Sandwiched between Redondo Beach and Palos Verdes, many people don’t realize that Torrance, California has an incredible food and craft beer scene. One of the largest Japanese populations outside of Hawaii in America exists here too influencing the cuisine in major ways. Just 10 miles from LAX and 17 miles north of Long Beach Airport, Torrance is the place to enjoy your hops in your flip flops!
Beside over 400 unique dining options and 12 microbreweries, get to know Torrance by spending a day at Torrance’s 1.5 mile beach because most days here average 72 degrees. Walk the historic Downtown (Old Torrance) where starting in 1915 “Big Red Cars” (the trolley system) stopped and shuffled people back and forth to LA. Gain a deeper sense of the past with a visit to the Torrance Historical Society Museum or admire or dine at one of the longtime California based chains such as Foster’s Old Fashion Freeze serving ice cream and burgers.
Torrance is also the backdrop to hundreds of TV and movie appearances like Beverly Hills 90210, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Boogie Nights. Notable celebrity natives include Quentin Tarantino, Chuck Norris, Michelle Kwan, and Chloe Kim
And if you are itching to shop, score some goodies at Del Amo Fashion Center, the largest shopping mall in America. Out of towners will want to check out the California Welcome Center inside to help plan their Golden State journey.
Dive into diverse cuisine
Start your morning with a taste of Hawaii at King’s Hawaiian Bakery & Restaurant famous for their sweet King’s Hawaiian bread sold at grocery stores, but here it is served as the Famous French Toast with a side of fried spam or Portuguese sausage. Since 1950 they’ve been baking delicious bread (once sold in round shaped tins) and since 1977 their headquarters moved from Hilo, Hawaii to Torrance. Add an order of Macadamia Nut Onion Rings and consider sharing dishes from the dreamy Aloha menu like Loco Moco, Lava Bulgogi, Kahlua Pork, Miso Salmon, Chicken Katsu, or Kalbi Ribs.
For a unique selection of fresh fish, get your chopsticks ready at Kappo Irifune, a female chef-owned sushi restaurant with amazing specials and prices and a large selection of the Japanese distilled spirit shochu. For uni lovers, don’t miss dining at Miyabi Uni for top quality sushi and loads of uni options. Sea urchins can be found in miso soup, blended in pasta, atop oysters, in shooters, and part of a generous bowl of sashimi. The prices here can’t be beat for that ocean flavor and Happy Hour sometimes is all day offering $4 sakes and $4 Sapporo beer.
Considered the ramen capital of Southern California, seek out a traditional ramen experience at Hikata Ikkousha, the only one in the US outside of Tokyo. Known for winning number one at Ramen Championship for 2 years, this low-key ramen joint allows you to create a custom bowl or order popular bowls like the God Fire or Black Garlic Tonkotsu. In Downtown Torrance discover Ichimi Ann Bamboo Garden serving inexpensive bowls of udon and ramen. Locals let us know about Meiji Tofu (that is also sold at Mitsuwa) where tofu is made fresh and sold out of a little window til noon. For $5 pick up the Supreme Tofu that we have seen at high end restaurants. For Italian lovers, reserve a table at Gaetano’s Restaurant for homemade pastas like Tagliatelle and Chianti Short Ribs or Lasagne with a Tiramisu finale.
Pick up meals to-go or the best Japanese products at Mitsuwa Marketplace
Transport yourself to the best of Japan with ready to go Japanese dishes like salmon sashimi bowls, yellowtail sashimi, fried pork bento boxes, sea urchin, ramen bowls, sushi, chicken katsu, fried gyoza, and more. Take home beauty products, meals from the food court area or amazing products like specialty sauces, packaged miso marinated black cod, blue fin tuna or luscious cuts of salmon. Find a stellar selection of interesting sauces, saki and Japanese whiskey too.
Discover fresh produce, unique culinary products, and yummy bites at the Torrance Farmer’s Market.
One of the best ways to get to know an area is through their farmer’s market. The Torrance Farmer’s Market is the largest market in the Los Angeles South Bay. The year-round market takes place every Tuesday and Saturday at Charles Wilson Park. An incredible selection of local produce, pastries, prepared foods, flowers, and other specialty vendors are on-hand.
Find berries lined up in colorful patterns – strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and yellow golden berries. Ha’s Apple Farm sells snow mountain apples and Yasutomi Farms showcases Japanese produce like Japanese eggplant and Shishito peppers. Peanuts, cactus ears, and gorgeous 4 foot pink plumeria (for $60) also caught our eye as we meandered around.
Vendors you may want to seek out include Organic Bone Broth, unique granola flavors from Granola Garden, Golden Milk powder with turmeric and cinnamon from Zen’s Tea House, and Cali Dumpling Delivery selling bags of Pork XLB. We devoured warm mini Dutch pancakes known as “puffers” doused with powdered sugar from Poffertjes/Oma’s Puffers (@omas_puffers) after we watched the owner fill little griddle holes with batter followed by a warm guava malasada from a nearby vendor while lines formed quickly at Asian and Hawaiian Wok & Grill BBQ.
Next to the market lies a 44-acre park where kids play and adults dance and stay fit with morning outdoor exercise classes. To get to the market, pass a baseball field, public art, outdoor exercise equipment and the Annenberg Tree House, a 2,500 square foot wooden structure with a bird’s eye view for kids to enjoy.
Sample beer flights from 12 local breweries
A hotbed for craft beer; craft brewery adventures abound. Grab a brewery map and sample novel suds at 12 local breweries. While the area is known for their sours and hazy IPAs, beer flights give you an opportunity to experience the city’s innovations before committing to one variety. Owner and brew master Laurie Porter of Smog City Brewing Co. reminded us that “craft beer didn’t really start in LA until 2008 and since there is no historical legacy to define it, that variety is unlike what you would get in most places.”
Smog City was packed on a Wednesday at 5 PM with live music outside and socially distant tables. After sampling 2 beer flights our palette was tantalized with White Peach Saison, Coffee Porter, an Octoberfest beer called Slam Dunkel, and a Bourbon O.E. aged in bourbon barrels for a year. Laurie let us know about their Total Boss Beer concocted by all females in support of females to honor sticking up for one another in male dominated fields where women may be belittled or harassed by men. Smog City’s award-winning Kumquat Beer is a result of donated fruit in partnership with Food Forward, an organization on a mission to reduce food waste.
It might be best to start with Torrance’s first brewery established in 2000 called The Red Car Brewery and Restaurant named after the famous Red Car Line where the trolley stopped a block from this former old telegraph building in the historic downtown. Fun beers range from Seasonal Citrus, Big Red Ale, to a South Loop Porter. Pair with Red Brewery’s fried long pickles, artichoke dip, or pizza. We happened to be there when the locals were celebrating Torrance’s own little league team at the World Series. Monkish Brewing Co. is another worthy stop where one can sip a Belgian-style dark ale, a Belgian-style tripel with hibiscus, and a double dry hopped IPA called Even More Hipsterish.
The Brews Hall Del Amo is an impressive brewery and food hall featuring two breweries and four restaurants, and a full bar under one roof. Big TV’s for games exist even outside in this open-air venue and plenty of outdoor seating is available to sling back outstanding rock and roll craft beers from BUZZROCK Brewing Co and Mexican style beers from George Lopez Brewing Co. (yes, the comedian). Some of our favorites included Lil Mexi with Chamoy around the lip’s rim, Paloma IPA, a double hazy IPA called Trop Rock, and Sauvicito Stout with cinnamon and cacao nibs with chocolate and caramel flavors.
Order generously sized portions here at affordable prices. Plus, you may want to try one of their boozy milkshakes! Soak up the brewskies or booze with a Fried Chicken Sandwich, Fish Tacos, Clam Chowder, Blue Cheese Wedge Salad, or house-made Churros from George Lopez’s Chingon Kitchen, Rock n Fish Grill, Chicken TWILI, or Herd’s Burger.
Live the California dream at Torrance Beach
Stretching 1.5 miles between Redondo Beach and Malaga Cove on the Santa Monica Bay, this South Bay Beach is part of the 22-mile beach trails known as The Strand – the best place to walk, jog, or bike along the beach on its paved path. You might recognize this beach area from episodes of Criminal Minds, Revenge, or The Closer.
Take advantage of the volleyball courts and come during the week for a quieter vibe. Pick up some treats for the beach like pastries, lemon bars, éclairs, cheesecake, flourless cookies, scones, and/or doughnuts from family-owned Torrance Bakery Café and Coffee Bar established in 1984. Don’t miss their Buttermilk Stick, a churro crossed with a donut.
Learn about local history at the Torrance Historical Society Museum
In historic Downtown Torrance lies the former 1936 library building now filled with fascinating relics and artifacts from the last 100 years of the town’s local history. Besides vintage photos of Torrance’s float at the Rose Bowl Parade, black and white photos of a turkey ranch advertising Thanksgiving turkeys, and photos of the early streets cars that rode back and forth to LA with flippable seats, one section really stood out – Louie Zamperini, the hometown hero of Torrance known from the book and film Unbroken produced by Angelina Jolie.
Here at this small museum lies the personal memorabilia of Louie, the Olympic runner, the World War II vet, and his story that inspired so many of us on the big screen. Zamperini’s plane crashed due to mechanical failures on a search and rescue mission. He drifted at sea for 47 days with two crew members until landing on the Japanese occupied Marshall Islands. The journey included surviving shark attacks, storms, and starvation. Taken as a prisoner of war, he was tortured and beaten at two different camps but managed to survive. Find his donated death certificate here since when he was adrift at sea his family was notified of his death. Read his journals and more on display celebrating Louie’s life and heroic welcome back to Torrance.
Witness wildlife at Madrona Marsh Preserve
Unexpectedly, we observed bull frogs and tree frogs in this area surrounded by the city. We had never seen a green heron, a cloudless sulphur butterfly, or a scaly breasted Munya bird until our guided traipse through this urban seasonal wetland preserved many years ago as it is the resting place/pathway for birds during their Pacific Flyway. Once used for oil recovery in the 1920s which kept it from being commercially developed, this currently dry vernal marsh has an area where storm drain water has been bio filtered to create a unique ecosystem. Although you have to be on a tour or gain permission to access the lake-like area, the rest of the area is free to walk around while an educational center across the street provides docent-led ventures. Bring binoculars to witness native and non-native species of birds.
Drive by Torrance High
Torrance has been the backdrop for more than 200 film and TV series episodes and Torrance High may be the most recognized landmark – with scenes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Beverly Hills 90210, She’s All That, and Bruce Almighty.
Embrace your artistic wanderlust at Torrance Art Museum
Embrace your artistic wanderlust at this free modern “doable” museum with two gallery exhibits from local and international artists. Visitors need about 30 – 45 minutes so the space is very doable. The Torrance Art Museum is part of the Torrance Cultural Arts Center “town square” where citizens can take art classes or dance classes in the studios, or in non-covid times attend a show at the 500 seat James. R Armstrong Theatre plus enjoy other event at the Torino Festival Plaza, the Toyota Community Meeting Hall, and the Pine Wind Japanese Garden.
The summer’s ULTRA! art show popped up all over the city too as art murals and installations like Electric Dandelions at 3201 Plaza del Amo. When I visited SoCal’s biggest pop-up of contemporary art entitled NOMAD occurred with over 400 artists near the museum at Del Amo Crossing. The museum’s next art opening begins September 18.
Redac Gateway Hotel offers a convenient location with easy parking perfect for the business traveler. Perks include Asian snacks, heated Japanese bidet-style toilets, and a Japanese buffet breakfast (during non-Covid times).
Torrance Marriott Redondo Beach received a major renovation with coastal inspired guest rooms and a modern restaurant called 21 Square Bar + Kitchen that extends into a ‘backyard’ space overlooking an indoor/outdoor pool and green space with cozy fire pits and chef’s garden. Inspired by the 21-square-mile city of Torrance founded in 1921, the restaurant serves regionally inspired and locally sourced SoCal cuisine and hyper local craft beer, including its own aptly named “21 and Over” brew.
Miyako Hybrid Hotel is an upscale Japanese-style property known for its peaceful nature with grand showers, bidet-style warmed toilet seats and deep baths for soaking. Hot stone spa treatments are available and American or Japanese Bento Boxes are offered for breakfast.