Southern California cuisine has two distinct personalities: fish tacos and craft beer on one side, celebrity chefs and haute cuisine on the other. California Restaurant Month festivities embrace both versions, with a spotlight on the local fresh seafood and farm produce, as well as the region’s unique contributions to the culinary culture. From the microbreweries in San Diego to the bucket-list eateries of Los Angeles—and even the historic birthplace of the cheeseburger—here’s how to access the region’s best deals and treats in the southern third of the state, listed north to south.
Dine Local, Eat Global in Lancaster
The high-desert town of Lancaster, in Antelope Valley, debuts its Restaurant Week this year with special menus focusing on its downtown eateries, bars and brewery, as well as the weekly farmers’ market. Check out local favourites like BeX Bar & Grill, a lounge with nightly live music and underground bowling, which features a menu with California’s homegrown barbecue style—tri-tip—as well as baby back ribs.
Cheeseburger Week in Pasadena
Pasadena has given America (or really, the world) a priceless gift: the cheeseburger, which was reportedly born here in 1924 at a roadside stand called The Rite Spot. No surprise, the local Restaurant Week pays homage to this cheese-topped wonder. More than 40 local restaurants will participate with their tributes, from old-school classics at Pie ’N Burger (which also tops burgers with its house-made Thousand Island dressing) to Yucatan versions at El Portal.
Claremont Restaurant Week
Claremont will celebrate two weeks’ worth of its Restaurant Week—including two weekends—to encourage foodies to relax and unwind in this town east of Pasadena. The festivities will include prix fixe menus and specials at participating restaurants and specialty food boutiques. One of the top participants is Il Mattone Trattoria Italiana, a brick-oven-equipped pizzeria and restaurant that uses ingredients from regional suppliers like Alle Pia Salami, Black Market Gelato and Bootlegger’s Brewery.
2017 Winter dineL.A. Restaurant Week
Los Angeles has so many ways to celebrate a Restaurant Week that they need two weeks to cover it all. The 14-day dining event includes special lunch and dinner menus (typically $15–$25 for lunch, $29–$49 for dinner) from participating restaurants all over the city. It’s a great way to access L.A.’s high-wattage talent. Participating restaurants tend to include places like Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, Fishing with Dynamite in Manhattan Beach, and Lucques in West Hollywood, which is helmed by James Beard Award winner Suzanne Goin. Check the website to see which restaurants will participate this year.
Santa Monica Restaurant Week
Given the city’s famed farmers market and the local love of fresh organic produce, Santa Monica Restaurant Week focuses each year on one fresh star ingredient. This year it’s the radish, which will be celebrated through special dishes at restaurants all around the elegant beach town. While dining, you can learn about the different kinds of radishes out there (like the Cherry Belle, Easter Egg, and French Breakfast) and taste them in formats well outside the boundaries of salad: perhaps glazed, puréed, or giving flair to salsa. Check the site for participating restaurants and their menus.
Redondo Beach Restaurant Week
The pier-centred beach town in L.A. County has long gotten raves for its seafood restaurants, like local favourite Kincaid’s, which recently made a nationwide top-10 seafood list in USA Today. But the offerings for the Redondo Beach Restaurant Week also include some surprising spins on fruits of the sea, like the waterfront A Basq Kitchen, which serves Basque classics such as small-plate shrimp pintxo and the squid-in-ink-sauce txipirones.
Garden Grove Restaurant Week
Just a few minutes from Anaheim, the Orange County town of Garden Grove is home to a thriving Little Saigon and its Vietnamese cuisine—including the steamed sea bass with black bean sauce at Brodard Chateau and the Spicy Garlic Toothpick Lamb at Garlic & Chives. During Restaurant Week, you can indulge in specialty menus or even take part in ‘Cook with the Chef’ events.
Dine Newport Beach Restaurant Week
This Orange County beach town—site of the beloved Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival in October—is known for its upscale dining. But in its now-annual DineNB Restaurant Week (with lunches at $10–$25 and dinners at $20–$50), participants are charmingly crowd-pleasing. Check out the Tackle Box—led by Top Chef contestant Brian Huskey—with its New England-style chowder, poke and a Cali Cheesesteak topped with fried peppers.
Temecula Valley Restaurant Month
Located in Riverside County, Temecula Valley has themed this Restaurant Month after something that goes nicely with the local wines or craft brews: burgers (and burger-like items) topped with local ingredients. Try, for instance, the gouda-and-onion-jam topped Devilicious Burger at Devilicious Eatery, or the Bel Vino Burger, a third-of-a-pound Harris ranch patty on a brioche bun, at Bel Vino Winery’s Bistro. Pair the latter with the house’s small-batch Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Reserve.
Dana Point Restaurant Week
This beach town at the south end of Highway 1 in Orange County inspires seafood cravings, and its Restaurant Week includes prix fixe menus ranging from $15 to $25 at a variety of restaurants around town. Try Craft House, offering locally sourced meals right on the Pacific Coast Highway, with daily market catches as well as braised octopus salads and cocktails like the Endless Summer, made with gin, elderflower liqueur, lemon and cucumber.
Dine Out Escondido!
Northeast of San Diego, the inland town of Escondido can claim the famed Stone Brewing Co. as a native, so its Restaurant Week certainly features a lot of good beer pairings. Check out Escondido’s newer stars too, like upscale burger joint Burger Bench or The Wooden Spoon, which uses local farms and artisans as sources for its organic and largely GMO-free and sustainable menu—from fresh fish to pork schnitzel, both of which taste fabulous with local brews from Stone Brewery, AleSmith and Pizza Port.
San Diego Restaurant Week
Raise a fish taco to salute this SoCal foodie city: Its Restaurant Week boasts more than 180 restaurants offering prix fixe deals, including the treasure trove of excellent meals in downtown’s Little Italy neighbourhood (like Milanese Monello), as well as evergreen favourites in La Jolla like George’s at the Cove. Many participants this year will be offering desserts rendered from a seasonal ingredient: Girl Scout cookies.