Volleyball is to Manhattan Beach what pizza is to New York or grunge music is to Seattle. More than palm trees or surfboards, the sport has become an icon of the sunny beach city. The town’s famous “Orange Court” has hosted top pros and tournaments since the 1950s, so it’s only fitting that the new Marine Street Café just up the street would want to celebrate this history.
“We’re long-time Manhattan Beach residents and my husband Pete is a AAA beach volleyball player, so we know the sport is a big part of the fabric of this community,” said Skylar Tourigny, chef and owner of the café.
Vintage photographs from the Manhattan Beach Historical Society line the walls of the low-key restaurant. Photos feature some of the neighborhood’s top players – including stars like Eric Fonoimoana, who won a gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. “As a kid, I grew up watching my idols play down the street,” said Fonoimoana. “I always wanted to be a part of it and it was a huge honor the day I was invited to play. It’s cool to have a local spot that supports volleyball culture.”
The nods to volleyball greats don’t stop there. Take a peek at the menu and you’ll find almost every item is named after a local pro. The “Fonoi” burger, named after Fonoimoana, is made with grass-fed beef and house-made aioli on a brioche bun. (“A bold burger for a bold player,” said Tourigny.) Their roasted turkey sandwich is called “Señor Malo,” a nickname given to AVP tour winner and first president of the AVP, Kevin Cleary, after a wild night out. And then there’s “The Hov,” a spicy brisket panini named in honor of feisty, five-time Manhattan Open winner Tim Hovland.
“This spot actually used to be a liquor store,” said Hovland. “We’d race to the Orange Court and if you lost you had to run up here and buy beer and Big Stick popsicles for everyone. After it closed there was a void, so it’s great to be able to come for a nice meal and look at the sunset. It’s laid-back – California casual, just the way it should be.”
In addition to a relaxed hangout for friends and locals, Tourigny wanted to provide healthy, gourmet food. “When I shop for my family, I buy organic and shop the local farmers market. I wanted to give our customers that same high quality,” she said. “There are no pesticides or hormones in any of our foods and all of our eggs and meats are organic or grass-fed.” Along with burgers and sandwiches, the eatery serves up fresh-baked pastries, desserts, organic coffee, teas, beer, and wine.
Stop in for a bite at breakfast, lunch, or dinner and you’re likely to enjoy a meal next to a volleyball pro. Cleary remarked that he goes there three or four times a week and each time he sees a player whose name appears on the menu. And while many of these athletes may not play professionally anymore, that doesn’t mean they’ve given up the competition: “We’ve got a friendly rivalry over whose dish is the best, so we like to talk trash and say ‘My sandwich outsold your sandwich!’ or ‘Your sandwich is on sale,’” said Fonoimoana. All that competition must really work up an appetite!
On the Menu
Burger, named after Fonoimoana, made with grass-fed beef and house-made aioli on a brioche bun
Roasted turkey sandwich for the nickname of AVP tour winner and first president of the AVP, Kevin Cleary, after a wild night out
Spicy brisket panini named in honor of feisty, five-time Manhattan Open winner Tim Hovland
Originally published in February 2013