Writer Rich Thomas takes us on a “dude-friendly” South Bay adventure
Our contributing writer wants you to tag along on his perfect South Bay day.
The modern man is strange and complex. Sixty minutes of prime time TV viewing would tell you our persona is trapped somewhere between the bumbling frat dad drunk on Totino’s and NFL Sunday Ticket, and the marathon-running manscaper who enjoys rosé—but only at brunch. The truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle. If we are defined by what we consume, the company we keep and what we do for our community, then the crux of our identity lies within our daily routine. So I set out to find happiness and balance in the South Bay—and somewhere in the process hopefully find out who we are.
7 a.m. Good Morning
Ocean Diner, 959 Aviation Boulevard
Black coffee, orange juice and a big bowl of oatmeal with all the fixin’s … because I’m no longer young enough to eat chilaquiles with a side order of regret for breakfast. At 9 a.m. on a Saturday, the joint is jumping with a line out the door. But at 7 a.m. on a Thursday, it’s you at the counter with a Beach Reporter and the music of the 1940s wafting through the speakers. The regulars will make you
feel young, and the walls are papered with periodicals you’d find in a steamer trunk that belonged to your grandpa, that manly sonofabitch. If you’re craving something a bit more filling, go for the Suzy’s Crunchy French toast or Manny’s Skillet. Just make sure you fill up the tank. You’ve got a big day ahead.
9 a.m. Anything-But-Basic Training
Triton MMA Training Center, 1400 Aviation Boulevard
An iron paradise with an unassuming, open-air yard that boasts a boxing ring, free weights, soft green field turf underfoot and enough room to circuit train your quads into oblivion. Triton is your neighborhood gym filled with your neighbors—not a bunch of imported knuckle-draggers from the next town over lured in by the letters “MMA” like moths to a flame. And you won’t find the selfie brigade here either. Just people like you who are trying to live longer and look good doing it. And maybe Blake Griffin. Big John Marsh will train him, you and your kid brother. He and partner Mitch Tavera use the tactics and training they’ve gleaned from years of experience in the field and distill them down to fundamentals that even beginners can handle.
11:30 a.m. A Shave and a Shop
Deep Pocket Jean Company, 200 Pier Avenue
Put aside the mildly unnerving fact that you’ve got a complete stranger with a razor-sharp instrument inches from your jugular. If you’ve never treated yourself to a straight-razor shave, you’re missing out—and the gentlemen at Deep Pocket deliver. The closeness is unmatched, the hot towel treatment and badger brush lather- ing are luxurious, and the post-shave balm is manly without being overly aggressive. Book the hot towel shave and ask for Sean. But the shave is only the beginning. Browse from a curated selection of raw denim, cotton button-downs, watches, flasks, socks and grooming products. Despite its relatively small footprint, Deep Pocket is loaded with the type of goods that men put on their Christmas lists but sadly never receive. So treat yourself.
2 p.m. Recharge
SunLife Organics, 451 Manhattan Beach Boulevard
A selection of cold-pressed juices, smoothies, bowls and superfood shakes will provide enough nourishment to power you through the afternoon without bogging you down with carbs. It’s hard to stay away from the Wolverine—the almond butter-and-date combination is the business—but the Brazilian Bowl is perfect if you’re looking for something a little brighter and more substantial. Feeling spendy? Throw down for the Billion Dollar Smoothie. Don’t know your cumin from your colloidal silver? Let Brad help you out. “But smoothies aren’t lunch,” you say. Guess what? A bowl of cereal isn’t dinner, but when has that ever stopped you?
3 p.m. Unplug
Manhattan Beach Library, 1320 Highland Avenue
That small but intimidating stack of books you’ve been beating yourself up about for not jumping into? Grab one, put it in your bag and head to the library. I know you love that Kindle, but it’s not a book, and text messages still ambush you from behind the digital pages of your iPad. Men read books made with paper they can actually turn. Don’t have space in your home for a collection? I get it. Pass the book along to someone else, or better yet, drop it o to the librarian and donate it—but only after you leave a note somewhere within its pages.
5:30 p.m. Eco-Cardio
Aviation Park, 1935 Manhattan Beach Boulevard
The Strand is great, but it can turn into a mini-405. And there are bars lurking. A few laps around the Aviation Track at dusk gives your mind some time to breathe, and the rubberized composite is easy on the knees. Year-round sports—from club soccer to youth football practice—mean lots of activity. It also means lots of half-empty water bottles, used athletic tape and protein bar wrappers. On your cool-down lap, pick up trash and deposit it in one of the many bins around the track. Burn calories; save the planet.
7:30 p.m. Sustenance
S+W, 117 Pier Avenue
If you weren’t in the mood for either steak or whiskey—and I’m assuming not interested in life—you might have ambled right past the blacked-out façade of this cozy American eatery. About six months ago they rebranded, opening up the windows, abbreviating their name and opting for a slightly less carnivorous menu. The result: a warm, clatter-free atmosphere with one flat-screen for the game du jour and lots of bottles to stare at—because guys like bottles with pretty labels.
There are many manly bites to choose from. Order the fully dressed 8-ounce filet with a side of grilled green beans. To drink, Sex For Breakfast: a rye and apple brandy concoction with a smooth finish, just as its namesake would imply. Sit at a high chair by the window for Pier Avenue eye candy, or grab a seat at the bar and have the bartender pour you one of the many whiskeys and scotches on hand. The 110 proof Pikesville Straight Rye will change your life.
10 p.m. The Nightcap
The Bull Pen, 314 Avenue I
Family owned and operated since 1948, The Bull Pen is a South Bay institution. It boasts one of the best burgers in the area, and there’s as much variety in the clientele as there is in their selection of schnapps and liqueurs. At 10 years behind the bar, Kevin is still “the new guy,” so you know “the usual” will hit your coaster before your butt hits the seat. Every other Wednesday night, the silver-haired, golden-throated Mike Forbes plays along to the classics you know and love. The tenor sax is for Hall & Oates; the flute is for Jethro Tull. Your drink? A Maker’s Manhattan, stirred not shaken, so as to not bruise the booze. Too heavy? Hendrick’s and tonic with an extra lime. Because you earned it.
More than a pipe dream.