REDONDO BEACH, Calif. (KGET) — On a gorgeous Saturday morning, the temperature in the low 70s with the sky devoid of clouds, the mountains appearing crisp and clear in the distance, I got on the 99 and drove slightly more than two hours to L.A.’s South Bay region.
My destination: Redondo Beach. The first surprise I encountered was a sign notifying me I had entered the city of Manhattan Beach. The fault lay with the driver, not the directions.
After some backtracking I arrived at my destination, which thankfully had ample parking in a massive garage located below the pier. Years ago I made a beach trip to Orange County in which I caught a glimpse of the sand and waves but never got out of my car as there didn’t seem to be an open parking spot within three miles of the ocean. Beach parking can try the patience of a saint.
I walked the pier, looked in the usual souvenir shops selling jewelry, T-shirts and overpriced knick-knacks. There were far fewer people than I’d expected for such a beautiful day.
The exception was the line outside Quality Seafood Inc., which stretched dozens deep, leaving customers with an hour-long wait to decide on their order.
I was ravenous by the time I got to the front of the line, and bought a 10-piece order of fried shrimp, a small order of fried calamari and a dish called “Cassie’s Mussels.”
The fried shrimp had far too much coating, nearly a three-to-one-ratio of breading to shellfish. The calamari was better, but slightly rubbery.
Best were the mussels, cooked in a tomato broth with spicy chicken sausage, served with garlic bread on the side. Not bad, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the red, garlicky broths loaded with mussels available at Italian restaurants in the New England area.
Next was the highlight of the trip, a place I hadn’t even planned on going until colleague Nicole Gitzke said she’d be heartbroken if I didn’t stop there. The possibility of tears was mentioned.
Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream & Yogurt, just south of Redondo, is a chain that began in 1945 in Ohio and now has locations in 10 states. Dozens of inventive flavors are offered, including a cotton candy ice cream that Gitzke described in terms bordering on the mythic.
I chose a four-scoop sampler, a bargain at $7.95, and tried the cotton candy flavor along with banana cream pie, “graham central station” and strawberry. The banana cream pie was the standout, perfectly capturing the flavor with no hint of artificial flavoring.
With lunch and dessert in my stomach, I drove to The Boy & The Bear, a coffee shop that uses only Colombian-grown beans. Colombia is widely considered to have the best coffee beans in the world, so I had no complaints.
A “Nordic Lights” cold brew latte in hand, I settled myself in a chair with a book and read for an hour. The latte was strong, the novel — a tale of murder and political intrigue in the Victorian era — compelling.
Lastly, another stop on the Pacific Coast Highway for poke as close as you can find to what’s served in Hawaii without paying for a plane ticket. Jus’ Poke’s fish is justifiably acclaimed, but I also marveled at the ultra-crisp homemade pickles offered as a side.
Afterward, I got back on the freeway and headed home. The short trip lived up to expectations, filled with sunshine and fresh ocean air. Not even a two-hour backup on northbound 99 could dampen my spirits for long.