Error message

  • Lingotek profile ID 4 not found.
  • Lingotek profile ID 3 not found.
Central Valley Foodie Road Trip centralvalleyfoodieroadtrip_hero_bookazine_accc-4160
Cavale Creative/Forrest Cavale

Central Valley Foodie Road Trip

From the Basque restaurants of Bakersfield to historic Galt, drive California's heartland in search of upmarket meals and classic comfort foods.

Central Valley Foodie Road Trip centralvalleyfoodieroadtrip_highlight_noriegahotel_tf7n8a1095
Tom Fowlks

Noriega Hotel

1
Noriega Hotel

Along the Basque Block of the Old Town Kern neighborhood, you can savor such classics as roasted leg of lamb and oxtail stew at Noriega’s, a restaurant that opened in 1893 and was honored with a prestigious James Beard Award in 2011.

Central Valley Foodie Road Trip centralvalleyfoodieroadtrip_highlight_thevintagepress_rf_635173067
Marianna Massey/Getty Images

The Vintage Press

1
The Vintage Press

Take a short side-trip to Visalia’s historic downtown and The Vintage Press. A local favorite for more than 50 years, it’s an elegant spot for dinner and a sure lunch bet, thanks to a delicious Armenian lamb shish kebab sandwich.

Central Valley Foodie Road Trip centralvalleyfoodieroadtrip_stop4_merced_rf_683737379_0
Halfdark/Getty Images

Merced

1
Merced

While the Central Valley is best known for its fruits and vegetables, man does not live by produce alone. If you’re hankering for beef, Merced has a pair of meat-centric choices to consider. With its vintage neon sign proclaiming “Charcoal Broiled Steaks,” there’s little mystery about the specialty at The Branding Iron. Around since 1952, this local institution is famous for prime rib and a coffee-rubbed ribeye. Or try the double French burger (actually made with four patties!) and a root beer float (delivered by a car hop, no less) at the vintage H & W Family Drive-In.

Central Valley Foodie Road Trip centralvalleyfoodieroadtrip_stop6_modesto_rf_467090939
Mitch Diamond/Getty Images

Modesto

1
Modesto

Modesto was the town that inspired the classic film American Graffiti and still has casual spots well-suited to its cruising tradition and eating on the go. At breakfast, check out Mr. T’s Delicate Donut Shop, which officially made it to the A Team after earning honors as one of America’s top 15 donut destinations. Its bacon maple bars are utterly irresistible—and best of all Mr. T’s is open 24/7. Or you can relive the glory days of drive-in dining at Modesto’s A&W Restaurant, which has been around since 1957.

Central Valley Foodie Road Trip centralvalleyfoodieroadtrip_highlight_mrtsdelicatedonutshop_rf_965602324
Leslie-Ann Smith/Getty Images

Mr. T's Delicate Donut Shop

1
Mr. T's Delicate Donut Shop

Cruise over to Mr. T’s Delicate Donut Shop, which officially made the A Team after earning honors as one of America’s top 15 donut destinations.

Central Valley Foodie Road Trip centralvalleyfoodieroadtrip_stop7_stockton_fkr65a
ZUMA Press/Alamy

Stockton

1
Stockton

Surrounded by bounteous farmland, Stockton is all about fresh, local foods. Its most famous crop is asparagus and in April you can watch cooking demonstrations and even taste asparagus ice cream (really!) at the San Joaquin Asparagus Festival. On Saturday mornings, browse the Downtown Farmers' Market where more than 80 vendors peddle an array of Chinese, Indian, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Korean groceries—plus mountains of vegetables. Stop at The Fruit Bowl on Waterloo Road for a bucket of peaches, nectarines, or apricots. Then sit down for a slice of this farm stand’s fresh peach pie. And speaking of baked goods, the Genova Bakery, an Italian deli that has been filling the air with the aroma of traditional breads for a century, draws long lunch lines to its landmark yellow wood-framed building.