Restaurants in California

California is so big that it is impossible to summarize its cuisine. Geographically, Southern California is a place of 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, classic SoCal coffee shops (which are NOT coffee houses), glorious juice bars and health-food destinations in Orange County, and rich lodes of ethnic fare from around the world. 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. Inland from the central coast, around Santa Maria, is a whole culture of ranch-style steak meals. Far up the coast are oysters galore. And don’t forget Sacramento’s fabulous Squeezeburgers.

California’s Most Famous Dishes

Bright green smoothie includes spinach and bee pollen.


Fish tacos made with grilled mahi-mahi are dressed with cilantro-avocado sauce and sided by chunky papaya relish

Fish Tacos

A basket of six hot donuts: plain, powdered sugar, cinnamon



California’s Best Restaurants

El Gallito


In-N-Out Burger - Double Double
In-N-Out Burger


Gaffey Street Diner


Earl’s Donuts


The Summit


Wuksachi Lodge Dining Room


Nationwide Meats


Pancake Circus


Pasty Shack


Natural Cafe




La Farine


Mama’s Hot Tamales Café


Carnitas tacos are topped with coral-pink salsa
El Paisa Taco Truck


Bi-Rite Creamery


Roscoe’s House of Chicken ’n Waffles


Mission Pie


Best Fish Taco in Ensenada


Folded-over tortilla is packed with succulent meat and avocado sauce
La Fachada


Tacos El Paisa


Galco’s Soda Pop Stop


California Articles & Guides

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Top 12 favorite Ice Cream Scoops

WITH THE EXCEPTION of the hot dog bun, there has never been an edible invention as useful as the ice cream cone. Eat it all and leave nothing behind...

20 Burgers to Eat Before it's Too Late

One essential characteristic of any worthy hamburger is democracy of spirit—it should be accessible to all and not cost an arm and a leg. That's why our list of...

Monster Hash

We’ve never met a cooked potato we didn’t like. Baked with butter, salt-boiled, fire-roasted, puréed with cream, au gratin, dauphinois, frittered, and french fried—all are surefire transformations of the homely...

Drive Ins

For two-lane travelers, pulling into a parking lot perfumed by hamburgers and hot onion rings is as satisfying as any four-star dining experience. At a true classic drive-in, you...

Surf's Up, Soup's On

Surfing rules in Ocean Beach, California. And there isn’t a restaurant more perfectly suited to the wave-rider mindset than Hodad’s, an open-front eatery on Newport Avenue where a sign notifies...

Main Street at Al's Place in Walnut Grove, CA

From Steak To nuts

EARLY IN THE MORNING, the corner of Main Street and Railroad Avenue in Winters, California, is crowded with bikes—Schwinns and Cannondales, not Harleys and BMWs—pedaled into this quiet hamlet...

Grill of His Dreams

In the kitchen of RUBIO'S BAJA GRILL in La Jolla Village Square, north of San Diego, Ralph Rubio lifts a soft, steaming corn tortilla off the griddle. "Look how...


Pancakes make people happy. Arriving at the table in the form of short stacks or lofty towers, or fanned out like a haul of soft gold medallions, they are...

Gimme Shelter

Originally Published 1997 Gourmet Magazine After a good day of boldly eating where no food writers have eaten before—truck stops, diners, smoke shacks, even the occasional scurrilous road-house that anchors...

San Diego, California

Embroidered bywords on a sampler on the wall of Hob Nos Hill offer this assurance: "Pleasures In Life Are Few, One of Ours Is Serving You." There isn't a...


When Los Angeles was young at heart, cafeterias were stylish. They had first appeared in several American cities around the turn of the century; but by the mid-1920s there...

Ichiban P. B.

Pacific Beach, San Diego, California, Thursday, 11:05 A.M.: Customers cluster at the door of Ichiban P.B. on Garnet Avenue, waiting for the eatery to open. (Ichiban is Japanese for...

Pitmaster tends tri-tip beef on the grill

One Hundred Years of Barbeque

Santa Barbara, California, smells of jasmine, orchids, and the sea; lesser-known Santa Maria, an hour north by car, is perfumed by the scent of hot beef juices dripping onto...

A full plate of fresh oysters on the halfshell a must order at any seafood restaurant

The Essential 22 Seafood Restaurants in the US

Seafood is a delicacy that has been enjoyed since the beginning of time. Its flavors are unique and diverse, and it can be cooked in many ways. That is...

Roadfood Adventures: Las Vegas, Nevada to Palm Springs, California

Road trip Las Vegas to Palm Springs Las Vegas, Palm Springs, and the desert between them are full of wonder, including the brightest of bright city lights as well as...

Eat Your Way from San Diego to Los Angeles

Road trip from San Diego to Los Angeles The trip from San Diego up to Los Angeles County is only 115 miles or so, but with treacherous Southern California gridlock, the drive could...

Roadfood Adventures: San Luis Obispo to Ventura, California

Road trip along the California Coast Memorable food stops from San Luis Obispo to Ventura with meals that are California's alone. Sophisticated wineries and wine-tasting rooms: these are the pleasures...

Smashed crispyburger, fully dressed

Route 66 Classics: 21 Affordable Eateries from Chicago to Los Angeles

What a yummy trip it is to eat one's way from Chicago to L.A. along old Route 66! This tour of 21 excellent stops along the way includes some...

A dressed Burger with all of the toppings at Bun Huggers in Flagstaff, AZ

Route 66: Arizona & California Edition

While magnificent scenery along Route 66 in Arizona and California is abundant, good meals can be scarce. But it isn't necessary to take a major detour down to Sedona...

Los Angeles along the Coast to San Diego

Starting with refreshing smoothies in Laguna Beach, this Coast Highway drive leads to surfer burgers supreme, tacos by the highway, breakfast of the gods and the quintessential SoCal coffee...

Best Eats from Los Angeles to Palm Springs

Making the drive from L.A. to Palm Springs? Here's where to find the best local, authentic eats along the way, plus where to go once you arrive.

Huge cheeseburger

Best Casual Restaurants in Palm Springs | Roadfood Bests

Palm Springs - An Eater's Oasis in the Desert Just a few hours east of Los Angeles, Palm Springs is known for its warm weather, golf courses, midcentury-modern architecture, and...

7 Best Family-Friendly, Affordable Restaurants Near Disneyland

Anaheim is one of the most visited towns in the United States, but there is more to the area than just theme parks.  Great local, cheap Restaurants Near Disneyland and...

The One Must-Eat Food in Each State, and Where To Get It

Unique Regional Dishes After 40 years and 5 million miles spent on the road looking for America's best regional food, we've assembled a list of the quintessential, must-eat food in...

Authentic Local Eats, Vegas to Palm Springs | Roadfood Bests

Road Trip Overview This 5.5 hour road trip will take you over  312 miles from the fast paced streets of Las Vegas to the relaxed town of Palm Springs, just...

California's Heartland | Highway 99 Roadfood Bests

California's agricultural artery, CA-99, runs through the fertile San Joaquin Valley along side the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Rather than movie studio tours, this showcases the "other California," farms that...

Eats Near Yosemite National Park | Roadfood Bests

A Cafe That's Worth a Detour in Mariposa Yosemite has entrances, and great eats, on both sides of the Sierras. If you're staying on the Westside of the Sierras, make...

Granola topped with fresh fruit

Breakfast and Coffee in San Diego | Roadfood Bests

Southern California is especially well-endowed with significant coffee shops -- restaurants that are more polite than a diner but less formal than a linen-napkin restaurant. San Diego has some...

Delicious Drive From Tahoe to Montana - Part 1 Of a Year on the Road

Road Trip Overview Originally from Ohio and most recently San Francisco, Roadfood contributor Jess Dawson has taken her show on the road, traveling throughout America with her husband in their...

Meat & Three, A Dixie Delight | Roadfood Bests

What Is Meat & Three? A term used through much of the South, “meat and three” quite simply refers to a menu template that lists two to five entrees and...

Beachside Eating, Malibu to Los Angeles | Roadfood Bests

Un-fussy California Fare from Malibu to Santa Monica While Malibu is an upscale place, there are still opportunities to experience casual California beach eats at their best. Try some breakfast...

Eating Through Santa Barbara Wine Country | Roadfood Bests

The road trip from Santa Barbara to Santa Maria offers the great beef and silky wines you’d expect from the ranch and vine scenery, and there are a few...

12 Breakfast Destinations in the West | Roadfood Bests

As breathtaking as a western sunset is, western breakfast can be every bit as beautiful. Sunrise never tasted better than it does at any one of these dozen breakfast...

Best Mexican Food Augusta, GA | Roadfood Bests

The Best Mexican Food Augusta, GA Everyone knows that the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA) around Augusta, Georgia, is rich with BBQ, peach pie, fried chicken, Coastal seafood, and meat...

Double bacon cheeseburger, fully dressed

13 Best Places to Eat a Burger Outside this Summer

Burgers in the Open Air Hamburgers are good year-round, but there’s special pleasure in having one en plein air on a summer day. Check out these baker’s-dozen Roadfood favorite restaurants serving the...

Exterior view of Dave's showing gas pumps ... legendary chili dogs

Memorable Gas Station Food in America | Roadfood Bests

Fill Your Gas Tank and Your Stomach "Eat Here. Get Gas": It's a roadside jest as old as gas stations themselves. (Before gas stations, pioneering motorists bought gas in pharmacies.)...

13 Best Taco Places in America

Taco Take Over When we started hunting Roadfood many years ago, good tacos were hard to find anywhere other than the southwest borderlands and southern California. Today, great tacos are...

Randy's donuts exterior view

First Stop: 25 Great Roadfood Eateries Near Airports

Airport Food Food in airports is better than it used to be, but when we arrive by plane, we can't get out of the terminal fast enough. By rental car,...

Folded-over tortilla is packed with succulent meat and avocado sauce

A Day's Delights in San Diego

A Day in San Diego San Diego is where fish tacos first got popular in this country, and there are none better than at The Cottage up in La Jolla,...

Paper-thin crepes, dusted with powdered sugar, envelop bananas, walnuts, maple syrup and brown sugar


Why is brunch so wonderful? One, it almost always includes adult beverages. Two, it's far more bountiful than either breakfast or lunch. Three, there's no hurry to eat it:...

Chocolate layer cake frosted with caramel and pecans

Seductive Cafeterias

For some passionate eaters, a great cafeteria can be a source of tremendous anxiety. How on earth can a person choose from among dozens and dozens of good-looking desserts,...

Southern Kitchen - Pie

12 of the Best Pie Places in America

First, we apologize to the Stockholm Pie Company in Wisconsin, to Nick's Kitchen in Huntington, Indiana, to the Bang Bang Pie Shop in Chicago, and to Beardsley Cider Mill...

Peach Desserts

There are few pleasures in life more sensuously delicious than sinking teeth into a perfectly ripe peach to let its juicy, sugared sunshine flood over taste buds. Because their...

Laurel Diner - Corned Beef Hash

Heavenly Corned Beef Hash

The only possible happy exclamation incited by corned beef hash spooned from a can is "Arf!" But freshly chopped and sizzled to a crisp, crowned with poached eggs eager...

Roast Beef Sandwich

Every deli serves a roast beef sandwich, but a handful of U.S. restaurants make roast beef sandwiches that go beyond mere lunch meat on bread. The most memorable are...

Destination Donuts

Donut devotion as fervid as the commitment devotees have for barbecue. Everybody has a favorite kind. From robust cake sinkers to featherweight glazed, styles vary dramatically. In our experience,...


To quench ferocious thirst (non-alcoholically), few beverages are as welcome as horchata. A rice milk that varies from saki-thin to milk shake-thick, served on ice and dusted with cinnamon,...

Blue Colony Diner - Club Deluxe

Hot Turkey Sandwich

Every diner, town cafe, and truck stop sells a hot turkey sandwich. A precious few are memorable and as delicious as the best Thanksgiving leftovers. They include plenty of...

Urban Burgers

We Americans love our hamburgers, at home and on the road. From mischievous fried sliders to majestic beef pillows oozing juice over coals, burgers are a birthright coast to...

Huevos Rancheros

Huevos Rancheros, which means ranch-style eggs, once was an exotic dish that U.S. travelers found only in the southern border-state cafes. With the burgeoning popularity of Mexican food --...

America's Great Pancakes | Roadfood Bests

Pancakes are especially appreciated by travelers in search of significant breakfast. While fair to middling ones are on the menu virtually everywhere, restaurants that serve four-star flapjacks are rare....

Pastrami Sandwich Honor Roll

Steamy hot, soft and supple, perfumed by spice and smoke, infused with the dripping succulence of animal fat, pastrami is the most voluptuous of delicatessen meats. Great pastrami sandwiches...

Granola is loaded with nuts, berries, raisins, coconut, etc., etc.

Granola Greats, Coast to Coast

Granola first was invented in the 1860s (not the 1960s) and eaten by health nuts of the day. It was a severe dish made from nothing but double-baked sheets...

Julian Pie Company - Apple Crumb Pie

13 of the Best Places to Get Apple Pie in America

Crumb-topped, lattice-topped, or layered with caramel and welcoming a scoop of ice cream on top, apple pie is everywhere from coast to coast. For your pleasure, a baker's dozen...

Steak Houses: Roadfood Favorites

Many restaurants serve steak, but some places are dedicated to it. Although no great steak house is cheap, some of the best are extremely informal (like Doe's Eat Place...

Fried Chicken: The Delicious Double Dozen

Fried chicken is popular all across America and so different everywhere that it is not possible to say what city, state, or region does it best. While the process...

Taco Temple Combo Plate

Chile Rellenos

At their best, made from roasted chilies that still have muscular vegetable walls, stuffed with cream-rich molten cheese and haloed in a coat of featherweight batter fried to a...

Randy's donuts exterior view

Los Angeles Open All Night

If you visit Los Angeles from the East and have a stubborn circadian rhythm governor that has you awake and hungry in the middle of the night, prepare to...

Great California Recipes

Eggs Del Mar

Carmel Brunch

Countrie Eatery - Crabcakes

Crab Cake Benedict

California Benedict

Eggs Benedict

Breakfast Chilaquiles Recipe

Breakfast Burrito

Indian pudding in a bowl topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Indian Pudding


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