Things To Eat and Drink Beyond Pasadena

Where to stop and eat—from Sonoma to Santa Barbara and San Diego.

If you’re still a bit squeamish about flying—and with delays and cancellations across the board, who can blame you—there are still plenty of great road and train trips to take in California, with food and wine as star attractions.

Healdsburg, Sonoma

Whether you decide to drive or take a short flight out of Burbank or Van Nuys to the Santa Rosa airport, stay at upscale Hotel Healdsburg right on the plaza. You’ll have easy access to The Matheson for drinks and duck confit wings at Roof 106. Be sure to visit the “wine wall” downstairs in the main restaurant-bar area with over 88 varietals on tap, including Opus One, by the splash, half, or full glass. Across the park, from the team behind award-winning Single Thread, Little Saint is a farm-forward café and marketplace with fresh baked goods, salads, veggies, wine, and cocktails in a café setting with weekly live music.

About 10 minutes away, you can arrange for wine tasting and snacks, an Italian family-style lunch, or dinner with a portfolio of pairings from three different vineyards amid the redwoods at bucolic SIMI. As one of the oldest and most beautiful female-run wineries in California, it’s also known for a killer sourdough pizza.

For a change of scenery, head to Forestville for the Farmhouse Inn’s new cottages and namesake Michelin-starred restaurant, along with the newer, more casual Farmstand patio café, where sizzling seasonal veggie skillets and wood-fired pizza are the move.

San Francisco

The Kimpton Alton in Fisherman’s Wharf is drawing a lot attention for its Filipino flagship restaurant Abacá by chef Francis Ang, where Padma Lakshmi of Food Network was filming on a recent visit. The exotic pastry case near the buzzing bar includes an ube mousse and buko lychee cream puff. For brunch, marinated pineapple pork belly with garlic rice and eggs is a crowd pleaser that can also be ordered at dinner.

Le Fantastique in Hayes Valley is a cool new wine bar and French Japanese spot with meticulously crafted crudo bites and petit éclairs topped with caviar by chef and restaurateur Robbie Wilson of Matsuhisa (Aspen) Mattei’s Tavern (Los Olivos), and Bird Dog (Palo Alto).

Another place where you’ll want to sit at the kitchen counter, at the earthy Che Fico Alimentari (downstairs from the original Che Fico) you can order critically acclaimed chef David Nayfeld’s pizza, pasta, and suppli telefono with fried risotto and fontina.

Empress by Boon is a seductive fine-dining eatery in Chinatown by Michelin-starred former Hakkasan executive chef Ho Chee Boon, with stunning views of the bay and a back room for a little more privacy. You can also opt to sit at the bar for bites, the tasting menu, and the sunset.

Hailing from some of the Bay Area’s top restaurants, including Atelier Crenn and Quince, Chez Noir is the first venture from chef-owners Jonny and Monique Black in Carmel-by-the-Sea. In a craftsman house, they celebrate the Monterey Peninsula’s bounty with influences from France and Spain that include sustainable private-label California caviar and Pintxo seafood snacks.

Central Coast

Take the train from Grand Central Station to San Luis Obispo with a stop in Santa Barbara. In San Luis Obispo, the train drops you off at historic, old-school Café Roma. Popular for spinach-ricotta cheese ravioli and braised osso buco Milanese, it also carries the wines of pioneering Baileyana, which produces more than 30 labels from Edna Valley to Paso Robles, including Tangent and True Myth. Another unique option is to dine at Novo in the heart of town, with global cuisine and creek-side view.

If you want to explore the wines further, head to the Baileyana tasting room in an old schoolhouse for cheese, charcuterie, and a few flights overlooking the vines. Or pick up gourmet sandwiches from SLO Provisions or Red Scooter Deli in Paso Robles and head to Chronic Cellars for a tasting and lunch at the outdoor picnic area.

Near the train station in Santa Barbara, a new steakhouse has hit the Funk Zone from lauded chef Brad Wise of San Diego. The modern-meets-retro Rare Society pays homage to the Las Vegas Strip with oysters Rockefeller and craft cocktails, yet is rooted in the Central Coast Santa Maria–style live-fire grilling over red oak. Shared signature meat boards are loaded with 50 oz. of 40-day, dry-aged ribeye, NY strip, and filet mignon with roasted bone marrow and classic sauces.

Finch & Fork at the Kimpton Canary Hotel off State Street has been revamped with a sleek modern look and a pedigreed new executive chef, Craig Riker, who worked in L.A. with Evan Funke and Jose Andres. The menu has a nostalgic comfort feel, from deviled eggs with Cajun maple pork belly to white sweet potato soup with truffle oil. Signature dishes, served alongside 100 Central Coast wine options, include fried chicken “oysters” and Hope Ranch mussels in a coconut curry broth, served with grilled sourdough. For dessert, try the fire-roasted milkshake with caramelized banana and salted caramel or a s’mores panna cotta with marshmallow fluff and graham cracker crumble. It’s also worth spending the night for brunch with standout chilaquiles or short rib and potato hash with poached eggs and brussels sprouts.

Back behind the wheel, take the 166 East to Cuyama Buckhorn, a revitalized hipster roadside motel, bar, and restaurant for truly escaping the Central Coast. After a Sazerac cocktail or glass of local zin, grab a booth or seat at the counter and order the Buckhorn smokehouse platter with Santa Maria tri-tip and dry-rub pulled pork. In the morning, don’t miss an egg delivery from SZ local ranch for a “build your own omelet,” and add house-made chorizo sausage and a side of old-school fluffy buttermilk pancakes. For family fun, plan your visit around the monthly Sunday Chuck-wagon BBQ.

On your way back, take Highway 33 through Ojai and stop at The Dutchess bakery by the Rustic Canyon Group from Los Angeles. It serves pastries by day and Burmese food by night, but recently started sharing some of the savory items from that menu during lunch, such as the Burmese fried chicken. This dish is a two-day process with an overnight buttermilk brine, followed by another all-night dredge, then fried in honey and house-made chili paste–and you will need to order a watermelon Bloody Mary to tame the spice.

San Diego

Easily accessible by train from L.A. into Solana Beach or Old Town, Herb & Sea is a destination seafood spot in Encinitas by Top Chef contestant Brian Malarkey, while Valentina is a charming spot for Spanish paella. The historic La Valencia in La Jolla is a great option for a beach-view stay in between North County and downtown. The revamped Mediterranean Room has a delicious brussels sprout Caesar salad that is entrée size yet leaves you with enough room for a visit to Wayfarer Bread nearby for a pastry.

If you can’t get a table at Callie downtown for the Aleppo chicken, hit the Michelin-guide-recognized Juniper & Ivy in Little Italy for oven-roasted aged duck for two, then walk over to the colorful Wolfie’s Carousel rotating bar for a memorable nightcap.