I have to be honest, when I was asked if I wanted to check out Torrance restaurants while visiting Los Angeles for a conference I thought…lemme check where that is on a map.
There have only been a few times that I arrived in a city and discovered that it wasn’t as delicious as promised so I decided to give it a shot. What drew me to Torrance was its multiculturalism. I haven’t spent much time eating in California but I know it’s home to some of the best food in the world.
Torrance is part of Los Angeles County, it’s only 16 miles from LAX so I missed out on the infamous Los Angeles traffic and really enjoyed myself.
Torrance isn’t the prettiest city. There’s a charming old town but I spent most of the time driving through strip malls and business parks.
But that reminded me of some of the best food in Toronto, which is not in downtown Toronto but in fact in the suburbs of Markham and Scarborough – often in tiny strip malls or spots you’d never think to stop. The same is true just outside Vancouver where the Richmond Night Market reigns.
These spots didn’t drop a million dollars on hipster interiors with exposed light bulbs, they just have amazing food and that’s enough to draw the crowds.
Where is Torrance California?
Torrance is a small city just under 150,000. However, it was once the US headquarters for Toyota and Honda. It currently has the second largest Japanese population in the United States, Honolulu being the first.
It’s known to have the best ramen in California and fantastic Japanese restaurants. But it is also home to some of the best South Bay restaurants of non-Japanese cuisine.
In fact, there are 400 Torrance restaurants and 11 craft breweries and it only seems to be growing.
The Best Time to Visit Torrance
I’m completely biased by my experience but I think May is THE TIME to visit the city. The streets are peppered with lemon trees, vibrant lavender jacaranda trees and sweet smelling jasmine. And while I joked that I wanted to experience the classic LA smog, I left disappointed as there was none.
Yet Torrance, like most of California, is lovely all year round. It is known for warm temperatures and low humidity. It did sprinkle a few times while I was there but nothing that required an umbrella.
Best Torrance Restaurants
One of the things that struck me about restaurants in Torrance was its diversity. Luckily I was able to eat a variety of food, at various price points, all around the city. There’s a sense of energy and entrepreneurship in Torrance that is infectious.
Madre! Oaxacan Restaurant and Mezcaleria
This was one of my favourite Torrance restaurants. Sure there are plenty of Mexican restaurants in California but this one specializes in food from Oaxaca. It’s also a mezcaleria with 350 kinds of mezcal as well as tequila. When it comes to distilled agave spirits, Madre! has the largest selection.
The decor is amazing, and while they have that oh-so-instagrammable neon sign, it’s not style over substance. They make their tortillas in house, feature Oaxacan-style cuisine and have bar staff that are knowledgable about mezcal without being pretentious.
During the week there is a $12 lunch special (11am-2pm). We stopped in for pre-dinner bites and I wished we could have stayed.
I’m not the only one who loves Madre! Read Reviews on TripAdvisor
1261 Cabrillo Ave #100, Torrance, CA 90501
Red Car Brewery & Restaurant
Red Car is located in historic Old Torrance and was named after California’s Red Car Line. The first brewery in Torrance, it was opened in 2000 by Bob and Laurie Brandt in the former Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Co. building. Bob started off as a home brewer and today remains the only person brewing at Red Car.
Bob describes the beer as quintessentially English ales, incorporating English grains, yeast and hops. There are seasonal options and I loved the beer-tails, or beer cocktails – a shandy, michelada or black velvet for those who aren’t hard core craft beer fans.
The Brewery is known for its beer, although it gets mixed reviews (read reviews on TripAdvisor) for its food. It’s a cute place for a flight of beer and a snack or to split the wood fired pizza.
You can’t go wrong with a traditional pretzel, and the Beyond Beef burger is so popular it wasn’t available when we were there. Portion sizes are large so if you’re ordering a main you may want to split it.
Red Car Brewery
1266 Sartori Ave, Torrance, CA 90501
King’s Hawaiian Bakery & Restaurant
One of the best trips I’ve ever taken was when I spent a month on Maui. I was able to experience a lot of local culture and so I always have a soft spot for anything Hawaiian.
King’s Hawaiian is famous for its Portuguese sweet bread that is in round shape rather than loaf. It expanded from Hilo to the main island for distribution purposes back in 1987 and chose Torrance because it was close to the airport and shipping.
But having a restaurant in Torrance was never a plan. It was only because the family was working 7 days a week. Someone cooked meals for the family, which then turned into also cooking traditional Hawaiian food for friends and now it’s a full-on restaurant.
Of course I had to have the loco moco, which is white rice, topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg, and brown gravy. But I had to save room for the most popular item – the Paradise Cake.
It’s a cake made with a layer of guava, passionfruit and lime chiffon that is topped with whipped cream and glaze. And while I profess to not have a sweet tooth it was so light and fruity I loved it.
I’ll never have a wedding but if I did I’d want this to be my cake. Read More Reviews on TripAdvisor
Kings Hawaiian Restaurant
2808 Sepulveda Blvd, Torrance, CA 90505
Hakata Ikkousha Ramen
Ramen is serious business in the city and there are so many Torrance restaurants that specialize in it and they are ALL BUSY at lunch. This is why they call Torrance the ramen empire of SoCal!
And I’m sure you could eat at many ramen restaurants in Torrance and have a great meal but the reason I loved Hakata Ikkousha is that it is the sister restaurant of a spot in Japan. But what makes it special is that they use the same recipe as the restaurant in Japan. They haven’t adapted it for western tastes.
The most popular item is the Tonkotsu. The pork broth is cooked over a low heat for a long period of time so it takes on a thicker texture than I’ve had before. It’s extra work and you can taste the difference.
Vegan diners need not fear visiting. Hakata Ikkousha also makes a great vegan ramen. I preferred the pork Tonkotsu but the vegan broth was also delicious and I think made with mushrooms and maybe some seaweed for a rich umami flavour.
Hakata Ikkousha Ramen
21605 S Western Ave J, Torrance, CA 90501
A family owned pastry and sandwich shop since 1984. It started as a tiny shop with 7 employees in Old Torrance and was so popular it grew to a space over ten times larger with 78 employees. It’s so popular (read reviews on TripAdvisor) that it has its own wedding cake showroom.
In addition to its classic treats like the popular bear claw and buttermilk stick, they have lots of fun seasonal sweets. I arrived hoping to try its donut taco, but sadly that was only for Cinco de Mayo. It’s worth checking out the instagram page if you want to get something special like their Dodger Dogs.
But get there early as everything is made fresh daily and the best items go quickly. Anything leftover is donated to an organization that works with the homeless.
1341 El Prado Ave, Torrance, CA 90501
Smog City Brewery & Taproom
This may just be the most ambitious craft brewery in Torrance. Serving 18 different beer on tap, although technically they are not one of Torrance restaurants, there are food trucks here on the weekends, and there are more plans to expand.
If you want to hit a few breweries in the same area you’ll find Cosmic Brewery, The Dude’s Brewing, Monkish Brewing and The Stand Brewing all less than a mile away.
Smog City Brewing Co.
1901 Del Amo Blvd, Torrance, CA 90501
Din Tai Fung
The original dumpling and noodle restaurant is in Taiwan and now Din Tai Fung has several restaurants in California and along the Pacific Coast. However, the expansion hasn’t stopped it from being one of the most popular Torrance restaurants with an ever growing line up inside the Del Amo Fashion Center.
The line passes quickly as you watch the cooks assemble the dumplings with such precision you know you’re going to have a great meal
It is most famous for its XiaoLongBao (soup dumplings) but we ordered practically one of everything on the menu. You can’t go wrong with any of the steamed dumplings. Do not pass on the vegetable appetizers, everyone raved about the green beans – and really when do people praise a green beans dish.
My favourites were:
- Truffle and kurobuta pork soup dumplings
- Cucumber salad (seriously good)
- Sauteed green beans with garlic
- Wood ear mushrooms in a vinegar dressing
This spot is worth waiting in line. Read what others say on TripAdvisor.
Din Tai Fung
21540 Hawthorne Blvd #519, Torrance, CA 90503
Eat at Rudy’s
If you also love small local diners that serve great breakfast you’ll love this spot in Old Torrance.
Despite being constantly crowded and busy staff are so friendly without overdoing it. They have an extensive omelet menu along with breakfast classics like french toast and pancakes. Servings are large and the coffee is bottomless. They only take cash.
Eat at Rudy’s
1340 Post Ave, Torrance, CA 90501
Located in a strip mall, this small spot is one of the best Torrance restaurants and was ranked #19 on Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. in 2018. There is currently only outdoor seating.
Food is mostly a mix of Mexican and Middle Eastern, and it works very well. Although there are spring rolls on the menu, but I’d give them a pass. Instead get a side order of falafel and order the owner’s favourite Street Chicken Burrito or the customer favourite King Bowl with salad and choice of meat on rice.
Portions are very large. It’s a family-owned business and they believe in value. It’s best to split a dish between two people. My burrito was literally as large as my head and I ate it over three days. If you have room at the end they serve their mother’s baklava for dessert.
4354 Redondo Beach Blvd, Torrance, CA 90504
To be honest Depot isn’t the type of restaurant I seek out when I travel. When I spot menu’s featuring global cuisine from thai-inspired to poutine that uses feta it feels disjointed to me.
But that doesn’t mean other people don’t love Depot. The owner unabashedly says his food is inspired by other cuisines, but not necessarily authentic. He calls it a “Mad Men” like grill restaurant with old tunes and a decidedly retro menu.
One of my dining mates ordered the steak and thought it was fantastic. There was a mix of locals along with what appeared to be large corporate groups of men who also came for the steak. If you’re looking for one of the popular Torrance restaurants for a big steak night this is the place to go.
1250 Cabrillo Ave, Torrance, CA 90501
Walk Off the Calories: Things to Do in Torrance
Del Amo Fashion Center
The third largest mall in America, Del Amo has all the stores you’ll find in most large malls in America. As a Canadian I love the idea of an outdoor mall. I stopped in here as I was a bit chilly and needed a cardigan.
You could easily spend the day here as there are restaurants (Din Tai Fung amongst others) a movie theatre and hundreds of stores.
Del Amo Fashion Center
3525 W Carson St, Torrance, CA 90503
Chen Art Gallery
Although this is home to largest collection of Chinese antiquities outside China I was not looking forward to visiting.
However, our guide Holly was so enthusiastic and knowledgeable she made it really fun. The tour was so interesting I started to rethink my disinterest in museums and galleries.
It’s a private collection with pottery older than the pyramids and some pieces predating King Tut. In fact many say it is the most important collection of Chinese art outside Asia.
Opened Tuesday to Friday. Admission is free but you must call a day or two in advance. Photography isn’t permitted for security reasons.
Chen Art Gallery
1625 Abalone Ave, Torrance, CA 90501
Madrona March Preserve & Nature Center
This isn’t just a small patch of greenery in the sea of strip malls. Madrona March Preserve is one of the last remaining vernal wetlands in Southern California.
The centre has a modern educational area with lots of events and displays perfect for curious children. If you just need a bit of nature start the day off here walking through the preserve that is so peaceful you won’t believe you’re in a city.
3201 Plaza Del Amo Torrance, CA 90503
Torrance High School
This school was the location for 90s cult classics like Beverly Hills 90210 and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you’re also a fan head to the high school on a Saturday or Sunday when school is out.
Someone tipped us off that you could also walk through the courtyard which has the opening scene from She’s All That, and apparently it was also used for The Wild Life, Not Another Teen Movie, Whatever It Takes, Cursed, Wild Things 3, and Bruce Almighty.
2200 W Carson St, Torrance, CA 90501
Torrance Beach may just be the best tip I can provide as most people don’t know about it.
A small 1.5 mile stretch, it was an area that was developed for the Hollywood Riviera residents but is now a public area. It’s part of a 22 mile coastal bike path that reaches all the way to Santa Monica.
The best part? It’s never crowded. Most people visit neighbouring Redondo beach, Manhattan beach or Hermosa beach.
If you want to get away from it all, this is the place to be.
387 Paseo De La Playa, Riviera, Torrance, CA 90277
Western Museum of Flight
Although visiting an aviation museum was not at the top of my list I was surprised again at how much I enjoyed it.
There are plenty of replicas and models here to share the story of aviation in California. You can also sit in one of the planes.
I also learned that in WWII there were a group of female pilots who weren’t allowed to fight in the war, but transported planes to bases within the United States. Hollywood where’s the movie about that?
The museum is located at Torrance’s Municipal Airport. Opened Tuesday to Sunday. Admission is $5.
Western Museum of Flight
3315 Airport Dr, Torrance, CA 90505
Where to Stay in Torrance
Courtyard By Marriott Los Angeles Torrance South Bay
Only a $22 Uber drive from LAX, there’s not much to look at in the neighbourhood but it’s a convenient location with a pool, fitness centre and newly renovated rooms.
I ate both dinner and breakfast here with mixed feelings. My baked pasta was literally a cup full of penne with a half cup of salad and I was quite upset about it but too tired to complain. Breakfast the next day was much better but I guess you can’t expect much from hotel food.
I would have LOVED to stay here. The first boutique hotel in the city it is an old renovated hotel (Travelodge maybe?) that is now so stylish. From the outside it maintains the motel-like room structure but inside rooms are chic.
The decor was inspired by the Madrona Marsh and has a great outdoor space. Here in the lobby the wall is actually moss and was designed to change with the season.