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Unique Holiday Dining in California


Chain Restaurants
Cheesecake Factory
Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ
Mimi's Cafe
French Laundry - Yountville

Greystone Restaurant - Saint Helena
Lou La Bonte's - Auburn
Uncorked Wine Bar - Squaw Valley

Wine Country -  Napa





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Northern California restaurant photos

Quattro E Palo Alto

Boudin Sourdough

Teatro Zinzanni SF

Moss Beach Distillery

Bay Area Food Tours


Davis Hottdogger

Napa Wine Train

Bay 223 Redwood City

Samoa Cookhouse

Cetrella Half Moon Bay



Northern California Restaurants and Dining Reviews with Photos and Information on Cuisine and Food


California restaurants are included in this food guide with information about dining, cuisine and even chain restaurants you'll find in California. We love California restaurant dining! Everyone we know does, too. If you've not eaten out in a while, then you are truly a rare Californian or visitor. There are over  80,000 restaurants throughout California so your options for dining are so vast, you'll discover the meals, cuisine and food served offer endless options for fantastic meals served take-out, dine in and the ever-popular al fresco cafes that line the California coast.


For outrageously delicious sauces and unique, locally grown and foraged foods, Northern California dining offers some real treats. Napa's CIA trains so many great chefs versed in the dining experience and access to Napa wines, that you'll find these chefs filter out geographically and ended up in places nearby such as the Sonoma Coast, Mendocino Coast, Santa Rosa and of course, San Francisco. We actually prefer northern California dining overall for creative, new cuisine that breaks out of the mold.  While such restaurants and chefs exist in Southern California, they can easily be lost in the shuffle. And the ambience of a street location near a busy freeway does not compare to fog-shrouded hillside where deer roam next to a restaurant located in a house or inn. 


What Southern California lacks in land to grow salad and other vegetables, it makes up for in beach locations for dining. The warmer climate and sunny days allow diners to bask, relax and grab some of the Southern hospitality with countless mixed cocktails and margaritas representing the Mexican influence.  The Beach House in Cardiff, Fishermans Restaurant on the San Clemente Pier and other oceanside gems are ideal for relaxed dining outdoors. Diners can sip cool drinks and socialize to the backdrop of waves crashing on shore, seagulls flying by and the giggles and laughter of people simply having great times at the beach. You just want to linger and let the magic moments last longer when you feel the awesome weather you're often afforded in this beach paradise of dining experiences.


When dining in California restaurants, you'll usually enjoy the freshest ingredients in produce, fruits and vegetables. California is one of the leading providers of food nationwide. Fruits, vegetables and specialty foods are abundant and lend to incredibly fresh salads that you'll notice in places like Carmel next to the Salinas "salad bowl" growing region. Californians love of food, the volume of food grown locally and the sheer numbers of diners in the state make it a leader in food innovation.  Ranch salad dressing (Hidden Valley Ranch, Santa Barbara, 1950s); hot fudge sundaes (C.C. Brown's, Los Angeles, 1906); "doggie bags" (Lawry's, Los Angeles, 1938); California cuisine (Chez Panisse, Berkeley, 1971); Cobb salad (The Brown Derby, Los Angeles 1930s); "designer" pizza (Spago, Los Angeles, circa 1982); drive-throughs (Oscar's - later Jack in the Box, San Diego, late 1940s); and French-dipped sandwiches (Philippe, the Original, Los Angeles, 1918); and the no-smoking restaurant policy are a few of the great dining inventions.


With 67 headquarters, California has the most chain restaurants in the US. Spending more of their money at restaurants than at the supermarket, Californians enjoy more dining options (over 80,000 restaurants to choose from) and are also more inclined to patronize a coffee house than the average American, according to Scarborough Research.


"Foodies", those who visit a specific restaurant or destination known for its food, supposedly are dwindling in numbers since 2004 according to a survey performed by a travel marketing firm. We believe this flies in the face of other data. The more likely explanation is that foodies are growing in numbers but are less likely to admit it. With more restaurants and more people dining out than ever, recent media attention has focused on the growing number of overweight Americans. It's simply less popular to admit you love food now. One example supporting our hypothesis is the cruise industry expansion. As the cruise industry expands its belt and continues to grow, one of the top draws of the cruise experience is the food itself, available in quantity and offering a level of quality and consistency guests expect. With more travelers booking cruises in California and with over 6,000 new restaurants opening in California in a single year, we suspect travelers continue to travel for the love of food but have become less vocal about their love of  a good (great meal).


For California travelers, the meal experience can be satisfying or frustrating. Parents traveling with demanding children not impressed with fancy food have parents on a hunt, searching for chicken nuggets, french fries and hamburgers, the comfort foods. So the dichotomy in travel is that the young audience isn't interested in fine dining while the mature audience seeks quality meals.  Nearly every city in California and nearly every destination offers the fast food chain dining experience. Popularity has grown for restaurants that manage to combine a casual dining atmosphere where kids are welcome with a tasty, varied menu that includes some great offerings for many palettes. Applebee's, Mimi's and Claim Jumper are but a few of the successes.  More and more California destinations are importing chefs from other cities, from hotels, from New York, from Europe and elsewhere to create the award-winning cuisine.


As we travel and wish to enjoy the ambience of great resorts in California, we often enjoy a luncheon salad or meal at a resort.  Such lunch-time dining is relatively affordable at around $50 - 100 for two people and offers a salad, soft drink and soup of light sandwich with multi-million dollar environments. Restaurants at luxury resorts have included Bacara in Santa Barbara, Pebble Beach near Carmel and  Montage Resort in Laguna Beach.


A fantastic place in the Napa wine tasting region that's open to the public is COPIA. This cultural center and museum whose mission is to investigate and celebrate the culture of the collective table through wine, food and the arts is located in California's Wine Country on the banks of the Napa River.  COPIA, a not-for-profit organization named for the Goddess of Abundance, is a fun, interactive center where you can investigate the fascinating cultural intersections of wine, food and the arts. Enjoy tastings, classes, festivals, exhibitions and performances, stroll through the gardens, examine the exhibitions, enjoy the wine and food tastings, eat at the restaurant or the cafĂ©, shop in Cornucopia and more! COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts, 500 First Street, Napa, CA 94559. Call 707-259-1600 or toll-free 888-51-COPIA.


CIA or Culinary Institute of America began in 1946 and is the only residential college in the world devoted entirely to culinary education. Since 1995 the CIA's Napa Valley Campus has occupied the former Christian Brothers Winery — Greystone Cellars “the largest stone winery in the world.” Greystone is on Highway 29, just north of the town of St. Helena.


While advertisers focus on the skinny person to promote food products, 65% of adults and 28% of children are overweight in California. Take away my fork! All that extra weight adds up. In the case of airlines, it adds up to $275 million each year in extra fuel costs, not to mention the environmental impact of burning all that extra jet fuel. Airlines in recent years have replaced metal spoons and forks with plastics and have ditched bulky magazines to save on fuel.




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