California is the No. 1 destination for food-loving travelers in America, and it's easy to see why. The Cobb salad was invented here. So too was the cheeseburger. The state produces 90 percent of the wine in the United States. And California is also responsible for the whole "locavore" trend, first brought to life by Alice Waters’ Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse, which opened in 1971.
Possibly more than any other place on the planet, California has turned eating into an art form. From farming to feasting and everything in between, the California food industry has shown the world that dining and cooking can be one of the great pleasures in life.
January’s California Restaurant Month, now in its seventh year, puts the state’s amazing bounty on rich display. It makes feasting even more accessible than usual, with a legion of participating restaurants in cities and regions across the state offering deals and special menus at various times during the month.
And this year, more regions and cities are participating than ever—36 in total. From San Diego to Sonoma, Tahoe to Temecula, the month of January overflows with sunny deliciousness. Here’s how it works: Participating cities and regions have their own restaurant week—lasting anywhere from a week to 10 days—during the month of January. During each weeklong celebration various restaurants offer special deals, such as affordable prix fixe menus for lunch and/or dinner, or sizably discounted meals.
“California really transforms in January,” says Farley Elliott, senior editor at the influential dining website, Eater LA. “It's when the weather finally starts to dip, people find themselves loving those rare cloudy days, and diners sink into deep booths for hearty meals like a cassoulet or pan-roasted chicken.”
There’s more than just comfort food on offer during California Restaurant Month. From January 22 to 29, Napa Valley restaurants will be ripe with California restaurant goodness. At acclaimed chef Charlie Palmer’s Napa restaurant, Harvest Table, lucky diners can nab a two-course lunch for just $20 (or a three-course dinner for $36). Chef Palmer hasn’t concocted what will be on the seasonal menu yet but you can bet it will be fresh and local.
That same week you can go inland to Stockton for some delicious deals. Local favorite Masa Contemporary Japanese Lounge is offering a $10 bento box lunch option. Pull up a stool to the sushi bar at dinner, though, and for $25, lucky diners get a choice of two special rolls from the long menu of insanely tasty signature sushi rolls.
Heading south, if you like a seaside “splurge,” wash ashore at Redondo Beach’s A Basq Kitchen where chef Beñat “Bernard” Ibarra is cooking up a delectable $66 tasting menu of just-pulled-from-the-sea goodies. Slurp down freshly shucked oysters, grilled fish, tantalizing chorizo, and “pulpo pintxo,” octopus cooked sous vide for six hours and then grilled, making for some of the most tender, melt-in-the-mouth octopus you’ll ever savor. Take a bite into this deal any time between January 13 to 27, as well as at other participating eateries in Redondo Beach during that time period.
“After the frenetic pace of the holiday season, this is a good time for guests to relax and treat themselves to great dining,” says Chef Jay C. Veregge, director of culinary operations of the Harvego Restaurant Group in Sacramento whose restaurants The Firehouse, Ten22, and District are participating in the festivities. “California Restaurant Month provides guests a fantastic opportunity to have an amazing meal at multiple restaurants for a great price. From a restaurant perspective, it is a good reminder of all the incredible restaurants throughout California.”