Where do you go in a city full of pretentious bites? The overhyped, stuffy Cali-French cuisine restaurants might serve up some solid bacon-wrapped figs and expert Sonoma Cab Sauv, but the money might be better spent on a heaping plate of other California staples: Mexi-Cali, hip duck-infused delights, towering burgers and homemade classic Americana sweets. There are tons of options, and Guy Fieri, benevolent and all-knowing god of American comfort food takes it upon himself to help the masses discover them. And who better to trust? Guy Fieri uses butter as a tanning solution. He chases the sun by his backwards sunglasses, but only to the next restaurant that might have a bin full of barbecue sauce. If you’re in California, you’re going to want to eat what Fieri eats.
Since 1981, Gloria has been welcoming people into her dining room, serving rich and hearty enchiladas, tacos, saucy camarones and tons of flavorful rice, and it has only been recently that their fan base has extended to the kinds of diners who travel far for their fare. Guy Fieri brought the spotlight, but this family-run Mexican and Salvadoran restaurant has been a hometown favorite for decades, entertaining regulars and passersby with an authentic and all-in-the-family style of heaped plates, brimming soups and always fresh sangria. The Sop de 7 Mares is a recognizable favorite, made from a veggie soup base, chunky with fish, shrimp, octopus, calamari and scallops, garnished with delectable crab legs seductively dangling out of the brim.
Ducks better duck for cover at Beer Belly – their bestselling items invariably involve the fine-feathered and oh-so-tender creature. Sorry, Daffy, but you’ve gotta know how delicious you taste in a duck french dip, roasted with sage and shoved between fresh bread alongside provolone, horseradish aioli and dipped in duck au jus. For the true duck experience, diners order the "death by duck," a messy and decadent dish of duck fat fries heaped with duck skin cracklings and duck confit. The ever more adventurous duck hunter can try the deep fried duck livers. Washed down with any one of their American craft beers from all over California, it becomes apparent why Guy Fieri digs this place. Reservations: you gotta have ‘em, at any hour; and don’t be overwhelmed by the price or the crowd, because the crowd and the price are instrumental to the simple purpose of being seen.
Nothing at Nickel Diner costs five cents anymore, but the prices they charge seem more than reasonable for what you get, because what you get are: overstuffed burritos the size of a plate, drenched in fresh salsa verde, Mexican breakfasts, basic bacon and eggs, fried catfish and other southern American classics. However, the rookie mistake is to not get too caught up in the mains, because hands down, overeaters will regret missing out on the desert. Homemade and fresh-baked cakes, cobblers, Pop-Tarts and decadent donuts with maple-bacon toppings or Irish cream fillings are all show-stealers. True to tradition, Nickel even makes homemade versions of such classic American lunchroom staples as Ding Dongs and Ho Ho’s.
Fieri fans along the Pacific Coast Highway will instantly recognize this bright green Santa Monica diner, sitting pretty right across the street from the beach. The menu items are California-casual, which usually includes Mexi-Cali comfort foods alongside market-fresh fruit and salads. Fieri loves their eccentric burgers, which come in a range of unique toppings like grilled pineapple and mango chutney, ortega chili and fresh avocado, and, in the case of the famous Rockefeller, Hughes, Getty, Onassis Burger, even caviar (no price listed for it, but one caveat: "If you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it!"). However, everything else is affordable – for a filling and ultra, California treat, try the Governator Special. If you have to ask what it is, then you didn’t watch the Triple D special, in which case, why are you even there?
When in the Golden State, go to the Golden State Café! If it seems like an obvious choice, it’s because their philosophy involves all-Californian ingredients and products from local businesses like Samir’s and Scoop’s Ice Cream, as well as wine and craft breweries from all over the state. It’s also because, as Fieri can’t deny, their pulled pork sandwich when it’s on the seasonal menu is on point, topped with pickled jalapenos, onions and hot mustard sauce. The grass-fed lamb burger with yogurt dill served with sweet potato wedges also makes for a satisfying meal in the Golden State – capped off with a beer float combining beer from Pacific Coast brewers, Old Rasputin and a scoop from Scoops, you’ll be packing your bag to move here in no time.