The Top Food and Drinks Stops to Make on a California Road Trip

Taste your way through the Golden State by following one of these epic routes.
Hudson Brown
Published on June 18, 2024

in partnership with

California's rich migrant history, sunny climate and abundance of world-class ingredients ensure restaurants, wineries, breweries, and food trucks deliver mouthwatering experiences. Dining should always be a major focus when exploring the globe, but California's sheer diversity in flavour and experience makes it the ideal choice for a food-focused road trip.

With the help of Visit California, we've pulled together a list of top-notch venues across the state that are worth planning your trip around.


A floating dock with sea lions in the middle of Morro Bay harbor. Sailing boats on background, California Central Coast

Morro Bay Harbour, credit Nature, food, landscape, travel via iStock

Fresh Seafood Galore in Northern California

SeaQuake Brewing, Crescent City

Drawing inspiration from Northern California's towering redwood forests and pristine coastline, SeaQuake Brewing in Crescent City, about 25 minutes south of the state line, showcases what the region's cuisine is all about. Alongside tasty options like woodfired pizza and grass-fed burgers, the brewery has a bunch of seafood to sample. Dive into the decadent mac 'n' cheese topped with blackened shrimp or see how US fish 'n' chips measures up — this version features local rockfish coated in blonde ale panko crumb, .

Deciding on the perfect beverage can be a challenge with innovative brews and non-alcoholic kombuchas on offer — the latter has up to 14 rotating flavours, including chai, tart cherry and blood orange.


Larry Myhre via Flickr


Tavern 1888, Eureka

Just over two hours south of Crescent City is Eureka, a port city renowned for its Victorian-era architecture. Here, you'll find Tavern 1888, a renowned restaurant near the waterfront named after the historic building it occupies. Despite this, the cuisine takes a forward-thinking perspective with Southern hints while a vibrant cocktail menu gives the place a dynamic lift.

Uniting top-notch ingredients from across the region, the Humboldt Bay oysters and the seared scallops with pea puree highlight the quality of the nearby waters. Once dinner is complete, step into the Phatsy Kline's Parlor Lounge for colourful cocktails and live tunes.


Dave Franklin via Flickr

The Wharf, Fort Bragg

Three hours down the coast, perched on the edge of Noyo Harbour, The Wharf is a historic spot for lunch or dinner in Fort Bragg. Opened in the early 1950s as a coffee shop, it was the go-to spot for local anglers needing a caffeinated pick-me-up during a hard day's work.

Today, not-too-different fishing vessels keep the restaurant topped up with fresh salmon, sea urchins, crabs and more. Swing by for tasty clam chowder or cioppino – a fish stew originating in San Francisco – accompanied by stellar views.


Visit California

Explore Californian Wine Country

Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyard, Santa Barbara

California is the home of winemaking in America, with the state responsible for more than 80 percent of the country's production. Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyard is an outstanding example of the state's expertise, based in the Santa Rosa Hills of Santa Barbara (two hours north of LA). There's a clear focus on pinot noir and chardonnay alongside syrah and grenache varieties.

With a cool breeze from the Pacific Ocean sweeping through the surrounding mountains, Alma Rosa produces carefully balanced wines that reflect the mild climate and limits its releases to 300 or fewer cases. To sample some of these rare drops, catch an intimate on-site tasting in the estate's private ranch house.


Courtesy of Presqu'ile Winery

Presqu'ile Winery, Santa Maria Valley

Thirty minutes away, immersed in the beautiful Santa Maria Valley, Presqu'ile Winery is a family-owned affair dedicated to cool-climate wines, such as pinot noir, chardonnay and syrah, with charming vines stretching across the bucolic property. Picture-perfect by design, the property was carefully conceived as a "tapestry of blocks", allowing for fascinating experimentation. Featuring modern-rustic architecture, the impressive on-site tasting room is complemented by experiences across the estate that range from bocce to horseback riding.


Jordan Vineyard & Winery

Jordan Winery, Healdsburg

Founded in 1972, Jordan Winery's reputation has steadily grown to become one of the top wineries in California. And it's no surprise when you consider the scale and splendour of the place. Set on 1200 acres of picturesque rolling hills in Sonoma County (one hour north of San Francisco), around three-quarters of the property is dedicated to supporting natural habitats.

This ecological philosophy extends to the winemaking operation with significant renewable energy and biodiversity efforts elevating the class-leading cabernet sauvignon and Burgundian-style chardonnay.


Theleming via Flickr

Try Top-Notch Cuisine in Southern California

Cielito Lindo, Los Angeles

Mexican roots run deep in California, and Cielito Lindo is central to bringing tacos to the US. This laid-back taco stand has been serving customers simple but delicious creations for generations, having occupied the same spot on Olvera Street in Downtown LA since it was first established by Aurora Guerrero in 1934.

Times have changed, but the venue remains true to its humble origins, striving to keep prices low for its long-standing customers. Today, you can still get two beef taquitos with guacamole sauce for $6.50. Add sides like tamale and chile relleno to make each bite that much more special.


Courtesy of Visit Carlsbad

Campfire, Carlsbad

Campfire brings all the smoke, warmth and good times from a weekend in the wilderness into the confines of an upscale restaurant in the coastal town of Carlsbad, near San Diego. The location tells the story — a wooden hut and a corrugated iron Quonset transformed into a contemporary eatery, where a hearty menu recalls the best of California's spirited terrain.

The menu changes with the seasons, but almost every dish is woodfired or cooked over an open flame. Expect charred, seared and fermented creations alongside a surprising selection of vegan-friendly options. Close your eyes and you can just about hear and smell the campfire crackling in the night.


Courtesy of Lucha Libre Tacos

Lucha Libre Taco Shop, San Diego

The love for lucha libre, aka Mexican wrestling, is obvious across southern California, with street corners adorned with colourful murals featuring masked wrestlers and arenas filled with fans for sold-out events. Founded in 2008 by brothers who grew up watching the sport, Lucha Libre Taco Shop pays homage to this vibrant culture across three San Diego locations — Mission Hills, North Park and Pacific Beach.

The delicious tacos and burritos taste even better when surrounded by the over-the-top decor. Take things to the next level by booking the Champions Booth – a kitschy gold-plated corner – or wear a luchador mask to get a discount on your feast.


Start planning your tour of California, America's ultimate playground, today.

Header image: Visit California

Published on June 18, 2024 by Hudson Brown
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