The state of California struck gold when it came to gastronomical merits. With ample sunshine, Mexico on the doorstep (show me the guacamole!) and the Pacific Ocean skimming its shoreline, California boasts the perfect set up for great food, even greater seafood, awesome wine and a big bag of mixed flavours. Here are some of our all time favourite tastes of California.
The All-American hot dog
Widely considered a bucket-list must do in the City of Angels, Pink’s Hot Dogs is an iconic institution. With roots that date back to 1939, when Pink’s was nothing but a chili dog pushcart and a mere ten cents per dog, these days the punters flock for blocks to get a good weiner. A cultural icon, with a wealth of ‘sleb’ names on the menu, go for the classic chili dog, with mustard, chili and onions. Or perhaps the Kiwis in the crowd will be more inclined to try the Lord of the Rings Dog, complete with sausage, BBQ sauce, and yes you’ve guessed it, a big line of golden onion rings.
PINK'S HOT DOGS: Corner of La Brea and Melrose in West Hollywood.
Beach burgers and tanned surfers go hand-in-hand like rhythm and blues. Especially in California. Hodad's Restaurant is a beachside burger joint favoured by the locals and highly sought after by tourists. In part because the burgers are gargantuan (and even CNN have labelled them as one of the best burgers in the country) but also because its flagship restaurant is just steps from the crashing surf, and nothing says beach Cali cool like a post-surf beef burger.
HODAD’S BURGER RESTAURANT: 5010 Newport Avenue, San Diego.
Drippy egg muffins
A wizard of all things pastry, Chef, William Werner could give Parisians dexperts (dough experts) a run for their money. Under the creative direction of Werner, Craftsman and Wolves is no ordinary bakery; the artisan goodies all come with an extra dash of panache. From cheddar-chive scones to blueberry muffins capped with lashings of salted butter crumble. However, the real ‘pièce de résistance’ is the café’s signature ‘Rebel Within’. A crumbly soft muffin hiding an entire boiled egg within its buttery, fluffy sponge. The egg’s served runny so once you slice through the muffin, drippy yolk loveliness oozes out.
CRAFTSMAN AND WOLVES: Three locations across San Francisco and a vendor at the Ferry Building Farmers Market every Saturday.
Chicken and waffles
To the average Kiwi, the unlikely pairing of savoury chicken with super sweet waffles might seem like an odd one, but to the average American, it’s the pure taste of comfort. There’s something about salty fried chicken piled over a bed of soft golden waffles that just works. The all-American chicken meets waffle encounter should be enjoyed at The Waffle Experience in Sacramento, which treats guests to both the original thoroughfare, and an upmarket approach to a die-hard classic. Embark on the almighty 'Two Hands Required' option and you’ll find all manner of ingredients gracing the peak of your waffle mountain: Pesto, parmesan, cherrywood smoked bacon, even kale. It’s an unlikely pairing – and then some!
THE WAFFLE EXPERIENCE: Open every day from 8am – 3pm at 4391 Gateway Park Blvd #650, Sacramento.
With Mexico just a hair’s breadth away and the Pacific Ocean pounding at the perimetres, it’s little wonder fish tacos are a California beach classic. Take a day trip to Newport and you’ll stumble across the Bear Flag Fish Company. Opening its doors in 2007, there’s more fresh seafood found inside these four walls than a greedy whale's stomach. White fish tacos come as standard, but you’ll also find blackened calamari burritos, Ahi tuna and plenty of poke. There’s a really nice community vibe here, and that’s because it’s been a local favourite for over a decade. So pull up a pew next to someone who’s come straight out of the surf and have yourself a frosted beer over a fresh fish taco.
BEAR FLAG FISH COMPANY: 3421 Via Lido, Newport Beach.
Ice-cream and candy floss desserts
Remember back in the day when a Magnum felt extravagant? Well, fast forward twenty years and a store in Los Angeles’ Koreatown now serves soft serve ice cream topped with organic candy floss. The menu at CottonHi boasts ice-cream flavours that range from vanilla to green tea, and cotton candy flavours that include lemonade and salted caramel. One bite into these sugar-high sundaes and you’ll be crawling the candy coloured walls for at least two days. But don’t stop there – add a sprinkling of lucky charm marshmallows and a drizzle of raspberry sauce. If you’re going to get cotton high, you might as well go full throttle.
COTTONHI: 3825 W 6th St, Los Angeles.
Synonymous with the affectionate San Francisco locals, the lure of a sourdough soup bowl is never too far away. Why? Because it feels like a giant warm hug. In a bowl you can actually eat. Of course, everyone fills their doughy innards with New England chowder; a thick, creamy soup combining potatoes, onions and clams - a mix that’s always well received in these neck of the woods. Descend on Boudin’s in the city’s Fisherman’s Wharf and you’ll be rewarded with thick, fluffy sourdough loaves and a hearty clam chowder. Seafood aside, the bakery’s creative approach to all things bread-esque will also delight. Check out the novelty shaped loaves, from turtles to crabs and enormous crocodiles.
BAKERY & CAFE RESTAURANT: 19th Avenue and Winston, San Francisco.
Hipster food court
The up and coming Anaheim packing district utilises an old and abandoned fruit-packing house, hence the citrus themed décor. Located in the heart of downtown, at the intersection of Anaheim Blvd and Santa Ana Street, go for the food and drink hopping. A lively establishment of over 20 artisan eateries, beer gardens and funky seating all fronting a centrepiece courtyard, the atmosphere is a selling-point in itself. Highlights include outdoor breweries, barbecues and specially made ice blocks from ‘Popbar’, as well as a culinary smorgasbord of Mexican, southern, Vietnamese, pizza and more.
ANAHEIM PACKING DISTRICT: 440 S Anaheim Blvd, Anaheim.