Kevin Scott/Courtesy of Canlis

These are the West’s culinary roots—the classic restaurants that weave together culture, atmosphere, and the best ingredients

Sunset  – July 13, 2012 | Updated December 6, 2019

Musso & Frank Grill, Los Angeles

The spirit of the rebellious West and ‘50s Hollywood glamour is alive and well at Musso & Frank, where dark wood and clubby booths have been a scene for an entire century. Don’t miss the rib-eye, bone in, medium rare.

Chez Panisse, Berkeley

Mark L. Stephenson/Corbis

The restaurant founded by Alice Waters and her friends in the ‘70s is still a bastion of California’s slow-food movement, focusing on the produce and farmers of Northern California. Waters’s restaurant continues to serve a prix fixe nightly in its cozy, warmly lit dining room where blowsy floral bouquets, white tablecloths, and water glasses engraved with Chez Panisse’s name set the scene. Order whichever dish features peak-season produce, which is pretty much everything. The restaurant’s classic arrangement of perfectly ripe fruit on a plate remains a symbol of Alice Waters’s ethos.

Zuni Cafe, San Francisco

David Fenton

Though it originally opened with a Southwestern theme (hence the name), Zuni quickly morphed into one of California’s quintessential restaurants under the guidance of the late chef Judy Rodgers. Under owner Gilbert Pilgram it continues to serve simple classics from the hearth, briny Pacific oysters, and cocktails at its copper-topped bar. The roast chicken with bread salad for two (pictured) has been one of the restaurant’s most ordered dishes for decades, though house-cured anchovies served with crunchy, cold celery and earthy Niçoise olives have been on the menu since day one.

Canlis, Seattle

Kevin Scott/Courtesy of Canlis

A family-owned restaurant and architectural icon, Canlis was built by Peter Canlis in 1950. Since then, Canlis has maintained a civilized dining experience for all of its almost seven decades. The dress code remains steadfast: suit or sport coat for the gentlemen, and no shorts, t-shirts, or athletic attire. “It’s about respect for the stranger, respect for the other person in the room,” says co-owner Mark Canlis. “We think that is the foundation of hospitality. The stuff that’s happening in the restaurant is sacred. Those moments don’t happen again, and to risk it with the guy sitting next to you wearing cutoffs and flip-flops and t-shirts … let’s have respect for one another.” The Canlis salad is one of the restaurant’s most beloved dishes, a take on the Caesar salad but with bright lemon, aromatic mint, and crispy bacon lifting it to a new level. It’s an anomaly on the menu, which is filled with meticulously modern dishes from chef Brady Williams, where it remains as a nod to the Canlis history (and its legions
of fans).

Pizzeria Mozza, Los Angeles

Pizzeria Mozza is the queen bee of the upscale-downscale scene, where a wood-burning oven turns out cutting-edge, stunning pizzas with super-fresh tomatoes and mozzarella—not to mention with egg, bacon, potato, and onions.

Buckhorn Exchange, Denver

Step into this two-story brick tavern, and you’re back on the frontier. The menu stars the signature prime beef steaks, plus buffalo and other game, served in a dining room filled with more than 500 pieces of taxidermy. The upstairs bar is the best place to nurse a glass of whiskey during performances by singing cowboys.

Helena’s Hawaiian Food, Honolulu

Hawaii wasn’t yet a state when the late Helen Chock opened her doors. Over 70 years, U.S. statehood, and a James Beard Foundation award later, her colorful cafe is run by her grandson, but tourists and locals alike still vie for one of the 12 tables to feast on traditional Hawaiian dishes like poi, poke, kalua pig, and luau chicken.

Tadich Grill, San Francisco

Thomas J. Story

Everything about this Financial District icon is old school: the waiters in white coats, the dark wood booths, the straightforward seafood menu worthy of its spot near the waterfront. Yet despite being sandwiched between two of the city’s top dining destinations, Tadich Grill continues to draw crowds—regulars, business people, and tourists who clamor for its famous cioppino served with San Francisco sourdough, best paired with a glass of California Chardonnay.

Huber’s Café, Portland

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In the land of house-cured pickles and barrel-aged cocktails, this decidedly untrendy place (it was founded in 1879!) rests its reputation on turkey dinner and flaming Spanish coffee (pictured). Housed in the historic Oregon Pioneer Building, the restaurant  has an art deco skylight as dramatic as the coffee, which is prepared tableside by the waiters.

The Shed, Santa Fe

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Run by the same family for three generations, The Shed occupies a sprawling, brightly painted hacienda built in 1692. The menu hinges on the famed Hatch chiles, milled on-site before being put to good use in dishes like blue-corn burritos filled with beans and cheese and drenched with spicy red chile sauce.

Langer’s Delicatessen, Los Angeles

Courtesy of Langer’s Deli/Scrise.com

The recipient of the prestigious Bib Gourmand rating in Michelin’s 2019 California guide, Langer’s gets it right. Even the late Nora Ephron, New York City’s opinion maven, once claimed that this no-frills deli in L.A.’s MacArthur Park neighborhood makes the “finest hot pastrami sandwich in the world.” You could tuck into a button-back banquette and read the dense menu, but don’t bother: Hand-cut pastrami with Swiss and homemade coleslaw on rye is all you need to know. 

Coi, San Francisco

Daniel Patterson’s superb, cerebral cooking is shown off with a 9-course tasting menu that ranges from dishes like spiny lobster salad with fennel and chervil to quince parfait with huckleberry and thyme. The Michelin guide has handed the place two coveted stars.

Ad Hoc, Napa Valley

Thomas Keller’s “temporary” restaurant is now a permanent fixture, and that’s a good thing. Ad Hoc raises family-style dining to a new level: no tater tots here, but four-course prix fixe meals that feature superbly done comfort foods. Don’t miss the artisanal-cheese third course.

Nora’s Fish Creek Inn, Jackson Hole

Everyone from ranchers to Hollywood moguls and ski bums jostles for a table next to the soapstone Finnish hearth or a seat at the bar inside the 1930s log cabin for the best breakfast (but there’s also lunch and dinner).

Cafe Pasqual’s, Santa Fe

Jen Judge

Hit the Plaza early to grab a spot at the community table at Santa Fe’s favorite breakfast nook, Cafe Pasqual’s, home of the best huevos in town. The hordes line up before 8 for smoked-trout hash over poached eggs, gruyère potato cake, and tomatillo salsa, served in a cozy room decorated with hand-painted tiles and murals.

Steelhead Diner, Seattle

Steelhead Diner

The steelhead trout is the iconic, wild part of the Pacific Northwest mystique and this Pike Place Market  diner honors it by not serving it, but by instead using only local, sustainable products. Go for the alder-smoked salmon rillette, sweet Dungeness crab cakes, and perfectly crisped fish and chips.

La Super-Rica, Santa Barbara

Andrea Gómez Romero

Milpas Street’s Mexican dive is famous for serving freshly made antojitos to people who don’t necessarily know what the word means (little portions, aka appetizers). Must-try: La Super-Rica Especial (marinated pork and cheese-stuffed pasilla chile).

Oxbow Public Market, Napa Valley

More than  25 local purveyors  of all things organic, artisanal, and delicious have gathered in a 40,000-square-foot cathedral of sustainable yumminess. Need to pick up organic, handcrafted charcuterie? Look no further. In the mood for a piping-hot Venezuelan arepa? It’s here. Seasonal produce? Local wine? Freshly baked bread? Check, check, and check.

Elote Cafe, Sedona

Indulge in Sedona’s best Mexican food—we love the lamb adobo. The cafe is a labor of love for Chef Jeff Smedstad, who spends as much time in Mexico as he can, visiting markets and dining in Mexican homes, honing his authentic techniques.