What To Eat in California
Roadfood highlights of Southern California include vintage surfer fare along the ocean, both soul food and stylin’ food in Los Angeles, the best tacos in the U.S.A. in and around San Diego, and classic SoCal coffee shops (NOT coffee houses).
Northern California boasts San Francisco, which is an eating universe all its own, including magnificent fish houses and breakfast joints and, of course, bakeries that yield great sourdough bread and more. Farther up the coast are oysters galore. And don’t forget Sacramento’s fantabulous Squeezeburgers.
Fish tacos first got popular in the U.S. close to their Baja roots. Today, the basic concept of fried (or grilled) fish with yogurt-mayonnaise sauce or an even zestier salsa has countless variations coast to coast; the best ones still are found in and around San Diego.
Long ago, when California was considered exotic and paradisaical, dates were an emblem of its appeal. Grown in the stately palm groves of the Coachella Valley, the luxury fruit inspired a drink that has gone beyond the desert and has been embraced by all of Southern California: the date shake. As if an ordinary milk shake weren’t sweet and creamy-rich enough, chopped dates blended in with the ice cream make this beverage more sumptuous than manna itself.
Anchored by the heft of fire‑charred red meat, Santa Maria barbecue is a feast that dates back to the bygone spirit of California cattle country The beef is accompanied by pinquito beans cooked long and slow, seasoned with pork, pepper, garlic, and onion. Lengths of buttered and garlicked toasted French bread are used for mopping the plate. The one other fundamental element is salsa, which can be used on everything: dolloped on the beans, spread on bread, and as relish for the meat.
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In a country full of kooky overstuffed sandwiches, Timmy might make the wildest of all, fueled by global flavors and ceaseless experimentation
A marriage of high-tech methods and quality ingredients, Dave’s Gourmet is unique ice cream tucked into a mini-mart.
A pony express stop and one of the West’s oldest restaurants, Sportsman’s Hall fries excellent golden crisp chicken.
With ethereal lemon-yogurt pancakes and rich corned beef hash, a sweet and savory breakfast at Katrina’s Cafe is hard to beat.
Summer's is a mom & pop Wine Country deli that makes some of the best sandwiches around: ideal for a day out on the Russian River or at wineries.
El Molino Central is a creative Mexican cafe considered by some to be the best in California. We won’t argue too much about that.
An off-the-beaten path wine country icon, Angelo Ibleto makes his own deli meats, mustard, and jerky. A Sonoma County must-stop.
Family style meals and craft cocktails draw folks from all over Northern California to this updated old roadhouse in a hidden Bay Area village.
Los Angeles' Shaky Alibi is all about the best imaginable Liège Belgian waffles, both sweet and savory. On the side: best-in-the-city coffee.