12 Foods You Must Eat When in California

Blu Jam Benedict - Poached eggs on a toasted English muffin with Black Forest Ham, crispy bacon, topped with hollandaise sauce, served with potatoes Ι © City Foodsters/Flickr
Blu Jam Benedict - Poached eggs on a toasted English muffin with Black Forest Ham, crispy bacon, topped with hollandaise sauce, served with potatoes Ι © City Foodsters/Flickr
Photo of Deanna Morgado
4 December 2017

California is the destination for foodies. Up and down the state, there are so many eateries, restaurants, and types of food to choose from. But what are the foods visitors should try to get the most out of their trip? Check out our list of California classics and where to get them.

The Godmother Sandwich

Deli, Bakery, Italian, Vegetarian, $$$

You’ll find delicious classic Italian subs at Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery in Santa Monica. Don’t miss out on the Godmother, a must when you need an Italian fix in California. Get it to-go, and then head to the beach or Santa Monica Pier to enjoy it in the sun.

California Burrito

Restaurant, Mexican

Fries in a burrito? Totally a California thing. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime taste. The best place to get this California wonder of deliciousness is at none other than California Burrito, just outside of Sacramento, the state’s capital. You can’t get much more California than that.

Matt Cain Sandwich

Sandwich Shop, American, $$$

Matt Cain, former pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, is so revered that he scored a sandwich named after him. The concoction contains roast beef, salami, turkey, provolone cheese, and house sauce. You’ll find this sandwich at the adored Ike’s Place, with locations scattered all over the Bay Area, Southern California and beyond.

Dry Fried Chicken Wings

Restaurant, Chinese, $$$

Move over KFC, quality dry fried chicken wings are a California must, and when you have them at Chinese restaurant San Tung, they take care of two cravings at once. Visitors from all over flock to this San Francisco eatery to get the Golden State classic—their original dry fried chicken wings with garlic, ginger and roasted red peppers.


Cafe, Restaurant, American, $$$
Blu Jam Benedict | © City Foodsters/Flickr

That’s right, just brunch. No one loves this late-morning meal more than Californians, so make sure to find your way to a great brunch place during your stay. One of the best for brunch and a mimosa (or two) is Blu Jam Café in Los Angeles. Breakfast is served all day, and they offer vegan and gluten-free options.

Apple Pie

Bakery, Dessert, Pastries
Apple pie isn’t just a California staple, it’s America’s dessert. However, in California, apple pie has that extra oomph. Maybe it’s all the orchards scattered up and down the entire state, but the various takes on apple pie from the family-owned Julian Pie Company are the absolute best of the best.


Farm Shop, Restaurant, Wine Bar, Seafood, $$$
Hog Island Oyster Co.
Hog Island Oyster Co. | © T.Tseng/Flickr

Oysters in California have a specific taste. Maybe it’s the central location of the bay or the warmer ocean waters in Southern California, but no matter the reason, every native has filled his or her stomach to bursting with oysters. Hog Island Oyster Co. is a beloved hotspot. The Marshall restaurant overlooks Tomales Bay, where the oysters are harvested, but visitors can also stop by the Napa and San Francisco locations.

Vegan Mac and Cheese

Restaurant, Cajun, Vegan, $$$

In California, it’s pretty easy to be vegan or to simply enjoy vegan food. The state has new vegan eateries and options popping up all over. But nothing beats the vegan mac and cheese from Souley Vegan in Oakland. It’s thick, creamy, and savory. Vegan mac and cheese is here to stay, and whether you eat it as your meal or as a side, it’s become a new-age California must.

Baby Back Ribs

Restaurant, BBQ, $$$
Ribs | © missbossy/Flickr

Despite what many might think, California barbecue is unique and special, especially the baby back ribs. Phil’s BBQ in San Diego dishes out some of the best critically acclaimed BBQ ribs. Phil’s has been praised not only in California, but around the country, as well.


Restaurant, Sushi, Mexican, $$$

Yes, you read that right. California is home of the sushirrito, a burrito filled with all the goodness of sushi. Apparently, Californians got tired of deciding between burritos and sushi, so now no one has to choose. The sushirrito, which you can try at one of the many San Francisco Sushirrito locations, is the California Frankenstein everyone adores.


Restaurant, Bar, American, Beer

It’s simple. It’s timeless. It’s the cheeseburger. And Californians believe their cheeseburgers are the best. Without a doubt, much of their confidence comes from the cheeseburgers served at Hodad’s in Southern California, which is a state favorite. Uncomplicated, clean, and classic—these are the cheeseburgers Californians swear by.

Açaí Bowl

Restaurant, Healthy, Tea , Coffee, $$$
Açaí bowl
Açaí bowl | © Phil Whitehouse/Flickr

It might be true that açaí bowls originated in Brazil and became popular in Hawaii, but it’s still an absolute favorite and must in California. These bowls come with superfoods, grains, fruit, and everything your body wants to feel healthy and strong. The best are found at Vitality Bowls. After a picturesque California hike, natives love to replenish with these yummy bowls.

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