Take a Seat at Three South Bay Mainstays Cheerfully Serving Their Communities for Generations

Oldies but goodies.

  • Category
    Eat & Drink
  • Written by
    Amber Klinck
  • Photographed by
    Jeff Berting

One of the perks of living in a city like Los Angeles is the seemingly boundless assortment of good eats. Regardless of what you’re looking to spend or the vibe you’re going for, in L.A. you have a diverse pool of menu options designed to cater to every whim. From too-good-to-be-true food trucks to restaurants that require weeks to lock down a reservation, there’s a spot for every occasion.

In an effort to keep up with the rapid evolution of what’s on trend, however, being in business for decades is an honor bestowed only on a select few. These three South Bay restaurants have stood the test of time: the menus you know by heart, the date-night spot you went to before the kids (and now drag the kids to), your home away from home. These are the landmarks where memories are made … and there’s a reason they’re still standing.

Eat At Joe’s, Redondo Beach

It’s a weekday—a little too late for breakfast, a little too early for lunch. And Eat At Joe’s is packed. The space is small and communal; it feels friendly and comfortable. However, it’s much bigger today than it was in 1969 when Joe Filkosky took over. “It wasn’t even a restaurant,” explains current owner Alex Jordan. “It was just a little stand, just a kitchen and a window.”

“Most of our customers are regulars. They tell me all the time they’ve been coming here longer than I’ve been here.”

Alex and his wife, Michele Jordan, purchased Eat At Joe’s in 2000. At that point the space had been expanded to include an enclosed dining area. “This is how it’s been since I’ve owned it,” Alex notes.

Having never worked in the restaurant industry before, Alex was motivated to purchase a business in South Bay because he and Michele knew this was the community where they wanted to live. “A friend of mine told me he thought [Eat At Joe’s] might be for sale. I walked in, and I just loved it right from the start,” Alex says.

Nearly 20 years later, there are still patrons and team members with a longer history than Alex has at Eat At Joe’s. “Most of our customers are regulars. They tell me all the time they’ve been coming here longer than I’ve been here,” he says with a smile.

There are team members who have been employed for up to 40 years. “You arrive in the morning, you’re done by 3 p.m.; it’s not a bad gig,” Alex says. Of course, it’s more than great hours that keep people around. There’s a familiarity that works.

“It’s like coming to my house for breakfast; that’s how you’re going to be treated. I love it. Everyone here I’ve known for 20 years. They’re my friends. My employees have been here a long time. I trust them; they run it.”

With menu items inspired by a legendary visit from John Wayne, as well as go-to customer favorites, there’s no need for revision. Yet Alex has introduced a few additional health-conscious items, as well as a few vegetarian dishes. Bottom line: You won’t leave hungry.

This year marks Eat At Joe’s 50th anniversary. When Alex is asked why he thinks the restaurant has lasted so long, a few nearby diners answer for him. “The John Wayne,” a gentleman yells from the back. “The great service,” a woman adds with a smile.

There’s nothing better for the longevity of a business than happy customers. As Alex says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

The Kettle, Manhattan Beach

A little farther north on the corner of Highland and Manhattan Beach Boulevard, The Kettle restaurant has been serving the South Bay since 1973. Just like the beach community it calls home, The Kettle has gone through its own evolution since its origin. What hasn’t changed, however, is the feeling you get when you walk through the door.

“It’s just a really special place,” says The Kettle food and beverage director, Sarah Simms Hendrix. “There’s a special energy in that building; you can’t replicate that many years in a space. The energy just continues and lives, and the neighborhood carries it.”

The familiarity of The Kettle is something Sarah grew up with. Arthur J. Simms, her grandfather, purchased the restaurant in 1976. Her father, Scott Simms, runs The Kettle today.

“I’m third-generation,” she says. “I still work with my dad every day.” As a little girl, Sarah spent her weekends at The Kettle. “I grew up in that restaurant. I remember sitting at the counter as a kid.”

Today she describes the counter as a social hub for patrons. “The counter always ends up being a roaring conversation throughout the day.”

With team members who have worked in the restaurant for decades, regulars are greeted with familiar faces and a warm welcome. Accommodating the needs of their guests is The Kettle’s #1 priority.

“Depending on what time of day you enter that building, it’s a different restaurant.”

Still waiting for the rest of your party to arrive? No problem, The Kettle will seat you now. Looking for a sandwich that’s no longer on the menu? If they can make it, they will.

“On page one it says, ‘The menu is only a guide; please feel free to be creative,’” Sarah points out. Which is pretty incredible in a world where most menus are quick to note they offer no substitutions. “How would you want someone who shows up to your home to feel?”

She adds, “I love good food, and I dine out all over L.A. There’s nothing worse than going into a place and not feeling cool enough to be there … or that you didn’t make a reservation.” The Kettle is walk-in only, and it works for them.

The 24-hours-a-day/seven-days-a-week, open-door policy only adds to The Kettle’s unique dynamic. “Depending on what time of day you enter that building, it’s a different restaurant,” Sarah shares. It has a little something for everyone, making it both accessible and a fan favorite for South Bay locals and visitors alike.

The Bottle Inn, Hermosa Beach

If you’ve been to The Bottle Inn in Hermosa Beach, you’re well aware of what a gem it is. If you haven’t, it might be one of the best kept secrets in the South Bay. For starters, it offers guests outdoor, beachfront dining—so close you can hear the waves. Which, let’s be honest, is something we’re really missing here in the South Bay.

The menu is simple and filled with classic Italian dishes, and the wine cellar in the back is the perfect locale for your next dinner party. Hilary Condren loved The Bottle Inn so much, when he heard it was for sale he jumped at the opportunity to take over.

“Originally opened in the early ’70s, the restaurant has changed hands four times—and every time it has remained The Bottle Inn.”

“I’ve been coming here since the ’80s,” Hilary notes. “I heard they may be selling it, and I was panicked. I was afraid that it was going to go away, that someone would come in and buy it and turn it into the next farm-to-table trendy spot.”

So Hilary, his wife, Erin Condren, and their good friends Elsie and David Gordon purchased The Bottle Inn. “It’s always had such a great vibe,” Hilary says. “My wife and I would come here on special occasions 30 years ago. It was a date spot.”

The restaurant’s scene now is super-local. “It’s not on the main drag; tourists don’t know about it,” Hilary points out. The patrons are regulars, and so is the staff. One familiar face, Oscar Arellano, has been working at The Bottle Inn for 35 years. He’s been a host, a busser, a waiter and an owner prior to Hilary taking the helm.

Originally opened in the early ’70s, the restaurant has changed hands four times—and every time it has remained The Bottle Inn. There’s an essence recognized by the owners with each passing of the baton—something they see that’s worth preserving. And though Hilary has made improvements to the aesthetic of the space, the original essence that attracted him 30 years ago as a guest remains.

There’s something special about dining out—the social aspect of a group gathering in a spot to eat together, whether they know each other or not. It’s communal. Restaurants don’t just serve food; they host family brunches and birthday celebrations and first dates. They’re memory-makers, and when the memories are good, the restaurants last for generations.

 

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