The glamour of Hollywood and the perfect weather are just a couple basic stereotypes about California — but there’s always more than meets the eye. This is definitely the case when it comes to California’s variety in food. California is almost everyone’s favorite state at heart, and if it’s not already, its endless food options will definitely make you fall in love. Here are 21 things the rest of the country should thank California for.
Frankly, the best thing California is known for is the In-N-Out burger. It might be their juicy, delicious burgers or their yummy milkshakes, but either way, In-N-Out is something that anyone from anywhere falls in love with. In-N-Out first opened in Baldwin Park, California in 1948, becoming California’s first drive-thru. It was created by Harry Snyder, who specifically picked out fresh ingredients daily, while his wife, Esther, handled the financial side of the burger joint. From day one, it has been quality you can taste.
2. California Rolls
The most basic of sushi rolls were indeed created in California (hence the name). California rolls appeal to anyone — from the most adventurous sushi eaters to those who steer clear of more authentic rolls. There’s just something about that crab and avocado combination that draws everyone in. Ichiro Mashita, a Los Angeles sushi chef, came up with the idea of California rolls after deciding to replace fatty tuna with avocado. And thus, America’s most popular sushi roll was born.
3. Food trucks
If you have ever eaten at Kogi BBQ, Ms. Cheezious, The Halal Guys, or any food truck for that matter, you have California to thank. The modern day use of food trucks was first started by the Kogi BBQ truck in Los Angeles, California. This idea was especially effective because it was a cheap food option in the middle of the recession, and the popularity of food trucks has only increased since then. Though we may not have it quite as bad, living on a college budget is pretty much like being in a personal recession, right? Make sure you take advantage of food trucks for their quality food and even more quality prices, and be sure to think about California when you order.
4. California Burritos
French fries and burritos are quite possibly two of the most delicious foods ever, so what beats a burrito with fries in it? The first ever reference to a California burrito was in an ad from Taco de Carlos, a fast-lived Mexican food chain started by Carls Jr. in LA. Since then, the California burrito has expanded and is debatably one of the most tasty foods, for the drunk or for the sober, to exist.
5. Jamba Juice
Haven’t heard of Jamba Juice, out-of-staters? You’re definitely missing out. On top of offering a wide selection of healthy smoothies, Jamba Juice also serves juices, snacks, and bowls. The smoothie chain was actually started as a senior project (shoutout to Cal Poly SLO) and has expanded to over 600 locations since then. Be careful, their açaí bowls are so yummy and addicting that they could become an every Sunday afternoon routine (I know from experience).
Something about the combination of a fresh-out-of-the-oven, warm cookie topped with ice cream always sounds appealing. This must explain why people go to BJ’s at any hour of any day to order pizookies. BJ’s first opened in Orange County, California and is most known for their pizza and brewery, but quite frankly, my friends and I go to BJ’s solely for their delicious pizookies.
Ranch might be the finest salad dressing and dipping sauce to exist. From cooling down your mouth after some spicy buffalo wings, to pouring it on every bite of your pizza, ranch is good on just about everything. Steve Henson created ranch while working in Alaska, but didn’t officially start selling it until he and his wife opened their Hidden Valley Ranch in Santa Barbara, California. So, we’ll give this one to good ol’ CA.
8. Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe’s is the greatest grocery store, hands-down. They have very affordable prices, while also offering a large range of organic or vegan options for shoppers. Their own products are bomb too, like their Speculoos Cookie Butter, which tastes good on ANYTHING. The first Trader Joe’s opened in Pasadena, California in 1967 as a convenience store (and is still in the same spot today). Joe, if you’re reading this, thank you for creating the perfection that is Trader Joe’s.
9. Naked Juice
What do you do when you crave some fruit, but you’re too lazy to make yourself a smoothie? You reach for a Naked Juice. Naked Juice has so many different versions and they all taste so refreshing. The smoothie brand was started in Santa Monica, California in 1983, making drinking smoothies much more convenient. Naked Juice has made meals easier with the hectic schedule of college; just take a smoothie to class and drink it on the go.
10. Carne asada fries
The most intensive version of french fries are carne asada fries: a mixture of french fries and nachos. Typically served at taqueria-style Mexican food restaurants, this style of fries is a life-changing experience. Something about the mixture of a french fry with meat, rice, cheese, and other toppings is just so satisfying. The revolutionary dish was created in San Diego in the 1990s and has raised the bar for fries ever since.
Even though plenty of people are grossed out by those “exposing” McDonald’s videos, you can’t deny the fact that some greasy, salty fries or a Big Mac taste good every once in a while. And who can resist that all-day breakfast menu? Dick and Mac McDonald opened their first burger joint in San Bernardino in 1948 and it expanded astronomically from there, because clearly, all of America was lovin’ it.
12. Monte Cristo Sandwich
What beats a ham and cheese sandwich that is then deep-fried? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. That is the perfection that is a Monte Cristo sandwich. A friend of mine described one as the “most amazing thing she has ever eaten.” This creation was first served in San Diego in the 1950s, but became popular once Disneyland began serving it at their restaurants in New Orleans Square. After you eat this sandwich, you will definitely feel like you’re at the happiest place on Earth.
With the majority of locations being open late or 24 hours, IHOP is always a go-to spot for those midnight munchies. Their selection of pancakes, waffles, and other breakfast foods is simply unbeatable. One of the greatest things about IHOP is their affordable menu, so your crazy appetite won’t break your bank. IHOP opened in Toluca Lake, California in 1958, before expanding all over the world to become everyone’s late night breakfast spot.
14. Sourdough Bread
Nothing beats a toasted panini on fresh sourdough bread or a bowl of clam chowder in a freshly baked bread bowl. Sourdough bread can be eaten in a ridiculous amount of ways and I’m willing to bet that every possible way is delicious. Even though it is unknown who actually started sourdough bread, it is first traced back to gold miners in the San Francisco area, who consumed large amounts of it during the gold rush. We can all agree, America as a whole struck it rich with the invention of sourdough bread.
15. See’s Candy
See’s Candy is simply irresistible. Sometimes I eat just one, sometimes (usually) I eat a whole box, but I don’t even feel bad because it’s just that damn good. See’s Candy was founded by Charlie See, along with his wife and mother, in Los Angeles, California in 1921, and has been changing expectations for chocolate ever since.
16. Cobb Salad
Blue cheese crumbles, bacon bits, and hard boiled egg – toppings that make anything taste good. Even though cobb salads are notoriously known for being unhealthy, they still taste delicious, and that’s what really matters. This salad type was created in the 1930s at the Hollywood Derby restaurant and quickly became one of their most popular dishes. We have Robert Howard Cobb to thank for one of our go-to salads.
17. Taco Bell
Tacos with a Doritos-flavored shell and pink Starburst-flavored frozen drinks have revolutionized the late night drunk meal. Nearly everything on Taco Bell’s menu is cheap and tastes out of this world after you’ve had a couple drinks (but let’s be real, what doesn’t?). Taco Bell first opened in Downey, California, before expanding their menu to more than just tacos. Now, we live más with the existence of the Crunchwrap and Cheesy Gordita in our lives.
18. Pressed Juicery
Whether you’re planning an all-out cleanse, or simply want a cold pressed juice to accompany your meal, the juices from Pressed Juicery are always delicious and refreshing. This juice chain was started in Brentwood in 2010 by three friends who wanted to expand their passion of drinking cold pressed juice. They expanded within the Los Angeles area before growing nationally. Along with cold pressed juice, the company also sells Pressed Freeze at some stores, which is without a doubt the most delicious vegan frozen dessert I have ever had. Pressed Juicery is something anyone, vegan or not, deserves to try.
19. Panda Express
Even though it’s so Americanized, there’s something about Panda’s Orange Chicken that just draws you in. Not to mention, their Chow Mein and Kung Pao Chicken are always on point. In 1983, the market for casual Americanized Chinese food was completely changed when the first Panda Express was opened in Glendale, California. They might not be gourmet, but the dishes at Panda Express always hit the spot.
20. Sushi Burrito
The fusion of Japanese and Mexican food may be one of the finest creations yet. A sushi burrito throws all the goodness of a sushi roll into one big seaweed wrap, taking away the messiness from a normal roll of sushi. Sushiritto, a Bay Area-based food company, is who we have to thank for coming up with our new favorite form of sushi.
The California-style of pizza, a combination of New York and Italian thin crust, became popular by none other than California Pizza Kitchen. CPK has more to offer than just pizza; their salads and pasta are just as perfect of a choice as the pizzas they serve. CPK was started by two attorneys in Beverly Hills, California, whose style of pizza quickly spread around the globe. Their unique pizza flavors, like Thai Chicken or Jamaican Jerk, as well as the classics, like pepperoni or BBQ Chicken, make CPK appeal to everyone, near and far.
Obviously, this list made you want to visit California that much more. Clearly, there’s more than just surfing and celebs; we have awesome food ideas as well. You better book your flight to California, because who knows what new food fusion CA will bring next.