California is the No. 1 destination for food-loving travelers in America, and it’s easy to see why. The Cobb salad was invented here. So too was the cheeseburger. The state produces 90 percent of the wine in the United States. And California is also responsible for the whole “locavore” trend, first brought to life by Alice Waters’ Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse, which opened in 1971.
Possibly more than any other place on the planet, California has turned eating into an art form. From farming to feasting and everything in between, the California food industry has shown the world that dining and cooking can be one of the great pleasures of life.
January’s California Restaurant Month puts the state’s amazing bounty on rich display. It makes feasting even more accessible than usual, with a legion of participating restaurants in cities and regions across the state offering deals and special menus at various times during the month.
Here’s how it works: Participating cities and regions—from San Diego to Sonoma, and Temecula to Tahoe—have their own restaurant week, lasting anywhere from a week to 10 days during the month of January. During each weeklong celebration, various restaurants offer special deals, such as affordable prix fixe menus for lunch and/or dinner, or sizably discounted meals.
“After the frenetic pace of the holiday season, this is a good time for guests to relax and treat themselves to great dining,” says Chef Jay C. Veregge, director of culinary operations of the Harvego Restaurant Group in Sacramento whose restaurants The Firehouse, Ten22, and District have participated in the festivities.
Northern California is home to several well-known culinary destinations—think San Francisco, Napa Valley, Berkeley—but it also boasts lesser-known locales in the center of agricultural hubs. Discover new hotspots or treat yourself to a multi-course meal at your favorite restaurant with these special January deals, listed north to south.
Mendocino County Crab, Wine & Beer Festival – January 19–28
Mendocino may be known for its stunning coastline, but the real treasures lie beneath the surface of the sea. During the 19th Annual Crab, Wine & Beer Festival, you can wash down the ocean’s bounty with a glass or two of the good stuff. Enjoy family-style cioppino feasts, crab boils, winemaker dinners, wine and crab pairings, beer tastings, and the popular Crab Cake Cook-Off & Wine Competition—special lodging rates encourage vacationers to join in the fun.
Dine Downtown Sacramento – January 12–21
This 10-day celebration serves up a capital deal: Foodies can choose from more than 30 of Sacramento’s best restaurants all offering a three-course dinner special for only $35. With one dollar from each Dine Downtown meal donated to social services and food literacy programs in the Sacramento community, you can fuel your soul as you fill your belly.
Calistoga Restaurant Week – January 21–28
If sipping a crisp wine in a hot tub sounds like your idea of winter fun, use Calistoga Restaurant Week as an excuse to visit the city filled with mineral springs, vineyards, and plenty of great food. Participating restaurants will offer a week of specially priced prix fixe lunch and dinner menus. Don’t miss out on the Calistoga Harvest Table. This local tradition features food and drinks from local eateries and vineyards, all served on 1,000 feet of communal tables.
Napa Valley Restaurant Week – January 21–28
Home to Michelin-star-rated restaurants and award-winning wineries, Napa Valley is world famous for fabulous food and drink. What better time than Restaurant Week to sample the region’s delights? Choose from multi-course lunch ($20) and dinner ($36 and $46) menus from local establishments such as culinary star The Restaurant Auberge du Soleil (shown above) or Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence winner Siena Restaurant, which will be serving hearty local dishes like Racer 5-glazed short rib.
Vacaville Restaurant Week – January 12–21
Vacaville has long been lauded for its popular food scene. It all started in 1921 with a fruit stand called Nut Tree, which hosted the likes of Queen Elizabeth II, Bing Crosby, and Ronald Reagan. This year, during Vacaville Restaurant Week, the honored guest can be you. Enjoy exclusive menus and special pricing at one of the city’s many diverse dining options.
Sonoma Valley Delicious! – All of January
Sonoma Valley knows how to ring in the New Year. For the entire month of January, one of California’s premier epicurean destinations will celebrate its delicious bounty. The entire region comes together to celebrate with discounts everywhere from wineries and tasting rooms to high-end restaurants offering specialty cocktails and exclusive dishes. You can open a red from your favorite vintner before heading to Saddles Steakhouse for the grass-fed filet—no corkage fee applies.
Suisun Restaurant Week – January 12–21
Whether you are craving French, Italian, Thai, Mexican, or American cuisine, you will find some of the best independently owned establishments of Solano County in the Suisin’s Waterfront District during Suisun Restaurant Week. Follow your meal with a stroll along the marina, enjoying views of palm trees, boats, and the City Harbor Lighthouse in the distance.
Downtown Benicia Restaurant Week – January 20–27
Did you know this quiet North Bay city once served as the capital of California? During its Restaurant Week, you can enjoy your history paired with delicious food at an unbeatable price. A dining passport gets you a 15 percent discount at participating eateries that offer big-city taste with a small-town feel.
Concord Comfort Food Restaurant Week – January 19–28
Located halfway between Napa Valley and San Francisco, Concord is home to hikes for all abilities—everything from Mount Diablo to the Tri-Valley Beer Trail. The First Annual Concord Comfort Food Restaurant Week highlights the region’s rich diversity with each participating restaurant providing a featured menu item. Try something new at one of the area’s best eateries serving classic Afghan, Salvadoran, Vietnamese, French, or Czech cuisine.
Stockton Restaurant Week – January 19–28
Stockton Restaurant Week offers nine days of unique fixed-price specialty menus—and with more than 25 restaurants to choose from, food lovers and families should bring their appetites. Try anything from Southern fried chicken and waffles with a side of garlic mashed potatoes ($15) at The Shadows Steakhouse to a five-course dinner featuring items like larb lettuce wraps and sticky rice crab cakes ($30 per person) at Thai Me Up.
Berkeley Restaurant Week – January 18–28
As the birthplace of the farm-to-table movement, it’s no surprise that Berkeley embraces its Restaurant Week with open arms. Dine at some of the best spots in the country for a reasonable price: $20 for prix fixe lunch and $25 or $35 for dinner. This year, try experimental Oaxacan dishes at Comal, which SFGATE calls a “study in excellence,” or vegetarian-friendly meets nose-to-tail cuisine at Gather, dubbed by the New York Times as “the solution to the omnivore’s dilemma.” Insider tip: Check @VisitBerkeley on Instagram for a chance to win certificates to participating restaurants.
Oakland Restaurant Week – January 11–21
Vegan comfort food, made-to-order ice cream, Peruvian stir-fry, house-made Korean glass noodles—you can truly get it all in Oakland if you know where to look. Luckily, the city’s Restaurant Week celebration provides a guide to the best spots at the lowest prices. Fixed-price lunch and dinner options will feed your inner foodie. More than 100 diverse restaurants are expected to participate in the two-weekend celebration.
San Francisco Restaurant Week – January 22–31
One of the world’s premier dining destinations, San Francisco has a rich history of epicurean innovation. If it weren’t for the Golden City, the martini, cioppino, fortune cookies, popsicles, sourdough, and cruffins may never have been born. See how the city’s creative chefs are innovating this year at San Francisco Restaurant Week. More than 100 restaurants will serve special priced, multi-course lunch and dinner menus.
Alameda Restaurant Week – January 12–21
Tucked in the south of Oakland and across the bay from San Francisco, Alameda’s small-but-mighty food scene is gaining attention with Zagat ratings, Michelin recommendations, and new restaurants opening each month. Alameda Restaurant Week will feature food and drink deals across the island. Wash your dinner down at Spirit’s Alley, an innovative cluster of distilleries and tasting rooms before taking in a film at the historic Alameda Theatre.
#SanJoseEats – January 15–28
The largest city in Northern California goes big for its 14-day #SanJoseEats. Access to the ocean, fertile farmland and some of the sharpest minds in the country make the urban heart of Silicon Valley a culinary adventurer’s dream. For two weeks, try a variety of dishes (think anything from Vietnamese-inspired pizza to a perfectly crafted club sandwich) at special prices.
Courtesy of Visit California