Photo: Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock

12 Foods You Have to Try in California Before You Die

California Food + Drink
by Julia Kitlinski-Hong Mar 16, 2017

1. Fish tacos

With the Pacific Ocean in close reach, there is nothing better than a taco filled with fried or grilled fish. Although you can find this taco anywhere in the state, the best is if you head down south; the closer to the border the more authentic the tacos taste. Case in point: San Diego, where fish tacos are the city’s unofficial food.

2. Korean BBQ

With a sizable Korean population in the Golden State, it is no wonder we are spoiled with Korean BBQ restaurants. If you are not familiar with this concept, it is not hard to catch on: either you will DIY when it comes to grilling the meat or the restaurant will do all the hard work for you. The best part? The army of complementary side dishes called banchan, that comes at the beginning of your meal.

3. Avocado toast

It is rumored that avocado toast may have its origins in the Bay Area, which makes sense since California is known as having some of the best avocados. Paired with fresh bread, you can easily get this hip breakfast item up and down the coast from SF’s Mission neighborhood to a beachside café in Venice.

4. Sourdough bread

A post shared by @gjustabakery on

California does not mess around when it comes to its bread. Sourdough may be synonymous with San Francisco, but it has become popular in bakeries all around the state from Gjusta in LA to Model Bakery in Napa.

5. Artisan Ice Cream

A post shared by 2 Girls 2 Cones (@2girls2cones) on

If there is one thing Californians cannot get enough of it is unusual ice cream flavors. From ice cream that is lavender-infused to strawberry balsamic, there is no shortage of inventive flavors to tickle (and confuse) your taste buds.

6. Mission burrito

A post shared by La Taqueria (@lataqueriasf) on

The first thing that separates this burrito from a regular one is that it is the size of a small torpedo and you could definitely use it as a weapon. The other main characteristic is that it will never have any rice inside, which only leaves room for more of the other fillings like plenty of carne asada and guacamole.

7. Animal style-anything from In-N-Out

The most popular order from this California burger chain’s secret menu needs to be tried at least once. Animal style consists of pickles, extra sauce (similar to thousand
island dressing), grilled onions (instead of fresh) and mustard fried into each patty. Trust me it’s worth the onion breath afterward.

8. Bowl of pho

A post shared by NamPhanMMA (@namphanmma) on

With a large population of Vietnamese-Americans in California from San Jose in the north to Westminster in the south, there is no excuse not to indulge in a steaming bowl of pho. The bowls themselves are usually daunting, but you will be surprised at how much you actually consume. Beef or chicken are the standard variations with plenty of sprouts, basil and a squeeze of lime to round out the complex flavors.

9. Sushiritto

Leave it to a Californian to create a hybrid dish that combines two of the most popular foods in the state. A sushiritto is basically a burrito, but with seaweed for the wrap and sushi fillings inside.

10. Dim sum

Sure California may be known for its locally sourced brunches, but dim sum is an alternative brunch option that should not be overlooked. Seemingly endless trays of bite-sized dishes from dumplings to noodles make their way to your table. The whole slightly chaotic experience is worth the delicious morsels that appear on your table at lightening speed.

11. Mochi

These Japanese desserts come in a lot of different flavors and variations. Traditional fillings include red bean or white bean, but now you can find modern twists like peanut butter. California is unique in that it has three of the country’s only remaining Japantowns in San Jose, Los Angeles and San Francisco and plenty of Japanese-American communities scattered throughout the state. Not only can you find mochi in Japanese markets, but also there are whole bakeries dedicated to the treat.

12. Poke

A post shared by AhiPoki Bowl (@ahipoki) on

These marinated cubes of raw fish goodness may have originated in Hawaii, but here in California we have become equally obsessed. From San Francisco to LA, poke bars are popping up everywhere and you can create your own personalized bowl stuffed with good things like seaweed salad, fresh ginger and plenty of poke atop a generous serving of rice.

Discover Matador