In some ways, El Segundo can feel like the South Bay’s forgotten beach town, lacking the popularity of Manhattan Beach’s posh storefronts and Hermosa Beach’s sometimes raucous nightlife. But overlooking El Segundo’s idyllic Main Street area is a mistake. With plenty of restaurants, watering holes, shops and Mayberry-esque charm, downtown El Segundo just might be one of coastal L.A.’s best-kept secrets.
3 p.m.: Fuel up for your afternoon with a stop at Blue Butterfly Coffee Co., 351 Main St. The 23-year-old neighborhood mainstay was named for the El Segundo blue butterfly, native to the area’s sand dunes. With its friendly baristas and bright atmosphere, its ambience seems to embody El Segundo’s de facto mascot. If you’re in the mood for a drink that doubles as a snack, opt for the minty Green Goodness smoothie. Those with a serious sweet tooth will appreciate the turquoise Blue Butterfly Tea — yes, it’s actually turquoise. Take it out back to enjoy on the cafe’s sunny patio.
3:30 p.m. Just a block away, at 337 Richmond St., lies Studio Antiques — a wonderland of turntables, teetering stacks of china, and more knickknacks and trinkets than the average antique store can boast. The depth of the shop’s record collection is impressive, with seemingly every genre represented. “We’ve got everything. ... We have every type of record you can imagine,” said Judy Dudman, a clerk at Studio Antiques. The organized chaos gives way to true pandemonium as you make your way to the shop’s outdoor area, called “Old El Segundo Ghost Town” by the owners. Dudman assured me they have no actual ghosts out back — that she knows of. “But if we do, they’re friendly,” she said with a laugh. With mannequins and chairs attached to the garden shed’s roof, visitors shouldn’t miss exploring every corner of Studio Antiques, inside and out. Keep an eye out for Zelda, the calico rescue cat who calls the shop home.
4:15 p.m. Despite El Segundo’s small-town feel, it’s not without some high-brow culture. The El Segundo Museum of Art at 208 Main St. is small compared with art museums in Los Angeles, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in experimentation and creativity. The museum calls itself an art laboratory, which “enables us to experiment with new ways a visitor can experience an artwork,” Director of Education Holly M. Crawford said. As soon as I walked into the museum, a friendly staff member gave me a rundown of the exhibitions, such as “Plant” by artist Amely Spoetzl, which explores nature. Another highlight to catch: Los Angeles artist Jasmine Nyende’s interactive piece “A Love Letter to the California Coast,” which visitors are encouraged to touch and alter using embroidery. Both exhibits run until Jan. 25.
5 p.m. Swap heady art for heady brews and make your way across the street to El Segundo Brewing Co. at 140 Main St. The brewery specializes in hop-forward beers like its classic Mayberry West Coast IPA and the Broken Skull IPA, the latter made by the brewery in collaboration with former professional wrestler Steve Austin. Don’t be shy; I’ve found that despite the general bustle of the brewery, bartenders are happy to chat with customers about their beers and make recommendations.
6 p.m. If a few beers spiked your appetite, you’re in luck. Jame Enoteca, a pint-size Californian-Italian restaurant, lies kitty-corner from the brewery, tucked inside a nondescript strip mall at 241 Main St.
Begin your meal with Brussels sprouts and cauliflower before enjoying one of the restaurant’s hand-rolled pastas. Food & Wine called it “one of the best new places to eat pasta in all of Los Angeles.” The cacio e pepe pasta — called “tonnarelli” on the menu — is simple but deeply satisfying. While other restaurants’ takes on this classic dish are richer, Jame Enoteca’s tastes like you could enjoy it every day. Top off your evening with dessert; you won’t be disappointed with the restaurant’s bread pudding.