea. You'll not find me drinking a Manhattan on the beach, for example.
The fish tacos were speaking to me, since one of my goals was to eat as many tacos as possible on this trip. And I like fish tacos and can't get decent ones in NJ. But the bartender and server noted that the barbacoa tacos were the way to go ("barbacoa, all day long" was the phrase used...a phrase I've since tried to incorporate into my own vernacular, unsuccessfully). Long time cooked short rib, salsa verde, guacamole, onions, cilantro, on corn tortillas. The bartender and server did not steer me wrong. Moist, juicy, messy, and deeply satisfying. I should note that these were served with a reasonably sized side of beans, with a bit of queso fresco, rather than the obscene amount too often served. I ran into those off-putting portions later during the trip.
I was still hungry and overheard some discussion with some other customers around how good the frites are at The Strand House. I figured they'd make a good dessert, and placed an order. The plate was huge, the frites seemed to be of the frozen variety, rather than the hand-cut twice-cooked fresh version that I had envisioned. They were fried to crisp and well-seasoned, and went perfectly fine with the glass of prosecco. But I would have preferred more interesting frites.
As I finished up the meal, I was convinced I'd be back to the Strand House during the trip, as there was more to try, and I really did enjoy my experience. But there were too many restaurants, too little time, and too many pictures to be taken elsewhere. Never made it back, but I hope to at some point.
The Strand House : 117 Manhattan Beach Blvd : Manhattan Beach, CA : 310.545.7470
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