Best Things to Do in San Pedro: Local’s Guide to the LA Harbor Area

Best Things to Do in San Pedro: Local's Guide to the LA Harbor Area

Image by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

On the outer edges of LA’s south coast, San Pedro is home to the Port of Los Angeles, a major international port that takes 20% of all cargo entering the country. The coastal community is also home to the only suspension bridge in the Greater LA areathe biggest maritime Museum in the state, and a thriving fishing industry that has long attracted European immigrants – San Pedro is still home to the largest Italian community in Southern California, as well as significant Croatian and Norwegian populations, all of which have left their mark on the culinary scene of the neighbourhood .

But if you mention any of these popular spots to Paul Bobadilla, the third-generation San Pedro, he won’t hesitate to give you a hard time: “I can tell right away that you’re a tourist,” he says.

Bobadilla is the founder of Trinity CBCa coffee roaster and pop-up cafe with a custom lowrider espresso machine, and he’s also a third-generation dock worker with deep ties to the San Pedro Longshore and Warehouse Union. That is to say, his roots in the Port area run deep and he is extremely proud of his birthplace.

He’ll tell you about the Port’s unique identity – blue-collared, diverse, independent and protective of the home field with a bit of ‘locals-only’ energy – and he’ll tell you about threats to that identity in the form of corporate-funded development on land owned by the city, large projects designed by and for people from other parts of the city.

He’ll also tell you that the harbor area is cool as hell, with a strong cultural backbone of coastal cruising, park cookouts, and soul music. There are so many ways to enjoy the culture, climate, and food scene of the area while staying truly local, supporting businesses that have been in the community for decades, as well as newer family-owned businesses that make San Pedro what it is. With Bobadilla’s sociable, quirky, perfectly Pedro attitude leading the way, here’s a local guide to the best things to do in the harbor area:

Trinity CBCTrinity CBC
Photo courtesy of Trinity CBC

Get your morning coffee fix

Bobadilla does not shy away from the coffee situation in San Pedro: “I have calculated it and I think that 98.9% of all coffee shops in Pedro sell coffee available at Smart & Final,” he says. That makes Trinity CBC unique, a true coffee roaster with ethical origins, artisanal blends and also the sale of single-origin beans via subscription and takeaway, in addition to selling hot coffee and espresso drinks at pop-ups in the city. His blends have all inspired names like “Suavecito” and “Anything For Selenas” and he collaborates with local artists on releases such as the recent “Brown and Beautiful” blend with painter Miranda Villanueva. You can also get Trinity CBC’s bottled cold brew in LA, in flavors like Cafe de Olla, Horchata, and seasonal specialties like Pumpkin Spice.

Order a breakfast burrito (or two)

According to Bobadilla, “No breakfast speaks to the Southern California and Harbor Area vibe more than coffee and a breakfast burrito.”

His favorite spots are typically casual, fast and classic. El taco is a stand that is part of a small, long-running chain, with a few locations in Southeast LA and Orange County. It’s a roadside spot, you order at one window and pick up at another, and their breakfast burrito is simple, basic, not fancy but expertly curated. For Bobadilla, it’s a particularly poignant combination: “When I was a kid, my dad made me breakfast burritos. The breakfast burritos at El Taco are exactly as I remember first having them as a kid. And the husband and wife team that runs the drive-thru still call me “mijo.”

happy delicacy is another quick and casual breakfast burrito option, but their finished product is different—it’s not fancy, but it’s a little more composed than El Tacos, with rosemary-flecked breakfast potatoes, pico de gallo, and both bacon and sausage in it. It may not hit the same notes of nostalgia, but it will still lift your mood as hydraulics on a Caprice.

Steady Beat RecordsSteady Beat Records

Dust your fingers in a record store

With your stomach strengthened, you go to Steady Beatthe physical outpost for the record company with the same name. The label is focused on beachy West Coast sounds, with vintage-style reggae and ska, cumbia and Chicano-influenced soul artists, and the window display reflects those good vibes. The crates are filled with used vinyl that is ripe for sieving, and it would be hard to find a nicer collection in town. They also regularly organize events such as open DJ nights on the store’s turntables, and Friday night vinyl sessions. While you’re there, you might as well get next door the donut for the harbor area’s best cinnamon twists and glazed donuts.

Craft Beer Whale Hunting

One of Bobadilla’s top recommendations is to get some cold beer and enjoy it outside in the fresh, breezy coastal air, and while many people would settle for whatever is most convenient, he’s a craft beer enthusiast prepared a slice. to drive. Craft beer hasn’t quite exploded in San Pedro as it has in nearby neighborhoods like Torrance and Long Beach, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find — Hillside Liquor, an understated bottle shop in a fast-moving stretch of Western, is its go-to spot for local cans of craft beer. He has also occasionally encountered a whale, the… Moby Dick-inspired term for a beer hunter’s dream, a rare bottle from a coveted brewery.

Photo by Tod Mesirow

Get some sandwiches

Once you have your cold cans of craft brewed barley soda, the lunch choice is simple:Busy bee market, a pillar of the neighborhood for decades. Busy Bee’s sandwiches are absolutely huge, loaded with cold cuts or stacked with pastrami or sausage from their steamers and then topped with homemade tomato sauce. Best known for the Belly Buster, a titanic combination of two meats, Bobadilla goes for the meatball or barbecue chicken, which comes with huge chunks of real chicken instead of industrial shredded bits or pre-cooked nuggets. Busy Bee is a local institution, with a special place in Bobadilla’s heart: “My dad would pick me up from Pedro High School, we would cruise to Busy Bee, get some sandwiches, go to the coast and eat and just bullshit. My dad eats Belly Busters since the mid-’80s.”

Photo by Tod Mesirow

Go to the coast: White point, Royal Palms, Paseo del Mar, Point Fermin Park or Cabrillo Beach

The harbor dominates the San Pedro skyline and its place in LA’s imagination, but Pedro is a neighborhood that’s completely oceanfront, with rocky beaches, dramatic views and grassy cliffs on three sides. There are tide pools, plenty of picnic tables, walking trails and some decent breaks for surfing – if you don’t mind a challenge from some of the more protective regulars in the water. One of Bobadilla’s favorite things to do is head to the seaside to relax in the breeze, perhaps with a drink or two of Hillside Liquor and probably some Busy Bee sandwiches. If you look in the bin, you’ll notice it’s not the only one: every bin has sandwiches with Busy Bee’s iconic logo.

Chilling along the coast is also where you’ll encounter another essential piece of port area culture: classic cars. The region is home to some of the best and longest running car clubs around, such as Legends and Viejitos, with unofficial cookouts and encounters in coastal parks. There are lowriders of all types and eras, 1940s classics, muscle cars and everything in between parked along the coast before the setting sun. There are occasional official events in parks around the port area, as well as some unofficial after-hours cruises.

West BreweryWest Brewery
Photo by Tod Mesirow

Relax with a local beer

There may not be dozens of craft breweries in San Pedro, but luckily the largest and most popular of them make great beer. West Brewery inhabits a huge WWII warehouse near the harbor, a cavernous space for their tanks and fermenters, with plenty of seating and a huge TV screen inside, and space in the front for tables, food trucks, and musical acts like their regular Beats & Brews DJ series. The atmosphere may be a little more Long Beach than pure Pedro, but the energy is always good. Additionally, brewer and founder Brian Mercer is a native of San Pedro, and he has settled in his hometown to brew a wide variety of styles such as crispy pilsners, spicy IPAs, and Belgian-style fruity beers. They also have plenty of cans to take home, and they do fun projects like hard seltzer and a special beer slushie machine.

Want more thrillers? follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTokand Snapchat!

Ben Mesirow is an Echo Park native who writes TV, fiction, food, and sports. At one time or another his writing appeared in The LA Times, Litro, McSweeney’s Internet Trend, Los Angeles Magazineand scratched dozens of desks at Walter Reed Middle School.