Graduation dinner in Southbay?
I'm looking for a restaurant located in El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, or Torrance for dinner after my Ph.D. graduation ceremony (for 6 people). The tricky part is, it should have a celebratory feel, but should not be too expensive. My family will want to feel like its a nice, special meal, but my parents are very frugal and will not enjoy the meal at all if it's too expensive, even if we pay. I was thinking maybe Gina Lee's--great food and reasonable prices--but I'm wondering if I could find another option that feels more special occasion-y. Places I haven't been to but have seen suggested on this board in the past include Chef Melba's Bistro, Chef Hannes, and Second City Bistro. So what's my best bet for a nice but affordable celebratory meal--Gina Lee's, one of these other places, or somewhere else I haven't thought of? (Note: I really enjoy Christine and Avenue in this area, but they are too expensive for my needs, so I'm looking for other suggestions.)
Gosh, I really hope this isn't a lame idea, but had you already considered (and passed on) those big chain-ish restaurants on N. Harbor Dr., right by the water, just north of the RB Pier?
Like (and I grimace as I suggest these because they don't exactly have the greatest food, but they do have wonderful atmosphere): Cheesecake Factory, Bluewater Grill... I can't remember the others, but they're all sitting there in plain sight, nice and big, when you drive up and down N. Harbor.
I've eaten at Cheesecake Factory a few times too many, and disliked my food each time, but I go there when I want to enjoy a laid-back, beachy evening with a friend. Mediocre food aside, it's not that expensive for the classy but casual atmosphere you get.
You should try Cafe Pierre or Petros in Manhattan Beach. Cafe Pierre is a great upscale restaurant that offers French-Italian-Californian-inspired cuisine. There's something to be enjoyed by everyone. It's a nice special occasion restaurant, but without a ridiculous price tag.
Petros nearby has amazing Greek cuisine, has a great atmosphere, but is a little more expensive than Cafe Pierre.