The dilemma: the weekend is right around the corner and you're in need of a good meal in the South Bay. It's weeks too late to get into M.B. Post, Fishing with Dynamite or Little Sister. Not that you haven't drank your dinner before, but you'd like a little something more than popcorn or the leftover pretzels on the bar to accompany your cocktail. Circa is here to help you stay out of Betty Ford, for at least the first half of your evening.
Circa is owned by South Bay Super Star Michael Zislis, who is also behind the swank Shade Hotel, the upscale beachfront restaurant Strand House and Rock'N Fish to name a few. Zislis may be your drinking nemesis, or perhaps your idol. To balance all the homemade cocktail creations at Circa, there's a creative small plates menu that goes above and beyond basic bar snacks.
They're going for a prohibition 20's vibe here with a large back lit bar that's usually 3 deep on weekends, and low slung, leather tufted couches and softly lit tables are scattered around the perimeter. The night I was there, there were plenty of tables available and evidently this is often the case because the kids haven't gotten the memo to eat before or while they drink.
Regardless, we were able to lay in a good foundation with plenty of attention from the waitstaff. The crispy pee wee potatoes were a good start with a bowl full of oven roasted fingerling potatoes sprinkled with thyme and an accompanying side of housemade ranch dressing. The beet salad with persimmon and walnuts offset the heavy potatoes with its tangy vinaigrette.
The Meditrerranean flatbread cemented our carb base with a pillowy dough topped with cucumber, yogurt and black olives.
The charred octopus went heavy on the char and nice on the spice with chorizo, giant white beans and brocolini in a purple mustard sauce.
The Maryland style crab cake was a soft mound of crab with a crispy fried green tomato beneath and the obligatory old bay seasoning.
The beef tenderloin skewers will satisfy any meat lover and is served with a zesty chimichurri.
The slider trio appeals to the bar crowd with a mini-burger, buffalo chicken sandwich, and the BBQ short rib, which is the best of the 3.
You're not going to Circa for a Michelin starred experience. You're going to have a nice cocktail like the appropriately named "Beach Don't Kill My Vibe" and eat better than average bar food in a cool, hip setting.
903 Manhattan Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA