Essential E's of California Pt. 2: NorCal
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Essential E’s of NorCal

Northern California is a bountiful paradise home to some of the best seafood in the USA as well as one of our most famous national parks.

Its diverse variety of regional ingredients attracts chefs from all over while its rich cultures and perfect weather attract southern Californians to make the trek north to settle down from the grind of Los Angeles or San Diego. From Silicon Valley to Yosemite these are the Essential E’s of Northern California.


The soil in this region is rich in nutrients. This makes the variety and quality of the harvest outstanding. NorCal is also home to some major fishing grounds that produce some of the best the country has to offer! This makes it much easier and cheaper for restaurants to get fresh local ingredients.

Worth A Trip

Swan Oyster Depot by Traveling Bytes

While SoCal has become known for its Korean food and its street tacos, NorCal has become known for its Chinese, Japanese and Seafood, like Angler in San Francisco which is possibly the best seafood restaurant in the world. It just so happens to be one of the most expensive restaurants in the world, so if that is out of your purview try Swan Oyster Depot, a San Francisco institution that has been serving fresh seafood to locals for generations. It also is probably one of the last remnants of the old San Francisco. Chinatown is another of those remnants which remain today. Z & Y Restaurant is the local favorite whose tables have seen the like of many famous faces including Barack Obama!

North in Sacramento, you’d be wise to spend an evening at Gunther’s Ice Cream. There is always a line, even in the winter, but the wait is worth it.

Bang for Your Buck

For great meals that won’t put a strain on your bank account try these places.

Tsuta in San Fransisco should be in our worth a trip category but since it’s so cheap we thought it deserved to be here! The original Tsuta is a Michelin starred ramen shop in Japan that has opened its first North American location in the Bay! This has caused ramen fans to flock in excitement to try its unique flavors. This is also probably the only time you’d find Michelin star dishes for around $10.

Stagecoach Restaurant in Sacramento has no Michelin stars but they do have a pickle barrel and some of the best southern cooking in NorCal! Napa may be where people go to taste wine and party but it’s still home to a proud working class. Those workers have been coming to Gott’s Roadside Burgers for over 20 years! Try the California Burger, seriously.

Late Night Bites

San Francisco is famous for its midnight bedtime and Sacramento’s happens to be even earlier. But, there are still a few great places to get your late-night craving!

Grubstake by Nathan LeClair

Grubstake in San Francisco, a classic American diner that also serves Portuguese, stays open till 4 AM. Chinatown is also home to many late-night eateries like My Canh. This will become your secret Vietnamese late-night cash-only spot you take your friends to impress them! Try the Banh Xeo, a Vietnamese crepe stuffed with shrimp and herbs.

Sacramento’s late-night eateries cater to its bar scene, as most do. Tank House BBQ and Bar is one of the few places to get a great meal past midnight and is open till 2 AM nightly. Our other favorite late-night bite in Sacramento is Ink Eats & Drinks which also stays open till 2 AM.


NorCal’s history is one of America’s oldest and its culture one of its richest! It’s home to one of the most important art institutions as well as one of the biggest National parks in the country!

The Great Outdoors

Yosemite by David Kingham

Yosemite National Park has to be the most famous national park in the country. This is due to its size and pristine beauty. If you love camping, swimming or hiking this is your Mecca! Further north, you’ll find the Redwoods, a gorgeous and massive ancient forest that has been the muse of artists for hundreds of years. Come see it for yourself! Last but not least is Pinnacles National Park a more mountainous area where you can hike it million-year-old canyons!

Stay Inside

If hiking and camping is not your thing, these places are a great way to explore NorCal!

SFMoMa is the most important art museum outside of LA and houses thousands of contemporary pieces of art! Another classic institution is the Legion of Honor a massive artifact collection housed in a full-scale replica of the French Pavilion at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Expo. It’s stunning art in a stunning building with stunning views.

The Winchester Mystery House is not for the faint of heart. But if you’re brave enough, the tour is outstanding and they have awesome Halloween events!

Party Like a Local

SantaCon by Sandy Nichols

People say San Francisco is a weird place and that weird place has weird parties. One of those weird parties is SantaCon, a pub crawl in SF in which the attendees dress like Santa and drink. It’s fun! Biketoberfest in Fairfax is another unique way to drink, on a bike! Half critical mass bike ride, half Oktoberfest beer festival Biktoberfest is awesome for beer lovers who are somewhat health-conscious!

Winewalk on the Waterfront in Oakland is way more relaxing than a bike ride but still just as fun! It lets you try the best wines the region has to offer as well as listen and dance to great music!

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NorCal may be where the stars go to settle down but it is also where hippies originated and some of the best bands originated from, so NorCal still likes to party.


San Francisco is your go-to for the essential nightlife destinations in NorCal as it has been home to some of the west coast’s best bars, clubs, and music since the 1960s!

Comstock Saloon has been serving locals cocktails since 1907! Ask for the Barkeeps Whimsy for a surprise!

For a more modern experience, Coin-op Game Room is your go-to. Packed with arcade games, futuristic and classic, escape rooms, and a Tron themed Bar!

If you’re looking for music the world-famous Fillmore should be your first bet. The Fillmore has hosted some of the most iconic acts in history for generations!


Oracle Park by Travis Wise

For a more exciting weekend, sporting events are always a great bet. And every major metropolis in NorCal is home to a professional sports team. In San Francisco, you can find professional teams for all of America’s favorite pastimes. It is home to the Giants baseball team, the 49ers football team and most recently the Golden State Warriors, who migrated across the bay from Oakland. Sacramento has a bitter rivalry in basketball and claims allegiance to the Kings basketball team! This is also the last season you can enjoy the Raiders in Oakland before they move to Las Vegas!

Kick Back and Relax

Leisure has to be NorCals main export. Its region is covered in vineyards and farmers markets! One of our favorite of those farmer’s markets is the Cesar Chavez Farmers Market a massive daily market in Sacramento that delivers fresh produce and unique crafts every weekday!

Lombard Street, San Francisco, CA by Howard Russell

We won’t give you a single vineyard as the essential spot but rather suggest Napa as a whole because there are almost always parties and events happening where you can meet great people and learn a lot about wine. Just take a weekend or a day to explore the wine country. In San Francisco, there are a couple of famous streets that attract tourists for unique reasons. Lombardo St. is a windy downhill pass in the middle of SF. People come down there to try and drive it and also take pictures of this unique sight! Just be careful of the drivers and be considerate of the locals as it is a residential street. Haight St. is known for being the area where the hippies lived in the ’60s and today it still carries that personality and hosts some quirky shops and great art!

Northern California is definitely underrated and once you go there you’re going to see why! You can eat, drink and party your way through the region if you desire or park yourself at a vineyard on the side of a mountain and relax! It’s very much a paradise!

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