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 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.
“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.”
Here’s how it works: Participating cities and regions—from San Diego to Sonoma, and Temecula to Tahoe—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.
“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 have participated 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.”
Northern California is home to several well-known culinary destinations—think San Francisco, Napa Valley, Berkeley—but it also boasts lesser-known locales in the center of agricultural hubs. Discover new hotspots or treat yourself to a multi-course meal at your favorite restaurant with these special January deals, listed north to south.
Mendocino County Crab, Wine & Beer Festival
Mendocino may be known for its stunning coastline, but the real treasures lie beneath the surface of the sea. During the 19th Annual Crab, Wine & Beer Festival, you can wash down the ocean’s bounty with a glass or two of the good stuff. Enjoy family-style cioppino feasts, crab boils, winemaker dinners, wine and crab pairings, beer tastings, and the popular Crab Cake Cook-Off & Wine Competition—special lodging rates encourage vacationers to join in the fun.
Dine Downtown Sacramento
This 10-day celebration serves up a capital deal: Foodies can choose from more than 30 of Sacramento’s best restaurants all offering a three-course dinner special for only $35. With one dollar from each Dine Downtown meal donated to social services and food literacy programs in the Sacramento community, you can fuel your soul as you fill your belly.
Calistoga Restaurant Week
If sipping a crisp wine in a hot tub sounds like your idea of winter fun, use Calistoga Restaurant Week as an excuse to visit the city filled with mineral springs, vineyards, and plenty of great food. Participating restaurants will offer a week of specially priced prix fixe lunch and dinner menus. Don’t miss out on the Calistoga Harvest Table. This local tradition features food and drink from local eateries and vineyards, all served on 1,000 feet of communal tables.
Napa Valley Restaurant Week
Home to Michelin-star-rated restaurants and award-winning wineries, Napa Valley is world famous for fabulous food and drink. What better time than Restaurant Week to sample the region’s delights? Choose from multi-course lunch ($20) and dinner ($36 and $46) menus from local establishments such as culinary star The Restaurant Auberge du Soleil (pictured above) or Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence winner Siena Restaurant, which will be serving hearty local dishes like Racer 5-glazed short rib.
Vacaville Restaurant Week
Vacaville has long been lauded for its popular food scene. It all started in 1921 with a fruit stand called Nut Tree, which hosted the likes of Queen Elizabeth II, Bing Crosby, and Ronald Reagan. This year, during Vacaville Restaurant Week, the honored guest can be you. Enjoy exclusive menus and special pricing at one of the city’s many diverse dining options.
Sonoma Valley Delicious!
All of January
Sonoma Valley knows how to ring in the New Year. For the entire month of January, one of California’s premier epicurean destinations will celebrate its delicious bounty. The entire region comes together to celebrate with discounts everywhere from wineries and tasting rooms to high-end restaurants offering specialty cocktails and exclusive dishes. You can open a red from your favorite vintner before heading to Saddles Steakhouse for the grass-fed filet—no corkage fee applies.
Suisun Restaurant Week
Whether you are craving French, Italian, Thai, Mexican, or American cuisine, you will find some of the best independently owned establishments of Solano County in the Suisin’s Waterfront District during Suisun Restaurant Week. Follow your meal with a stroll along the marina, enjoying views of palm trees, boats, and the City Harbor Lighthouse in the distance.
Downtown Benicia Restaurant Week
Did you know this quiet North Bay city once served as the capital of California? During its Restaurant Week, you can enjoy your history paired with delicious food at an unbeatable price. A dining passport gets you a 15 percent discount at participating eateries that offer big-city taste with a small-town feel.
Concord Comfort Food Restaurant Week
Located halfway between Napa Valley and San Francisco, Concord is home to hikes for all abilities—everything from Mount Diablo to the Tri-Valley Beer Trail. The First Annual Concord Comfort Food Restaurant Week highlights the region’s rich diversity with each participating restaurant providing a featured menu item. Try something new at one of the area’s best eateries serving classic Afghan, Salvadoran, Vietnamese, French, or Czech cuisine.
Stockton Restaurant Week
Stockton Restaurant Week offers nine days of unique fixed-price specialty menus—and with more than 25 restaurants to choose from, food lovers and families should bring their appetites. Try anything from Southern fried chicken and waffles with a side of garlic mashed potatoes ($15) at The Shadows Steakhouse to a five(!)-course dinner featuring items like larb lettuce wraps and sticky rice crab cakes ($30 per person) at Thai Me Up.
Berkeley Restaurant Week
As the birthplace of the farm-to-table movement, it’s no surprise that Berkeley embraces its Restaurant Week with open arms. Dine at some of the best spots in the country for a reasonable price: $20 for prix fixe lunch and $25 or $35 for dinner. This year, try experimental Oaxacan dishes at Comal, which SFGATE calls a “study in excellence,” or vegetarian-friendly meets nose-to-tail cuisine at Gather, dubbed by the New York Times as “the solution to the omnivore’s dilemma.” Insider tip: Check @VisitBerkeley on Instagram for a chance to win certificates to participating restaurants.
Oakland Restaurant Week
Vegan comfort food, made-to-order ice cream, Peruvian stir-fry, house-made Korean glass noodles—you can truly get it all in Oakland if you know where to look. Luckily, the city’s Restaurant Week celebration provides a guide to the best spots at the lowest prices. Fixed-price lunch and dinner options will feed your inner foodie. More than 100 diverse restaurants are expected to participate in the two-weekend celebration.
San Francisco Restaurant Week
One of the world’s premier dining destinations, San Francisco has a rich history of epicurean innovation. If it weren’t for the Golden City, the martini, cioppino, fortune cookies, popsicles, sourdough, and cruffins may never have been born. See how the city’s creative chefs are innovating this year at San Francisco Restaurant Week. More than 100 restaurants will serve special priced, multi-course lunch and dinner menus.
Alameda Restaurant Week
Tucked in south of Oakland and across the bay from San Francisco, Alameda’s small-but-mighty food scene is gaining attention with Zagat ratings, Michelin recommendations, and new restaurants opening each month. Alameda Restaurant Week will feature food and drink deals across the island. Wash your dinner down at Spirit’s Alley, an innovative cluster of distilleries and tasting rooms before taking in a film at the historic Alameda Theatre.
Turlock Restaurant Week
Get into post-holiday celebration mode during Turlock’s 10-day Restaurant Week. Expect discounted dishes, special three-course meals, drink specials and more from local restaurants, who are ready to show off their creative culinary skills. (If you partake, caption your photos with hashtags #trw2018 and #turlockeats.)
The largest city in Northern California goes big for its 14-day #SanJoseEats. Access to the ocean, fertile farmland, and some of the sharpest minds in the country make the urban heart of Silicon Valley a culinary adventurer’s dream. For two weeks, try a variety of dishes (think anything from Vietnamese-inspired pizza to a perfectly crafted club sandwich) at special prices.
The geographic heart of California has pretty much everything that foodies love about the state: world-class wine, a bounty of produce, and great chefs who can make magic with it all. For California Restaurant Month, don’t miss the chance to explore these scenic and delicious regions serving up everything from innovative garlic dishes to award-winning cocktails. Check out once-a-year deals, listed north to south, available for California Restaurant Month.
Visit Yosemite Madera County Restaurant Week
All of January
Home to the south entrance of Yosemite National Park as well as Bass Lake, Madera County offers a wilderness experience with creature comforts close at hand. Indulge in these comforts as you soak up snow-capped mountain views during Restaurant Week, which Madera County is turning into a monthlong celebration. Pro tip: Head to The Hilmar Cheese Company for a predinner snack. The company offers free samples of its award-winning cheddar year round.
Gilroy Restaurant Week
Each July, thousands of visitors flock to the Garlic Capital of the World for the famous festival celebrating the city’s bountiful crop. But you don’t need to wait until summer to enjoy creative takes on garlic. During Gilroy’s Restaurant Week, local restaurants will develop unique dishes highlighting the pungent herb. Wherever you eat, you can double down with Gilroy’s signature dessert, garlic ice cream, sold at a number of local markets and eateries.
SLO CAL Restaurant Month
All of January
From the olive groves of Paso Robles to the ocean bluffs of Pismo Beach, residents and travelers can enjoy the best food and drink in San Luis Obispo County during SLO CAL Restaurant Month. Select establishments will offer prix fixe menus for $30 to $40 per person, while participating wineries pour out discounts too. Savor the taste of the land at restaurants like Thomas Hill Organics, which crafts locally sourced items like foraged mushrooms and freshly picked parsnips.
Santa Maria Valley Restaurant Week
The home of Santa Maria-style barbeque celebrates its Restaurant Week with specials that pay tribute to 2018. Throughout the region, restaurants, wineries, and breweries will be offering specials for $20.18—everything from wine pairings to special menu items. Try the thriving wine region’s best bottles at spots like Cnagy Wine Tasting Room, Grevino Café & Wine Bar, and Core Wine Tasting Room, then head to one of the local standouts—like the classic, must-visit Far Western Tavern—for a filling meal at a discount.
Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Week
The wine country near Santa Barbara is embracing the new year by offering $20.18 prix fixe deals at more than 20 restaurants throughout the Valley. Enjoy a three-course meal at First & Oak where you’ll find California cuisine with a twist (think aerated kimchi cracklings). If you’re feeling peckish, wineries offer the same price for flights and bites. Stop by Wandering Dog Wine Bar, a homey, pup-friendly establishment where the cheese plate is named after the owner’s goldendoodle Bentley.
The Official Drink of Santa Barbara Cocktail Competition
January 15, 5–8 p.m.
Santa Barbara infuses a little competition into its spirit-forward celebration. For the second year in a row, Santa Barbara will host a cocktail competition in an effort to name the city’s “official drink.” Establishments enter, the public votes, and the festivities culminate with a party for the finalists at which one winner will crowned. Will the Ginspiration Point from Alcatraz Tapas Bar be dethroned? You’ll have to tune in and sip up to find out.
Camarillo Restaurant Week
With a rich agricultural history—the city was once blanketed in nut and citrus groves—it’s no surprise Camarillo cooks up some tasty fare. Fresh, quality ingredients are sure to be on display during the inaugural Camarillo Restaurant Week, when more than 10 restaurants will offer special fixed-price menus. Have date night at the romantic Bistro 13, grab a cocktail and tuna tartare at Twenty88 Wine Bistro (pictured above), or roll your sleeves up and tackle a monster meal at Blvd Brgr, washed down with a Fruity Pebbles Shake.
Oxnard Dine, Wine and Beer Week
Home to the California Strawberry Festival, Oxnard is famous for its berries, but there’s so much more to its robust dining scene. Dine, Wine & Beer Week highlights innovative dining options at a discounted price along with specials from local craft brewers and winemakers too. Try fresh seafood caught in the neighboring Channel Islands and keep your night on theme with an ale from Poseidon Brewing Company, where old-fashioned diving helmets serve as chic chandeliers.
Southern California cuisine is characterized by two distinct personalities: fish tacos and craft beer on one side, celebrity chefs and haute cuisine on the other. California Restaurant Month festivities embrace both versions, with a spotlight on the local seafood and farm-fresh produce, as well as the region’s unique contributions to the culinary culture. From the microbreweries in San Diego to the bucket-list eateries of Los Angeles—and even the historic birthplace of the cheeseburger—here’s how to access the region’s best deals and treats in the southern third of the state, listed north to south.
Lancaster’s BLVD Restaurant Week
The high-desert town of Lancaster in Antelope Valley puts a spotlight on its lively downtown during Restaurant Week. In 2010, Lancaster Boulevard underwent a complete redesign. Now known as the BLVD, the area is the cultural center of the city, with more than 40 restaurants, bars, and shops. January’s week-long fete is the perfect time to try something new. Find anything from classic Scottish dishes to El Salvadorian cuisine, all at a discount.
Cheeseburger Week in Pasadena
Pasadena gave America (or really, the world) a priceless gift: the cheeseburger, which was reportedly first developed in 1924 by the young Lionel Sternberger, who was working as a fry cook at his father’s roadside stand. The city’s Restaurant Week pays homage to the perfect melt, with local joints putting their own twist on the classic with special burgers, discounts, and additions. Vote for your favorite through the Cheeseburger Challenge—and check out last year’s overall winner, Dog Haus.
Taste of Alhambra
Alhambra boasts some serious curb appeal thanks to its famously diverse architecture. Similarly, its food scene gets its flair from the wide array of cultural dining options. Sample cuisines from the world over at the Taste of Alhambra: Enjoy Malaysian, Texan, Thai, Hawaiian, Korean, Taiwanese, Szechuan, and more, thanks to specials at participating restaurants.
Winter dineL.A. 2018
With more than 300 restaurants participating, the toughest part of dineL.A. will be choosing where to make your res. The 15-day event features special menus ($15–$25 for lunch, $29–$49 for dinner) at participating places all over the city. In true Los Angeles fashion, there’s an Exclusive Series as well. The hottest restaurants in town—Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, The Bazaar by Jose Andres, Mélisse, and many more—will offer unforgettable, premier dining experiences starting at $95 a head.
Santa Monica Restaurant Week
Given the city’s famed farmers market and the local love of fresh organic produce, Santa Monica Restaurant Week focuses each year on one fresh ingredient. This year it’s the pomegranate, which will be honored through special dishes served at restaurants all around the elegant beach town. Dining destinations will craft healthy custom dishes with the antioxidant-rich, ruby red fruit as the star of the show.
Redondo Beach Restaurant Week
The pier-centered beach town in L.A. County has long been a haven for seafood fanatics who flock for famous dishes like the garlic calamari at Tony’s on the Pier. But the offerings for the Redondo Beach Restaurant Week also include a variety of delights from land and sea. Some favorites include A Basq Kitchen, serving up picture-perfect pintxos, and Bottle Inn Riviera, offering classic Italian cuisine. In additional to prix fixe menus for dinner and lunch, VIP cards can be downloaded for special discounts.
Garden Grove Restaurant Week
Just a few minutes from Anaheim, the Orange County town of Garden Grove is home to a thriving Little Saigon that offers some of the best Vietnamese food this side of the Pacific. During Restaurant Week, dozens of destinations will host special discounts and events. Try the Deep-Fried Salmon Belly at acclaimed Garlic & Chives, enjoy a post-meal stroll down Historic Main Street, or improve your skills at a “Cook with the Chef” event.
Newport Beach Restaurant Week
This Orange County beach town is known for its upscale dining. But during the 11th annual Restaurant Week, even the fanciest establishments become eminently attainable thanks to prix fixe menus for lunch ($10–$25) and dinner ($20–$50). During the 14-day celebration, check out the Tackle Box—led by Top Chef contestant Brian Huskey—with its New England-style chowder, cornmeal-fried catfish, and a Cali cheesesteak topped with fried peppers.
Dine GPS Presents the Chef’s Table
All of January
For the first time ever, Greater Palm Springs is delivering a Restaurant Month celebration with an intimate twist. Diners will be treated to innovative cuisine accompanied by fascinating insight—served up by renowned chefs at special storytelling dinners. Famous regional masters include The Barn Kitchen’s Gabriel Woo, who favors farm-to-table with a twist, and Chef Tanya's Kitchen’s Tanya Petrovna, whose vegan specialties were the fodder for vegan chain Native Foods.
Temecula Valley Restaurant Month
All of January
In the heart of Southern California’s wine country, Temecula Valley will celebrate its Restaurant Month by focusing on a dish that pairs well with the region’s Zinfandels, Malbecs, and Syrahs. Restaurants across the area develop “Temeculafied” flatbreads, featuring fresh local ingredients, including meats, dairy, and vegetables, including olives, all picked from the area’s family-owned farms.
Dana Point Restaurant Week
This oceanside town, hugged by picturesque beaches and stunning coastal bluffs, inspires seafood cravings all year round. During Restaurant Week, fixed-price menus at $15, $20, and $25 offer the perfect opportunity to sample daily market catches at one of the area’s heralded eateries. Try Waterman’s Harbor, named the first Surfrider Foundation Ocean Friendly Restaurant in the area, which serves conscientiously produced and delicious dishes like Trap Caught Cod Fish & Chips.
Dine Out Escondido!
January 28–February 3
Northeast of San Diego, the inland town of Escondido has an internationally known hops scene, with Stone Brewing as the jewel in its craft beer crown. During Restaurant Week, enjoy a wide array of pairings—or try something completely different, like sophisticated service at The Grand Tea Room or Bellamy's Restaurant (pictured above), or a transporting Central American dish at Cuscatlan Salvadorean Cuisine. For each meal purchased, $1 is donated to the Food4Kids Backpack Program, providing weekend food to children in need.
San Diego Restaurant Week
Raise a fish taco to salute this SoCal foodie favorite: San Diego’s Restaurant Week boasts more than 180 restaurants offering prix fixe deals. Enjoy a three-course dinner ($20–$50) or two-course lunch ($10–$20) at one of the many eateries across the sprawling county. Participants include new hot spots like the Pisco Rotisserie & Cevicheria, with its signature Peruvian chicken, and evergreen favorites like George’s at the Cove, featuring seafood served alongside stunning views.