There are so many fantastic reasons to visit California. The fantastic weather, the varied landscapes of beaches, mountains, and lush forests not to mention great family fun with theme parks. It is also a culinary dream with so many varieties of cuisine and restaurants that are some of the best in the nation. There are many more fantastic spots than what’s listed here, but here the 10 restaurants you must visit in California (& their most popular dish).
10 Old Fisherman’s Grotto
The beautiful scenery of Monterey is the perfect backdrop for our first entry, Old Fisherman’s Grotto. This family-owned restaurant uses fresh catches from local fishermen and locally sourced produced to create their award-winning dishes. Winner of Best Clam Chowder, Best Restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf, and Best Calamari, to name a few of its acclaims, just confirms this is spot is a must when on vacation. Don’t miss out on their clam chowder, served in a sour dour bread bowl. There’s nothing better on a foggy San Francisco day.
9 Casa Vega
The San Fernando Valley food staple, Casa Vega has been around for over 62 years. Serving mouthwatering authentic Mexican food, this is one stop you won’t want to miss. With a huge menu to choose from, there’s no way you’ll walk away hungry. Do yourself a favor and order one of Casa Vega’s massive burritos. You won’t be disappointed. Named one of L.A. Weekly’s essential restaurants, you won’t want to miss having a meal here.
Another San Francisco stop to put on your list is Farallon. This upscale restaurant serves coastal cuisine with a focus on seafood and also has an oyster bar. Using quality ingredients and fresh, local products, including produce, seafood, and meat, Farallon is not to be missed.
Diners will be swept away by the décor, dining in the Jellyfish Lounge where chandeliers decorate the ceiling in the shape of jellyfish and stools are made in the likeness of an octopus. The whimsy is only surpassed by the food. Be sure to order the Dungeness crab when it is in season.
7 In-N-Out Burger
No trip to California would be complete without a stop at In-N-Out Burger. When it first opened it was a postage stamp drive-through hamburger stand. The first drive-through in California, this Baldwin Park stand evolved into a brand that is known all over the US. Since its humble beginnings, In-N-Out Burger has become a chain with hundreds of locations on the West Coast and Texas. You’re sure to find one of these drive-throughs while visiting California. Be sure to do a light night stop and grab a burger before you leave for home.
6 Blue Water Seafood
For the next stop on our list, we’ll head a little further south in California to San Diego. Home to sand, surf, sun, San Diego is the perfect spot to stop and grab some fish tacos and highlight the local catch. Blue Water Seafood uses the best possible catch of the day to make sure that their guests get the most delicious, freshest meal. Sometimes they even catch the fish themselves! The fish tacos are a must when visiting Blue Water Seafood.
5 Firestone Grill
If you’re in the mood for some excellent BBQ while traveling through California be sure to stop at the Firestone Grill in San Luis Obispo. This family-run restaurant makes a fresh batch of their BBQ sauce daily and is the best spot to stop and get a tri-tip sandwich. The meat is hand-sliced and served on a French Roll. No trip to the area is complete without a meal here.
4 Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles
Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles is one of the most famous stops on our list. This Long Beach restaurant opened in 1975 by Herb Hudson, a Harlem transplant who found this soul food empire. This chain has made an appearance in many a film and television show showing how popular the restaurant has been and continues to be. The menu is quite expansive with some great options, but of course, if you have one choice you have to get the chicken and waffles.
3 Brown Sugar Kitchen
Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland is the brainchild of Chef Tanya Holland. A classical trained French chef, Tanya has taken her formal training and flipped the switch to use it to create her take on Southern cooking. Brown Sugar Kitchen uses locally sourced ingredients to create fresh, seasonal plates. Check out the fried chicken or the blackened catfish po-boy, and don’t forget the waffles. The waffles are so popular there can be an extra wait time, so be sure to check with your server when you order.
2 Hog Island Oyster Co.
For any oyster lovers, Hog Island Oyster Co. in Marshall is a stop you can’t miss. This 160-acre oyster farm with an oyster bar on site means that your oysters are as fresh as possible. The unique Boat Oyster Bar is an outdoor café where guests can sit at a communal table while looking out over the bay.
Obviously, the oysters should be your first choice when perusing the menu, but there are also local breads and cheeses to sample.
1 Julian Pie Company
After a week full of fish tacos, burritos, oysters and the local catch, you’ll want to top it all off with an amazing piece of pie. Julian Pie Company started when Liz Smothers decided she wanted to make a go of creating her own pies and having her own shop. The family purchased an apple farm so that their pies could be made from the freshest ingredients they could find, namely apples from their own backyard. The family still runs the shop and guests can come in and have a slice of freshly baked pie in Julian, California. Best of all, you can order pies online and have them sent right to your house.