I get to make fun of California because I’ve lived up and down its golden coast my whole life. During my years in NorCal, SoCal, and Central California (CenCal?), I’ve come to know and love this state’s food culture. Here are 7 restaurant foods that are just sooo Kalefornia—oops, I mean California.
1. The Great Cardini
Real Food Daily, Pasadena
“Tuscan kale, romaine, garbanzo beans, red quinoa, roasted yam croutons, creamy almond shallot dressing, spiced pumpkin seeds, macadamia parmesan, avocado”
Having kale and quinoa secures this salad’s status as solidly native, but it gets extra points for also having roasted yam croutons (oh you fancy, huh) and avocado. Did we mention it’s gluten-free and vegan?
Cali rating: 8/10
2. Superfood Stew
Juliano’s RAW, Santa Monica
“Seaweed, avocado, ginger, rosemary and flax oil”
This soup doesn’t sound appetizing… at all. But that’s not the point—Juliano’s serves “medicinal cuisine” that lets you experience the joy of “raw, living culinary art”. After all, “cooked food is poison!” Yup, we’re pretty sure we heard a hippie on a San Francisco sidewalk yelling the same thing.
Cali rating: 6.5/10
3. The California Roll
Urasawa, Beverly Hills
“White rice, imitation crab meat, cucumber and avocado”
AKA “everyone’s introduction to sushi.” The California Roll was invented in Los Angeles, but unfortunately, Tokyo Kaikan, its birthplace, has since been shuttered. But Californians love our rolls, so it’s definitely not hard to find more sushi restaurants. Urasawa is considered to be one of the best joints in the state.
Cali rating: 9/10
4. Verdure pizza
Michael’s Pizzeria, Long Beach
“Tomato sauce, corn, squash, zucchini, eggplant, heirloom tomato and mozzarella”
California pizza is so different from its East Coast brethren, boasting a paper-thin crust, a light-handed spread of sauce and an obsession with toppings. This slice is classically not classic. We see you, garden veggies. We see you.
Cali rating: 7/10
5. Classic Cobb Salad
Crave, San Francisco
“Roast turkey breast, applewood smoked bacon, hard-boiled egg, avocado, tomatoes, crumbled bleu cheese, mesclun mixed lettuce and cabernet vinaigrette”
The Cobb Salad is another California culinary invention. Even when locals are indulging in some bacon, we have to do it the “healthy” way: sprinkled over their salad. Plus, did you spot the avocado? We’re just waiting for someone to reinvent this with kale, and then its Cali rating will be 10/10.
Cali rating: 8.5/10
6. Fish Tacos
Taco Nazo, La Puente
“Hand-battered Alaskan Pollock topped with cabbage, pico de gallo and our own signature cream”
With all that proximity to the ocean, it’s no wonder that Californians have developed an affinity for fish. Then, in our signature food fusion fashion, we gave this dish some Mexican influence. Voilà, the fish taco.
Cali rating: 5.5./10
7. Whatever is for dinner at…
Zazu Kitchen + Farm, St. Sebastopol
Inhabitants’ obsession with fresh, local food is exemplified at Zazu Kitchen + Farm, where menus are put together after “a hunt through the garden to see what’s ripe and ready”. A potential dinner could be Petaluma chicken nder a brick, served with a grape and pistachio agrodolce and “backyard greens”.
Cali rating: 10/10
As hilarious as California’s food culture can be, it’s also delicious. We’d gladly eat all of these seven dishes. And can we get a side of kale?