Southern California is pretty much perfect in January: There’s snow in the San Bernardino mountains, the desert is swinging, and coastal towns offer balmy beach walks. And thanks to California Restaurant Month, it’s a great time to work up an appetite: 40 cities, towns, and regions around the Golden State have dining deals all month long—many a short hop from the main SoCal airports.
A good launching pad is in Los Angeles, since dineL.A. (Jan. 17–31) includes more than 400 restaurants with specially priced menus (ranging from $29–$99 or so) at spots such as Curtis Stone’s Maude in Beverly Hills and Tres by José Andrés. Given the wealth of celebrity-chef-level options, you should make your reservations ahead of time. Some L.A. County towns have specific themes for their own events: All of the participating restaurants of Santa Monica Restaurant Week (Jan. 6–12) are asked to utilize the grape-sized citrus fruit, the kumquat, in their specials, while Pasadena celebrates Cheeseburger Week (Jan. 26–31) in honor of the sandwich that was invented there in 1924.
More great dining destinations sit right outside the city center. The town of Alhambra, about 10 miles northeast of downtown L.A., has long been considered a hidden gem of global cuisines. Its Dine Alhambra Restaurant Week (Jan. 24–31) invites you to do a world tour through its Thai, Korean, Irish, Peruvian, and Indian restaurants, with multi-course menus for $15–$30 during lunch and $20–$50 for dinner.
North of the city, the Conejo Valley offers its own international lineup—including Himalayan cuisine—during Conejo Valley Restaurant Week (Jan. 24–31). And in L.A. County’s South Bay, Torrance Restaurant Week (Jan. 17–31) pairs food with the city’s buzzing craft beer scene. One great place to start is Tortilla Cantina, a “taco bistro” and beer bar featuring local brews such as Absolution Brewing and Common Space Brewery.
Just to the south in Orange County, Newport Beach Restaurant Week (Jan. 13–26) boasts a deep range of seafood, French, and California cuisine with big ocean views and equally impressive deals (lunches from $10–$25, brunches for $15–$20, and dinner from $20–$50). One don’t-miss spot is chef Brian Huskey’s Tackle Box in Corona Del Mar.
Or, head east to the desert, humming with resort fun, golfing, and great dining during winter. Indeed, Greater Palm Springs’ dineGPS lasts a full month, with multi-course winemaker dinners, food tours, and tastings, like the Riboli Family Wine Dinner at LG’s Prime Steakhouse. And not far from Joshua Tree National Park, the town of Twentynine Palms is hosting its first Dine in 29 Restaurant Week (Jan. 18–26), which will showcase its own global selection, from Japanese and Thai to Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Mexican. Be sure to stop at one of the local bars with history—like the authentically retro The Virginian, which dates back to 1937.
Farther south, San Diego Restaurant Week (Jan. 19–26) offers deals ($10–$20 for lunch, $20–$50 for dinner) at some of the foodie city’s most scenic spots, such as Mister A’s, with its sweeping bay and downtown views, or the iconic George’s at the Cove in La Jolla. Head east to the mountain town of Julian, which is famous for its apples and resulting goodies; its monthlong Sweet and Savory in Julian invites participating restaurants to create signature soups, hot apple ciders, and creative desserts each week.
A great stop on any foodie tour of Southern California is the Temecula Valley, home of an excellent under-the-radar wine scene. For its Restaurant Month, dozens of Temecula restaurants and wineries will serve their best takes on burgers. Contenders include the Hangover Burger at Avensole Winery, which is topped with bacon, egg, a potato galette, jicama, and salsa verde, and no doubt pairs well with a house-made Zinfandel.