• Lunch is generally served between 11:30am and 2:30pm, and dinner between 5pm and 9pm daily, though some restaurants stay open later, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.
  • If breakfast is served, it’s usually between 7:30am and 11am. Some diners and cafes keep serving breakfast into the afternoon, or all day. Weekend brunch is a laid-back meal, usually available from 11am until 3pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Californian restaurant etiquette tends to be informal. Only a handful of restaurants require more than a dressy shirt, slacks and shoes that aren't flip-flops. At other places, T-shirts, shorts and sandals are fine.
  • Tipping 18% to 20% is expected anywhere you receive table service.
  • Smoking is illegal indoors. Some restaurants have patios or sidewalk tables where smoking is tolerated (ask first, or look around for ashtrays), but don’t expect your neighbors to be happy about secondhand smoke.
  • You can bring your own wine to most restaurants; a ‘corkage’ fee of $15 to $30 usually applies. Lunches rarely include booze, though a glass of wine or beer is socially acceptable.
  • If you ask the kitchen to divide a plate between two (or more) people, there may be a small split-plate surcharge.
  • Vegetarians, vegans and travelers with food allergies or dietary restrictions are in luck – many restaurants are used to catering to specific dietary needs.

The Basics

Whether you're into fine dining, or searching for the ultimate surf-shack taco, California will spoil you. Make reservations online at least a month ahead for top tables, and map out choice food-trucks on social media.

  • Restaurants Even at high-end places, California casual rules.
  • Cafes & diners Coffee shops are open morning until late afternoon for cheap, quick meals; diners offer breakfast and burgers and stay open late.
  • Farmers markets & food trucks Get fresh, imaginative food to go – expect a wait at popular stops.
  • Destination dining Some top restaurants are in high-end hotels and wine-country resorts, with swanky surroundings.