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West~bourne Photo by Nicole Franzen via West~bourne

16 Breezy California-Style Restaurants in NYC

Find San Diego-style burritos, popular Los Angeles imports, and odes to the Bay Area’s stellar produce

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California cuisine is a bit nebulous to define, but it’s about an obsession with really fresh produce and letting those excellent ingredients shine. It’s where the whole obsession with farm-to-table emerged, at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse in Berkeley, over four decades ago. In the 1980s, Los Angeles had its own sense of homegrown pride in cooking that flourished at places like Michael McCarty’s Michael’s Santa Monica and Wolfgang Puck’s Spago.

But distinctly California fare also includes sublime Mexican food with regional specialties throughout the state. For example, juicy, carne asada-filled burritos in San Diego, which swap in fries for rice; puffy fried fish tacos found throughout Southern California and Baja California; and Mission-style burritos from San Francisco. Also an important tenet of eating out West? Vegetable-focused, vaguely hippie-ish bowls, now a ubiquitous fast-casual staple that has long been around in LA.

If hopping on a flight out West isn’t on the agenda anytime soon, there are places in New York City that taste and feel a bit like being in California, whether the sunny state inspired the menu, or it’s a straight-up import. Check out these 16 places around NYC for dishes and vibes that effectively channel the West Coast, one fish taco, grain bowl, and In-N-Out burger homage at a time.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Playa Betty's

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320 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10023
(212) 712-0777
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The menu at this Upper West Side restaurant focuses on California coastline-inspired beach fare, with Mexican dishes like a wide range of tacos, customizable grain bowls, and a French fry-studded San Diego-style burrito.  There are also a trio of margaritas to choose from. Playa Betty’s was opened in 2015 by the owners of Reunion Surf Bar, and both places sport equally kitschy but cute surf-themed decor.

Playa Betty’s Photo via Playa Betty’s/Facebook

2. Pizza Beach

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1426 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10028
(646) 666-0819
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Opened by brothers Anthony and Tom Martignetti in 2015, Pizza Beach on the Upper East Side serves Neapolitan pies with a mix of classic and quirky toppings in a breezy, Malibu-inspired space replete with surfboards. There are also salads like a charred cauliflower caesar to round out all the carb-heavy choices, available at the Lower East Side outpost, too.

3. Michael's

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24 W 55th St
New York, NY 10019
(212) 767-0555
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This Midtown media power lunch mainstay is the second location of Michael McCarty’s eponymous restaurant, which first debuted in 1979 in Santa Monica; the NYC outpost followed in 1989. Menu refreshes over the years have made it tricky to identify the California influences, but the cobb salad is a reliable order.

4. Los Mariscos

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409 W 15th St
New York, NY 10011
(212) 920-4986
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Head to Los Mariscos in Chelsea Market for the Southern California-style fish tacos, which are lightly breaded and fried, then topped with shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, and crema. Other highlights: the tostadas topped with ceviche, and the Ensenada-style clams, with finely chopped raw bivalves mixed with pico de gallo and served on the half shell. A bonus is that there’s some seating as well as a bar in Los Marisco’s nautically themed space.

Los Mariscos Robert Sietsema

5. Upland

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345 Park Ave S
New York, NY 10010
(212) 686-1006
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California pride is on full display at this popular Gramercy restaurant in Stephen Starr’s portfolio from chef Justin Smillie. The top-notch burger, a creative riff on an In-N-Out-type fast food cheeseburger — two patties, American cheese, peppadew peppers, avocado, lettuce, and tomato — comes speared with a California state flag. The steak tartare and chicken liver estrella are crowd pleasers, too.

Upland’s burger Photo by Nick Solares

6. SUGARFISH by sushi nozawa

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33 E 20th St
New York, NY 10003
(347) 705-8100
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This line-inducing Los Angeles import serves up very fresh fish in three affordable omakase options. Go for the “Trust Me” menu, which includes tuna sashimi, five varieties of sushi, and two hand rolls for $33 at lunch and $39 at dinner, gratuity included. There’s also a full a la carte menu, but the omakase choices are a much better deal. Don’t miss the iced green tea, a refreshing and unsweetened brew that comes with free refills. Sugarfish waits can be hours long at the no-reservations spot, but delivery is available.

An eight-piece sushi roll sits next to a side of edamame
Sugarfish
Photo via Eater Video

7. Tender Greens

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900 Broadway
New York, NY 10003
(212) 339-7425
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In the same vein as healthy-ish fast casual chains like Sweetgreen, Dig Inn, and Little Beet, this California-based chain’s premise is that each location is run by an executive chef with fine dining experience. It makes many of the ingredients (and condiments) in-house for dishes like a chipotle barbecue chicken sandwich and greenmarket chicken salad. Tender Greens certainly has its detractors, but it also has plenty of West Coast fans — plus, hospitality titan Danny Meyer as an investor.

A Tender Greens mixed green salad on a plate Liz Clayman

8. Barbuto

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775 Washington St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 924-9700
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Berkeley alum Jonathan Waxman is a California cuisine legend, having cooked at storied places like Chez Panisse and Michael’s Santa Monica. His long-running West Village restaurant is a reliable crowd-pleaser. Highlights include the iconic pollo al forno; an addictive kale salad filled with pecorino, anchovies, and breadcrumbs; and whichever preparation of pan-seared gnocchi is currently on the menu. There’s perhaps no better place in Manhattan to people-watch than at this open-air restaurant when the garage-style doors are raised.

A plate of roast chicken topped with salsa verde beside a glass of wine Photo by Daniel Krieger

9. Taqueria Diana

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129 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10003
(646) 422-7871
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Saucy Northern California-style Mexican fare is the star at Taqueria Diana, which has expanded to Hell’s Kitchen, the Lower East Side, and Williamsburg since opening in the East Village in 2013. The Californian owners put together a menu of burritos, tacos, quesadillas, and nachos that stand out for their large portions and flavorful fillings.

10. West-bourne

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137 Sullivan St
New York, NY 10012
(347) 534-3050
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A vegetarian all-day cafe inspired by California of the ’60s, West-bourne serves up a slew of healthy, tasty, and very photogenic dishes. Many are served as grain bowls or prettily deconstructed small plates, such as a grain bowl with almond butter, maitake mushrooms, kale, and chile oil. While chia seed pudding is available all over the place these days, West-bourne’s version is exceptional, thanks to a fluffier, less-slimy texture and the addition of rose halva. There’s a strong charitable element, too: A portion of proceeds go to the Robin Hood Foundation.

West~bourne Photo by Nicole Franzen via West-bourne

11. El Rey

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100 Stanton St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 260-3950
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The healthy dishes here would be right at home in LA, on a similar wavelength as famous cafe Sqirl: colorful, flavorful, and prone to copious Instagramming. Critically acclaimed executive chef Gerardo Gonzalez left in 2016 but El Rey still serves relatively virtuous, attractive food, mostly in toast and bowl forms. There’s an annex location tucked inside menswear store Todd Snyder on the northern edge of Madison Square Park.

12. Dimes

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49 Canal St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 925-1300
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Dimes is the NYC epicenter of Angelo-worthy cuisine and vibes, replete with wheatgrass margaritas and vegetarian-friendly bowls, salads, and small plates. The original is a sit-down setup with a small bar. There’s also Dimes Deli, a more casual, daytime counter-serve cafe with some menu crossover with Dimes proper, as well as Dimes Market, which is basically a ritzy bodega filled with expensive healthy things, including merch.

13. Lucha Lucha

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173 Irving Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11237
(718) 366-6069
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Head to this low-key San Diego-style Mexican place for the underrated regional burrito style. Check out the California Burrito, which is stuffed with freshly grilled carne asada, fries in lieu of rice, guac, cheese, sour cream, and salsa. Another Southern California innovation, carne asada fries, are also on the menu. There’s a second Brooklyn outpost in Bed-Stuy; the cash-only menu is the same at both locations.

Lucha Lucha Photo via Lucha Lucha

14. Bar Bolinas

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455 Myrtle Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11205
(718) 935-9331
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Allswell owners Sophie Kamin and Nate Smith are both Golden State natives, and Bar Bolinas is their ode to Northern California. A number of dishes lean Mexican, with many seafood and vegetarian options throughout, like a greens and grains bowl or grilled shrimp tacos. The brunch menu includes classics like eggs benedict as well as surprises like a fried oyster sandwich.

15. B'klyn Burro

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922 Fulton St
Brooklyn, NY 11238
(718) 622-8776
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At this Clinton Hill restaurant, the focus is on Mission-style burritos, which pack ample protein and cheese in a well-constructed package. Try the carne asada or garlicky shrimp as fillings. There’s a bit of outdoor space in the back, though the small space inside is more attractive, complete with a vibrant, burrito-themed mural.

16. Tacoway Beach

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302 Beach 87th St
Far Rockaway, NY 11693

This is the similarly named solo project from Rockaway Taco co-founder Andrew Field, and the fish tacos are just as excellent at Tacoway Beach, which opened in 2015. Crisp fried fish is housed within Rockaway Beach Surf Club, a couple blocks from the beach. Tacoway Beach is worth the short walk from the sand, and feels like a little piece of Venice, California in deep Queens. Cash only.

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1. Playa Betty's

320 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10023
Playa Betty’s Photo via Playa Betty’s/Facebook

The menu at this Upper West Side restaurant focuses on California coastline-inspired beach fare, with Mexican dishes like a wide range of tacos, customizable grain bowls, and a French fry-studded San Diego-style burrito.  There are also a trio of margaritas to choose from. Playa Betty’s was opened in 2015 by the owners of Reunion Surf Bar, and both places sport equally kitschy but cute surf-themed decor.

320 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10023

2. Pizza Beach

1426 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10028

Opened by brothers Anthony and Tom Martignetti in 2015, Pizza Beach on the Upper East Side serves Neapolitan pies with a mix of classic and quirky toppings in a breezy, Malibu-inspired space replete with surfboards. There are also salads like a charred cauliflower caesar to round out all the carb-heavy choices, available at the Lower East Side outpost, too.

1426 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10028

3. Michael's

24 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019

This Midtown media power lunch mainstay is the second location of Michael McCarty’s eponymous restaurant, which first debuted in 1979 in Santa Monica; the NYC outpost followed in 1989. Menu refreshes over the years have made it tricky to identify the California influences, but the cobb salad is a reliable order.

24 W 55th St
New York, NY 10019

4. Los Mariscos

409 W 15th St, New York, NY 10011
Los Mariscos Robert Sietsema

Head to Los Mariscos in Chelsea Market for the Southern California-style fish tacos, which are lightly breaded and fried, then topped with shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, and crema. Other highlights: the tostadas topped with ceviche, and the Ensenada-style clams, with finely chopped raw bivalves mixed with pico de gallo and served on the half shell. A bonus is that there’s some seating as well as a bar in Los Marisco’s nautically themed space.

409 W 15th St
New York, NY 10011

5. Upland

345 Park Ave S, New York, NY 10010
Read Review |
Upland’s burger Photo by Nick Solares

California pride is on full display at this popular Gramercy restaurant in Stephen Starr’s portfolio from chef Justin Smillie. The top-notch burger, a creative riff on an In-N-Out-type fast food cheeseburger — two patties, American cheese, peppadew peppers, avocado, lettuce, and tomato — comes speared with a California state flag. The steak tartare and chicken liver estrella are crowd pleasers, too.

345 Park Ave S
New York, NY 10010

6. SUGARFISH by sushi nozawa

33 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003
An eight-piece sushi roll sits next to a side of edamame
Sugarfish
Photo via Eater Video

This line-inducing Los Angeles import serves up very fresh fish in three affordable omakase options. Go for the “Trust Me” menu, which includes tuna sashimi, five varieties of sushi, and two hand rolls for $33 at lunch and $39 at dinner, gratuity included. There’s also a full a la carte menu, but the omakase choices are a much better deal. Don’t miss the iced green tea, a refreshing and unsweetened brew that comes with free refills. Sugarfish waits can be hours long at the no-reservations spot, but delivery is available.

33 E 20th St
New York, NY 10003

7. Tender Greens

900 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
A Tender Greens mixed green salad on a plate Liz Clayman

In the same vein as healthy-ish fast casual chains like Sweetgreen, Dig Inn, and Little Beet, this California-based chain’s premise is that each location is run by an executive chef with fine dining experience. It makes many of the ingredients (and condiments) in-house for dishes like a chipotle barbecue chicken sandwich and greenmarket chicken salad. Tender Greens certainly has its detractors, but it also has plenty of West Coast fans — plus, hospitality titan Danny Meyer as an investor.

900 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

8. Barbuto

775 Washington St, New York, NY 10014
Read Review |
A plate of roast chicken topped with salsa verde beside a glass of wine Photo by Daniel Krieger

Berkeley alum Jonathan Waxman is a California cuisine legend, having cooked at storied places like Chez Panisse and Michael’s Santa Monica. His long-running West Village restaurant is a reliable crowd-pleaser. Highlights include the iconic pollo al forno; an addictive kale salad filled with pecorino, anchovies, and breadcrumbs; and whichever preparation of pan-seared gnocchi is currently on the menu. There’s perhaps no better place in Manhattan to people-watch than at this open-air restaurant when the garage-style doors are raised.

775 Washington St
New York, NY 10014

9. Taqueria Diana

129 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

Saucy Northern California-style Mexican fare is the star at Taqueria Diana, which has expanded to Hell’s Kitchen, the Lower East Side, and Williamsburg since opening in the East Village in 2013. The Californian owners put together a menu of burritos, tacos, quesadillas, and nachos that stand out for their large portions and flavorful fillings.

129 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10003

10. West-bourne

137 Sullivan St, New York, NY 10012
West~bourne Photo by Nicole Franzen via West-bourne

A vegetarian all-day cafe inspired by California of the ’60s, West-bourne serves up a slew of healthy, tasty, and very photogenic dishes. Many are served as grain bowls or prettily deconstructed small plates, such as a grain bowl with almond butter, maitake mushrooms, kale, and chile oil. While chia seed pudding is available all over the place these days, West-bourne’s version is exceptional, thanks to a fluffier, less-slimy texture and the addition of rose halva. There’s a strong charitable element, too: A portion of proceeds go to the Robin Hood Foundation.

137 Sullivan St
New York, NY 10012

11. El Rey

100 Stanton St, New York, NY 10002

The healthy dishes here would be right at home in LA, on a similar wavelength as famous cafe Sqirl: colorful, flavorful, and prone to copious Instagramming. Critically acclaimed executive chef Gerardo Gonzalez left in 2016 but El Rey still serves relatively virtuous, attractive food, mostly in toast and bowl forms. There’s an annex location tucked inside menswear store Todd Snyder on the northern edge of Madison Square Park.

100 Stanton St
New York, NY 10002

12. Dimes

49 Canal St, New York, NY 10002
Read Review |

Dimes is the NYC epicenter of Angelo-worthy cuisine and vibes, replete with wheatgrass margaritas and vegetarian-friendly bowls, salads, and small plates. The original is a sit-down setup with a small bar. There’s also Dimes Deli, a more casual, daytime counter-serve cafe with some menu crossover with Dimes proper, as well as Dimes Market, which is basically a ritzy bodega filled with expensive healthy things, including merch.

49 Canal St
New York, NY 10002

13. Lucha Lucha

173 Irving Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11237
Lucha Lucha Photo via Lucha Lucha

Head to this low-key San Diego-style Mexican place for the underrated regional burrito style. Check out the California Burrito, which is stuffed with freshly grilled carne asada, fries in lieu of rice, guac, cheese, sour cream, and salsa. Another Southern California innovation, carne asada fries, are also on the menu. There’s a second Brooklyn outpost in Bed-Stuy; the cash-only menu is the same at both locations.

173 Irving Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11237

14. Bar Bolinas

455 Myrtle Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11205

Allswell owners Sophie Kamin and Nate Smith are both Golden State natives, and Bar Bolinas is their ode to Northern California. A number of dishes lean Mexican, with many seafood and vegetarian options throughout, like a greens and grains bowl or grilled shrimp tacos. The brunch menu includes classics like eggs benedict as well as surprises like a fried oyster sandwich.

455 Myrtle Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11205

15. B'klyn Burro

922 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11238

At this Clinton Hill restaurant, the focus is on Mission-style burritos, which pack ample protein and cheese in a well-constructed package. Try the carne asada or garlicky shrimp as fillings. There’s a bit of outdoor space in the back, though the small space inside is more attractive, complete with a vibrant, burrito-themed mural.

922 Fulton St
Brooklyn, NY 11238

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16. Tacoway Beach

302 Beach 87th St, Far Rockaway, NY 11693

This is the similarly named solo project from Rockaway Taco co-founder Andrew Field, and the fish tacos are just as excellent at Tacoway Beach, which opened in 2015. Crisp fried fish is housed within Rockaway Beach Surf Club, a couple blocks from the beach. Tacoway Beach is worth the short walk from the sand, and feels like a little piece of Venice, California in deep Queens. Cash only.

302 Beach 87th St
Far Rockaway, NY 11693

Related Maps