California stands as a beacon of diversity, not just in its people and culture, but also in its culinary offerings. The state boasts an unparalleled gastronomic adventure, ranging from the freshest seafood and produce to innovative and imaginative dishes. Whether you seek the refinement of fine dining, the comfort of casual eateries, or the allure of hidden gems, California caters to your every culinary desire. Here’s a selection of must-visit restaurants in the Golden State:
1. Charles Street Dinner House
Nestled in the historic town of Mariposa, near Yosemite National Park, Charles Street Dinner House exudes warmth and charm. This cozy restaurant serves classic American dishes with a unique twist, utilizing locally sourced ingredients. The menu features delectable options like prime rib, chicken fried steak, grilled salmon, and pork chops.
Additionally, patrons can indulge in a well-curated wine list that showcases California’s finest vintages. The ambiance at Charles Street Dinner House is inviting, with rustic wooden tables, antique lamps, and vintage photos adorning the walls. The restaurant welcomes guests for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday, between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.
2. Fredrick’s of Savourys
For an elegant and romantic fine dining experience, Fredrick’s of Savourys, also situated in Mariposa, is the place to be. This restaurant specializes in French and Mediterranean cuisine, offering exquisite dishes such as escargot, duck confit, lamb chops, and lobster ravioli.
The chef utilizes organic and seasonal ingredients, crafting dishes that are not only delicious but visually stunning. To complement the culinary journey, Fredrick’s of Savourys presents an extensive wine list. Diners can enjoy this gastronomic experience for dinner every day, from Monday to Sunday, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
In Los Angeles, n/naka stands as one of the most prestigious dining establishments. Chef Niki Nakayama’s culinary prowess shines through her mastery of kaiseki, a traditional Japanese multi-course meal that pays homage to the seasons and the chef’s creativity. Each dish is a masterpiece, featuring delicate flavors, textures, and colors that harmonize with precision.
n/naka offers two tasting menus: a 13-course modern kaiseki menu and a 13-course vegetarian tasting menu, both ever-evolving based on ingredient availability and the chef’s inspiration. Diners can experience this culinary artistry from Wednesday to Saturday, between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
San Francisco’s Benu holds a prestigious three Michelin stars, making it one of the most celebrated restaurants in the city. Chef Corey Lee’s innovative cuisine combines Asian and Western influences, incorporating rare and exotic ingredients like sea cucumber, abalone, truffle, and foie gras.
The restaurant offers a single tasting menu, featuring approximately 20 courses, each a delightful surprise. The menu evolves seasonally and at the chef’s discretion, promising a unique dining experience on every visit. Benu opens its doors for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday, starting at 5:30 p.m. and concluding at 9 p.m.
5. Taco María
Costa Mesa’s Taco María reimagines Mexican cuisine with creativity and refinement. Chef Carlos Salgado employs organic and sustainable ingredients to craft inventive and delectable tacos. Menu highlights include lamb birria with consommé gelée, mushroom chorizo with potato terrine, and al pastor with pineapple purée.
Additionally, the restaurant offers a weekly-changing four-course prix fixe menu featuring dishes such as ceviche, mole negro, and flan de queso. Taco María serves lunch from Tuesday to Saturday, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and dinner from Tuesday to Sunday, between 5:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
6. Chez Panisse
Berkeley’s Chez Panisse is more than a restaurant; it’s a legend. Founded by Alice Waters in 1971, it’s hailed as the birthplace of California cuisine and the farm-to-table movement. Chez Panisse celebrates nature’s bounty with organic, locally sourced ingredients, resulting in simple yet exquisite dishes that emphasize their natural flavors.
The restaurant offers two dining options: the downstairs restaurant with a daily-changing fixed menu and the upstairs café with a weekly-changing à la carte menu. Both menus feature dishes like roasted chicken with herb butter, grilled swordfish with salsa verde, and peach and blackberry crisp. Chez Panisse serves lunch from Monday to Saturday, starting at 11:30 a.m. and concluding at 2:45 p.m., while dinner is available every day, from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
In the eclectic and vibrant neighborhood of Venice, Gjelina stands out as one of the most popular and trendy restaurants. It offers rustic and flavorful dishes that showcase California’s best produce, meat, cheese, and seafood. The menu boasts wood-fired pizzas, roasted vegetables, braised meats, and salads, all prepared with fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Gjelina even features a bakery that tempts diners with daily-baked pastries, breads, and cakes. The restaurant caters to various dining times: breakfast on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., lunch from Monday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., weekend brunch from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and dinner daily from 5:30 p.m. to midnight.
In conclusion, California’s culinary landscape is a treasure trove of diverse dining experiences. Whether you’re a connoisseur of fine cuisine or an adventurer in search of new flavors, these restaurants represent just a glimpse of the culinary wonders that await you in the Golden State. California’s dining scene continues to evolve and surprise, inviting you to explore and savor every delectable bite.