For anyone who dreads January as a time to restrict your diet, good news: 2019’s California Restaurant Month looks like it will nicely balance healthy, New-Year’s-resolution-friendly eating with plenty of indulgence.
Throughout the month, cities and regions from San Diego to the Shasta Cascade are putting local twists on California Restaurant Month. That means crab feasts along the North Coast, A-list renderings of seasonal produce in Placer County and Santa Monica, and lots of wine tasting in Sonoma County, Napa Valley, and Temecula. All of them get served up by way of prix fixe deals, tasting menus, and food festivals. Come January, 40 locations will host their own weeks (or full months). Here are 12 reasons to start making your plans now:
1. World-class beer tastings.
Restaurant Month is an excellent time to head to the Shasta Cascade’s Butte County—the birthplace of Sierra Nevada Brewery and, many would say, the craft beer movement. Butte County’s first-ever Restaurant Week (Jan. 18–27) focuses on “perfect pairings” of beer and cuisine at sushi bars, steakhouses, and more.
2. Local seafood at its best.
January nicely coincides with high season for crab in Mendocino, along the North Coast. The town’s Winter Feast Mendocino (Jan. 18–27) combines a wine competition with family-style crab dinners, a crab cake cook-off, and cioppino feasts, along with crab-fishing or whale-watching adventures. (Don’t miss the popular crab cake cook-off!) Wash down your meal with some local libations, the best of which will be showcased at the annual wine competition.
3. Experiencing the ultimate vitamin C.
The foothills of Gold Country’s Placer County produces a wealth of Satsuma Mountain Mandarins this time of year. During the first annual Placer Celebrates Mandarins festival, restaurants will showcase the Vitamin-C-packed citrus fruit in salads, sauces, and unique desserts.
4. Deals in Wine Country.
Top restaurants and wineries in Napa Valley and Sonoma County have a long list of offers during January. The month-long Sonoma Valley Delicious! includes offerings like prix fixe menus and special food and wine pairings at restaurants, wineries, cheesemakers, and more.
5. Appreciating persimmons.
Each year, Santa Monica highlights one food during California Restaurant Month. For this year’s Santa Monica Restaurant Week (Jan. 7–13), it’s the in-season (and downright healthful) persimmon, which gets the star treatment at A-list restaurants all over the beach town. Visitors can also sample the fresh fruit and more colorful produce at the Santa Monica Farmers Market.
6. Getting to do a cheeseburger crawl.
The first cheeseburger was created in 1924 at the Rite Spot in Pasadena, and the L.A. County town still takes its culinary contribution quite seriously: Cheeseburger Week (Jan. 6–11) includes dozens of restaurants showcasing the burger. Check out the five proposed cheeseburger crawls, designed so that you can sample and share several versions.
7. Seeing why Oakland has become a foodie favorite.
The East Bay city of Oakland gets so much buzz as a foodie hotbed these days, Oakland Restaurant Week needed its week to include two weekends (Jan. 11–20) to give you enough time to explore the more than 100 participating restaurants. Prix fixe lunch and dinner menus start at just $10.
8. Star treatment for comfort food.
The East Bay community of Concord may be home to 37 different cuisines, but its second annual Comfort Food Week (Jan. 18–27) embraces crowd-pleasers, with deals on food ranging from Nicaraguan cuisine to cookie-dough truffles for dessert.
9. Tacos, tacos, tacos.
The Ventura County city of Oxnard has a tradition of multicultural dining—and it’s home to a tortilla factory—so its Oxnard Tacos, Treats, & Tastings week (Jan. 18–27) is the perfect way to celebrate the town’s heritage. Tastings include the good local beer, such as Red Tandem Brewery, Casa Agria Specialty Ales, and Poseidon Brewing Company.
10. Port wine, cheese, and amazing scenery.
Sitting in the shadow of the national park, Yosemite–Madera County is home to foodie magnets like America’s oldest Port winery, Ficklin Vineyards, and the famous Hilmar Cheese Company. During January, local stars will pull out the stops, like the famous Taste of Yosemite dinners at the Ahwahnee Hotel.
11. More excuses to enjoy garlic.
12. Raising a pint to a good cause.
Beer lovers already flock to San Diego County Escondido for its renowned local breweries, such as Stone Brewing and Pale 9 Alehouse. This year’s Dine Out Escondido (Jan. 27 through Feb. 2) highlights beer and cuisine at 30 participating restaurants, and $1 of each meal sold will be donated to a local food bank that benefits kids in need.