Throughout January, California Restaurant Month offers an excellent opportunity to sample the best of the Golden State’s world-class cuisine, from the heartland’s produce to the coastal seafood and even unique barbecue. Forty cities, towns, and regions are offering events and serious deals all month, with a focus on prix-fixe dinners and great tasting menus at excellent prices.
Some of the best of California’s culinary scene, meanwhile, comes in liquid form, and it’s actually pretty easy to plan a January foodie getaway around wine, beer, and other delightful beverages.
Wine lovers will find countless pairings and tasting opportunities during the monthlong Sonoma Valley Delicious! (try one of the hike-and-wine tours) or during Napa Valley Restaurant Week (Jan. 26–Feb. 1), which includes deals at gems such as Compline, a wine bar and restaurant in downtown Napa.
Or, use January as an excuse to explore some of the state’s hidden-gem wine regions. In Madera County, near Yosemite National Park, many of the deals during its Restaurant Month focus on the area’s compelling wines, like the $48 prix fixe dinner at Erna’s Elderberry House Restaurant that starts with a glass of sparkling, elderberry-infused wine.
For more wine-accented dining, head south to the Central Coast, where the wine-rich Santa Ynez Valley celebrates its SYV Restaurant Weeks (Jan. 19–31) with tasting menus priced at $20.20. Nearby, San Luis Obispo County’s SLO CAL Restaurant Month offers three- or four-course dinners at a fraction of the normal cost, like the $30 three-course dinner plus a glass or wine at Tooth & Nail Winery in Paso Robles. In Santa Maria Valley, local red wine pairs exceptionally well with locally ranched beef. The $20.20 deals during its three-week-long Santa Maria Valley Restaurant Month (Jan. 9–31) include a great steak dinner at the Century Room at the Historic Santa Maria Inn.
Continue south to an acclaimed wine region in the Inland Empire, where many local wineries are taking part in the best-burger competition of Temecula Valley Restaurant Month—like the California Burger at Falkner Winery and a cowboy-rub-enhanced Palomar Burger at Mount Palomar Winery. Both, no doubt, pair well with the house wines.
Beer lovers can chart their own course during California Restaurant Month, too—after all, beer is part of what put some of these regions on the culinary map. Beer nerds should start in Northern California’s Butte County, 75 miles north of Sacramento, which is home to the landmark Sierra Nevada Brewery. Come to the area during its Butte County Restaurant Week (Jan. 17–26) and enjoy beer and bites at participating spots like Parkside Taphouse and Madison Bear Garden, both in Chico. Down south, San Diego Restaurant Week (Jan. 19–26) offers a long list of lunch deals that include local beer pairings, like those at PB Alehouse, near the ocean in the Pacific Beach neighborhood.
For an up-and-coming beer scene, go to L.A. County for Torrance Restaurant Week (Jan. 17–31), which focuses on food-and-beer pairings. Start at 21 Square Bar + Kitchen, which has 12 rotating taps of local beer, including its own hyper-local brew called 21 and Over.
And some towns offer a mix of great beverages. East of Sacramento, the Gold Country town of Rancho Cordova embraces comfort food during Rancho Cordova Restaurant Week (Jan. 24–31) but one participant does something special with potatoes: J.J. Pfister is an organic, family-owned and operated distillery producing hand-crafted vodka.
And you could spend much of Oakland Restaurant Week (Jan. 9–20) just sipping. The city boasts 12 tasting rooms along the Oakland Ale Trail, 10 wineries on the Oakland Urban Wine Trail, and acclaimed coffee roasters on the newest trail, Oakland Coffee Rush. During its January celebration, restaurants offer dinner and lunch deals, like tasting room Prima Materia’s cheese-and-charciterie plage plus three-wine flight for $30. But Oakland has brunch deals too, if you relish a perfect latte pairing to start your day.