I am a big food person, I get very excited at the idea of trying a new restaurant and the experience it has to offer. I get caught up in the decor, the theme and of course the food itself. Whenever I travel I love looking up popular restaurants in the area, reading reviews and checking out any Instagram photos taken there to get a better look at the food. I recently went on a trip to California and was fortunate enough to eat at a few really great restaurants. So I've done a quick roundup of my favorite spots (starting in San Fran and making my way down the coast to LA) and my menu recommendations! If you're ever in California, I would strongly recommend trying out any of the places below, but if I had to choose my top three — it would be James' Beach, Harbor Cafe and Calzones!
Not only does this restaurant have an amazing view of the marina from its outdoor deck (the heated lamps are a plus) it offers a wide array of seafood. The sizzling skillets are a must, you can choose mussels, shrimps, crab or even all 3. We ordered the mussels and shrimp combo skillet and it was a generous portion of grilled shrimp and steaming mussels. My only qualm with this place is they charge $0.99 for the bread (a little tacky if you ask me) but it's a pretty big loaf that's toasted and served in a cast iron kettle and worth the additional charge.
San Francisco, $$
Walking into this restaurant is similar to what I can imagine it's like walking into an old Italian grandmas pantry. Bright red shelves line the walls and they're stocked with all of the pasta, produce and canned tomatoes you could ever need to make an fresh meal. If you go here, get the lasagna, you won't regret it. It's a meticulously layered masterpiece of beef and pork sauce, with freshly melted mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
San Francisco, $
While it's a frenzy of tourists, the bread at boudins is nowhere near overrated. I would sell my soul for a slice of this sourdough (not really, but you get me). The downstairs is a cafe style assembly line of artisan sandwiches and soups, but you can't go wrong with a classic grilled ham and cheese with tomato soup. What a lot of people seem to miss when they visit this famous bread factory is that upstairs there's a sit down restaurant called Bistro Boudin with an unobstructed view of the fisherman's wharf and Alcatraz. Here a waitress will serve you sourdough by the buckets and the menu features a wide array of seafood options and flatbreads. After consuming my weight in sourdough, I decided to go for a lighter option and ordered an Heirloom Tomato Salad. It was a refreshing blend of thickly sliced heirloom tomatoes, fresh wedges of mozzarella cheese, olives and of course 2 slices of sourdough crostini, drizzled with a balsamic glaze. Honestly it doesn't matter what you order here, it's all about the sourdough.
San Francisco, $
While I just popped into this pub to escape the wind, it turned out to be home to the worlds best Irish coffee! I’ve never had one, so I was excited to try it. I’ll admit it was a bit strong for my taste, but it had a creamy texture and was the perfect way to warm up on such a cold day.
Santa Cruz, $$
If you know me, you know that I am a huge breakfast person, it's one of my favorite meals of the day. So let me tell you, this place knows how to do breakfast. I ordered a Cali Croissant, which is an opened croissant half, topped with scrambled eggs, chopped bacon, melted cheese and slices of fresh avocado on top with a side of home fries. It was honestly the best breakfast I'd ever had, and if I'm being really honest, I was so stuffed I could barely finish the plate but I powered through the pain because it was just that good! This place has a great vibe and it's super dog friendly, I would highly recommend!
In my opinion, Carmel is one of the most charming towns in California, with it’s cobblestone streets and chic boutiques, the place is straight out of a movie. So it's no wonder that Clint Eastwood is a former mayor of this town, and opened an iconic restaurant called The Hog’s Breath. Upon walking in I was surprised to see leashed dogs parading around the outdoor patio while their owners drank by the bar. The neighboring town of Castroville is known for its artichokes, so I ordered an amazing artichoke soup. The soup had a thick and creamy consistency, similar to a chowder, and tasted purely of artichokes, garlic and cream. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the soup and would definitely recommend it. For dessert I ordered a peach cobbler that was warm, gooey and everything right about cobbler.
Pebble Beach Resort, home of the famous golf course and 17 mile drive, has a restaurant that oversees the golf course, the ocean AND the mountains, simultaneously! This place is pretty pricey, but the views are so breathtaking, it pays to sit down and have a cocktail while you take it all in. The Lavender Lemon Drop is a lovely concoction laced with vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup and garnished with real lavender sprigs. I will definitely be attempting to recreate this cocktail at home. We also ordered a Margarita Flatbread to split amongst us — you might have seen a photo of it on my Instagram — it was actually featured on Pebble Beach Resorts website in the #MyPebbleBeach gallery!
Monterey, $$. Downtown Monterey is filled with restaurants and nightlife, it also happens to be home to a little Italian restaurant with a great ambience. I chose the Gnocchi Trio, a serving of three different styles of gnocchi. The first was stuffed with spinach and ricotta, the second was in a Bolognese sauce, and the third stuffed with potato in a creamy shrimp sauce. If I ranked the three it would be the Bolognese, the potato shrimp and lastly the spinach and ricotta.
If you’ve ever seen “I Love You Man” starring Jason Segel and Paul Rudd, the two eat at a Venice Beach restaurant called “James' Beach,” where they claim to serve the best fish tacos. Well James Beach actually exists and they show off their claim to fame with a sign displayed right in front. Let me tell you they aren’t kidding, this place has THE BEST FISH TACOS!!! The Mahi Mahi was flavorful and complimented the rice, refried beans, pico de gallo and guacamole perfectly. Not to mention, the shrimp ceviche I started with was also extraordinary, and they make a mean margarita on the rocks.
25 Degrees at The Roosevelt Hotel
The infamous Hollywood Hotel happens to have an awesome burger joint attached to the lobby. They offer big burgers that you can customize with a variety of toppings, but what really stole the show here were the fries. The shoestring cut fries were fried to a perfect crisp, but the secret is in the seasoning: thyme. Who would have know that sprinkling such a simple seasoning on fries could make such a difference!
Los Angeles, $
The well known cafe is located on the luxe Melrose Place. It’s charming decor and catchy slogan, “But first, coffee,” makes it an L.A. hot spot. But don’t let the whimsical decor and hipster vibes fool you, this place makes a mean cup of coffee. My iced caramel latte was the perfect balance of smooth expresso and cream — and they didn't overdo it on the syrup, which can be a tendency at other cafes.