The drive to happy hour in Redondo Beach is a fantastic precursor to finding reduced-priced cocktails and dishes in the South Bay. Let me explain, and of course, forget about the annoying traffic for a minute. It happens during that time of day when the sun starts to set and swaying palm trees pop up in your commuting eyeline. The sky starts to turn orangey-pink, the scent of the ocean filters in your window, and you to think... I could live here.
I arrived at Gabi James restaurant on a day just like this. The sun was almost set, and I ran out of my meter-parked car and headed close enough to the beach so I that I could snap a shot of the perfect palm tree profiles on the purple-hued horizon. It was magical.
Moments later, I entered the doors of the red, neon-lit labeled building and proceeded to grab a seat and a nearby bar table. The bar was completely full, so it was the only option I had. I was waiting for a friend to arrive, so I scanned the happy hour menu and ordered the “cocktail of the day.”
“What is it?” I asked. The woman before me replied, “We don’t have a name for it yet, but it’s made with mezcal, kumquats and vanilla simple syrup.” SOLD! Turns out the use their own local-grown kumquats to make the drink – delicious. While I sipped on my cocktail, they brought by crispy house made potato chips to nosh on.
When my friend arrived, we ordered the Potato Croquettes, Mixed Olives, and Jamon and Crispy Calamari. I even got a Gilda. Ask what it is. I read the description and then procedded to order it out of complete curiosity. It’s an anchovy lollipop! To be honest, I probably wouldn’t order it again on its own, but I think it would be a fantastic garnish for a brunch Bloody Mary.
Did I mention the cuisine was Spanish meets coastal French? Co-owner Sarah had stopped by our table and explained the theme of their restaurant and name. She describes the environment as, ‘A place to eat, conversate and enjoy yourself.' Sara is full Italian, but her dad grew up in Southern France, plus she has family on the Spanish side. Her roots are planted in this restaurant and it shows on the menu.
The Jamon and grilled bread is very "Spain,” and I could eat it all day. Seriously though, I now look forward to retiring across the street and walking here Sunday through Thursday to enjoy the happy hour - for this dish alone. A girl can dream of getting plump on carbs and cured Spanish ham, OK? Also, the calamari is fresh. When I find fresh and super crisp calamari, I’m a happy lady.
The happy hour white wine was $8 and came from a local winery named Malibu Oaks. Part of the profits from the Malibu Oaks wine sales go to benefit the Malibu Foundation, FYI. But just because their happy hour drinks are good, doesn’t mean you should ignore their intricate gin list. Sara and her husband are big gin enthusiasts and they carry a slew of international and semi-local labels, ranging from as far as Japan to as close as Santa Barbara.
Happy Hour at Gabi James: Sunday - Thursday, 5pm – 7pm.
1810 S Catalina Ave, Redondo Beach, CA 90277
Phone: (310) 540-4884