If you’re going to be in California during California Restaurant Month, it’s hard to argue against making San Francisco your launching pad. After all, the Bay Area remained the top city in the U.S. for three-star Michelin spots during 2019, when seven of its restaurants earned the lofty distinction. The city will host its own SF Restaurant Week (Jan. 22–31), when more than 130 eateries will serve specially priced lunch ($15 or $25) and dinner ($40 or $65) menus—a great deal.
But you’d be cheating yourself if you didn’t follow your appetite outside the city limits, too—including some lesser-known foodie magnets around the Bay Area.
Start with Berkeley, the foodie mother ship that’s home to Alice Waters and Chez Panisse. The 8th Annual Berkeley Restaurant Week (Jan. 21–31) celebrates the city’s eclectic mix of international flavors (German, Spanish, Ethiopian, French, for starters) along with its New American dining roots. Check out Gather, which showcases “head to tail” and “root to shoot” organic cuisine, craft cocktails, and local wines. Or, go on The North Berkeley Culinary Food Tour, led by chefs and food writers, which takes guests through the district where the sustainability movement all started. Just next door, Oakland Restaurant Week (Jan. 9–20) offers prix fixe specials starting at just $10 and events including food tours, special dinners, and even a culinary scavenger hunt.
South of Oakland, the little island of Alameda packs dozens of family-owned restaurants into six square miles. During its third annual Restaurant Week (Jan. 16–26), enjoy spots such as Mama Papa Lithuania, with its authentic comfort food (hello, honey cake), Lithuanian beer, and a dessert wine made from a 400-year-old recipe.
Also in the East Bay, the small community of Concord hosts its third annual Comfort Food Week (Jan. 17–26)—but that doesn’t just mean just fried chicken. The town is home to about 25 different cuisines—including the Latin-abuelita cuisine of Canasta Kitchen.
Then head a little farther northeast to Vacaville (Jan. 17–26), where the culinary scene blends farm stands with a deep bench of international cuisine—especially Thai. Try favorites such as Rice Barn Thai Eatery & Wine Bar, Buddha Bistro, and TLC Licious (whose menu is Thai, Lao, and Cambodian) .
Or head south of San Francisco to Silicon Valley to see where the techies go to refuel. Cupertino’s first Restaurant Week (Jan. 29–Feb. 4) showcases innovative local offerings, such as the legit South Indian cuisine of Anandan Bhavan and the Asian-style baked goods of L’epi D’Or.
Of course, the nerve center of wine country is not that far away either, less than an hour north of San Francisco. Explore Sonoma County’s restaurants, wineries, cheese makers, and brewers during its month-long Sonoma Valley Delicious! or head to Napa Valley Restaurant Week (Jan. 26–Feb. 1) where you can dine in luxury for a fraction of the normal cost (with prix fixe lunches starting at $20 and dinners at $38). The hot-springs-lined Napa Valley town of Calistoga does its own Restaurant Week (Jan. 26–Feb. 1) too—a great excuse to go to the acclaimed French-bistro-meets-Creole Evangeline.
Plenty of other cities and towns around the Golden State are also celebrating California Restaurant Month, from the Shasta Cascade’s Butte County down to San Diego. Map out your travel plans today, secure some reservations, and start counting the days ’til January.