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The Daily Meal's Top 19 Restaurants in California

The Daily Meal's Top 19 Restaurants in California

A nationwide panel of experts chose their favorites

When we reached out to 176 critics, food and lifestyle writers, and bloggers to help compile our list of the 101 Best Restaurants in the country, what we received back was a wealth of knowledge and insight. Our list of 202 nominees, whittled down from 303 before being narrowed down even further into our final 101, ranked restaurants nationwide according to location, style of cuisine, and other categories including budget, classic, and serious dining. Forty-one of the 202 restaurants were located in the state of California, and of those, 19 made it to the final 101.

Click Here for the Top 19 Restaurants in California Slideshow

One of our most important voting criteria was the fact that panelists couldn’t vote for a restaurant unless they had eaten there. This way, someone who has never been to Los Angeles couldn’t decide to put in a vote for Spago just because they heard it was good. This makes our list, which we’ve whittled down here to the top California restaurants, dependable and reflective of the opinions of some of New York’s culinary leaders. Here’s the list of the panelists who participated in the voting process.

A quick look at the list of California’s top 19 restaurants reveals that the vast majority of the state's top eateries are in its two major cities, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Seven of the restaurants are in Los Angeles, and eight are in San Francisco (nine if you count Chez Panisse, which is in Berkeley). The three that remain, Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bistro and The French Laundry, and The Restaurant at Meadowood, are in Napa Valley.

To find out which other restaurants from around the country made it into the top 101, you can find the full list here.

19. Providence
18. Benu
17. The Restaurant at Meadowood
16. Lucques
15. State Bird Provisions
14. Michael Mina
13. Quince
12. Coi
11. CUT
10. Spago
9. The Bazaar
8. La Taqueria
7. Bar Tartine
6. Mission Chinese Food
5. Bouchon Bistro
4. Osteria Mozza
3. Animal
2. Chez Panisse
1. The French Laundry


  • California's Alcoholic Beverage Control agency has issued guidelines on what constitutes as a 'meal'
  • It comes after Governor Gavin Newsom reversed reopening measures last month by ordering all bars to shut
  • While bars are closed, restaurants can still offer outdoor dining across the state
  • Cheese sticks, fried calamari, chicken wings, pizza bites, egg rolls and pot stickers do not count as meals, according to the list
  • Pre-packaged sandwiches and salads also don't meet the requirements
  • California initially succeeded in slowing the spread of the virus but has had a sharp reversal with COVID-19 infection rates climbing sharply in recent weeks
  • The most populous US state recorded 413,579 cases on Wednesday after adding a record 12,807 spike in new daily infections to its tally

Published: 21:40 BST, 22 July 2020 | Updated: 05:16 BST, 23 July 2020

California says chicken wings, cheese sticks, fried calamari and french fries are not considered meals as it cracks down on outdoor restaurants that are offering drinks without food as the state battles a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The state's Alcoholic Beverage Control agency has issued guidelines on what constitutes as a 'meal' after Governor Gavin Newsom reversed reopening measures last month by ordering all bars to shut.

While bars are now closed, restaurants can still offer outdoor dining across the state.

The alcohol agency posted guidance on its website to help licensed venues adhere to requirements amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On the list are snacks including pretzels, nuts, popcorn, pickles and chips.

California's Alcoholic Beverage Control agency has issued guidelines on what constitutes as a 'meal' after Governor Gavin Newsom reversed reopening measures last month by ordering all bars to shut. Pictured above is Palm Springs on July 16

EXAMPLES OF FOOD THAT DON'T COUNT AS MEALS IN CALIFORNIA

Pizza bites (as opposed to a pizza)

More substantial food that also does not count as a meal includes items ordinarily served as appetizers or first courses, such as cheese sticks, fried calamari, chicken wings, pizza bites, egg rolls, pot stickers, flautas and cups of soup.

French fries, onion rings and desserts are also not considered meals, according to the agency.

Pre-packaged sandwiches and salads don't meet the requirement but the agency said it does recognize that many sandwiches and salads are 'substantial and can constitute legitimate meals'.

'Given the tremendous variety of foods available at the many different licensed premises, this definition provides necessary flexibility to look at the totality of the circumstances in determining whether or not the food service provided by a licensee is a legitimate offering of meals in a bona fide manner,' the agency's website reads.

'Although multiple courses are not required to constitute a meal, in order for the patron to be served a meal there should be a sufficient quantity that it would constitute a main course in a multiple-course dining experience.'

California initially succeeded in slowing the spread of the virus but has had a sharp reversal with COVID-19 infection rates climbing sharply in recent weeks.

The most populous US state recorded 413,579 cases on Wednesday after adding a record 12,807 spike in new daily infections to its tally.

California residents starting in March were urged to stay home as much as possible and state health orders shut down all but essential businesses such as grocery stores.

Throughout May and June, California reopened much of its economy, and people resumed shopping in stores and dining in restaurants.

But infections began to surge and a new round of business restrictions were imposed, including a ban on indoor dining in restaurants and bars.

CALIFORNIA: The most populous US state recorded 413,579 cases as of Wednesday after adding a record 12,807 spike in new daily infections to its tally

While bars are now closed, restaurants can still offer outdoor dining across the state. The alcohol agency posted guidance on its website to help licensed venues adhere to requirements amid the coronavirus pandemic. Pictured is San Diego on July 17

California's Governor Gavin Newsom last week rolled back some of his reopening plans for the state by announcing the closure of some indoor venues that attract crowds such as bars, restaurants, movie theaters, zoos and museums.

He also ordered gyms, churches and hair salons to close in the 30 hardest-hit counties of the state.

The state's latest COVID-19 figures means it now has 5,000 more cases than New York - the original epicenter of the nation's outbreak.

New York currently has 408,181 total infections throughout the state.


14 best Mexican restaurants in Southern California, by Jonathan Gold

El Parian’s roast kid may be the best Mexican dish in L.A.

Details: 1528 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 386-7361. ( Mariah Tauger / For the Times)

French fries are topped with a mole sauce at Bizarra Capitale.

Details: 12706 Philadelphia St., Whittier, (562) 945-2426 facebook.com/BizarraCapital. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Details: 1445 4th St., Santa Monica, (310) 451-1655, and 445 S. Figueroa St., (213) 486-5171 BorderGrill.com. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

El Huarache Azteca’s huaraches are still the industry standard.

Details: 5225 York Blvd., Highland Park, (323) 478-9572 ElHuaracheAztecaLA.com (Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)

Mexican seafood king Sergio Peñuelas seems to have found a home.

Details: 3544 W. Imperial Highway, Inglewood, (310) 672-2339. (Mariah Tauger / For the Times)

Chichen Itza’s Gilberto Cetin and two types of tamales.

Details: 3655 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 741-1075 ChichenItzaRestaurant.com. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Fried avocado on a perch of mango and habanero chutney.

Details: 6626 Atlantic Ave., Bell, (323) 560-1776 CorazonyMiel.com. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

La Casita Mexicana is expanding but keeping its colorful aesthetic.

Details: 4030 E. Gage Ave., Bell, (323) 773-1898 CasitaMex.com. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Carnitas cemita is among fare at Cemitas Poblanas Elvirita.

Details: 3010 E. 1st St., Los Angeles, (323) 881-0428. (Abby Abanes / @PleasurePalate/Flickr)

No places matches the breadth and depth of Mexican restaurants we have in Southern California, except Mexico City itself – and maybe not even there. You can find the cooking of almost every region in the country here, crafted at street-corner taco trucks as well as cutting-edge places like the new Corazon y Miel and Bizarra Capital.

Here are Los Angles Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold’s choices for 14 of the most essential places to try.

1. Babita: One of the most serious Mexican restaurants on the Eastside, a casual corner joint whose service is burnished to a white-tablecloth sheen. Chef-owner Roberto Berrelleza is especially gifted at the cuisine of his hometown of Los Mochis on the Sinaloa coast. 1823 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel, (626) 288-7265 Babita-MexiCuisine.com.

2. Border Grill: More than 25 years later, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger are still producing polished versions of great Mexican dishes. 1445 4th St., Santa Monica, (310) 451-1655 and 445 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, (213) 486-5171 BorderGrill.com.

3. Cemitas Poblanas Elvirita: Where to go for unbeatable cemitas, Puebla-style hoagies of thinly pounded fried beef, avocado, chipotle chiles, and hand-shredded string cheese on sesame-seed rolls. 3010 E. 1st St., Los Angeles, (323) 881-0428.

4. Chichen Itza: The most serious Yucatecan restaurant in town is in a bustling cooperative marketplace near USC. 3655 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 741-1075 ChichenItzaRestaurant.com.

5. Coni’Seafood: The elusive Mexican seafood king Sergio Peñuelas, the master of Sinaloa-style pescado zarandeado, seems to have found a home. The aguachile is also the best in town. 3544 W. Imperial Highway, Inglewood, (310) 672-2339.

6. El Borrego As de Oro: Time moves at an ovine pace at this Texcoco-style barbacoa joint. It may take the cooks half an hour to throw together a couple of tacos, but after you taste the crusty, crunchy bits of lamb, you won’t mind a bit. 222 W. Slauson Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 235-1880.

7. El Huarache Azteca: Highland Park is becoming the local center of chilango cooking, with half a dozen restaurants specializing in the meats and snacks from the area around Mexico City, but El Huarache Azteca’s huaraches are still the industry standard. 5225 York Blvd., Highland Park, (323) 478-9572 ElHuaracheAztecaLA.com.

8. El Parian: Is the birria, roast kid in consomme, the best Mexican dish in Los Angeles? It just may be. 1528 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 386-7361.


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