Central Valley, California’s bucolic interior, may not be the quintessential West Coast road trip, but the region is a foodie paradise.
Magpie Café: Signs that Slow Food mecca San Francisco is rubbing off on Sacramento? Standout new locavore spots such as Magpie Café, where the bánh mì sandwich is filled with sustainable beef from a nearby ranch and a breakfast muffin comes with house-made sausage. 1409 R St., Sacramento. $$$
Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates: In her tiny shop, Ginger Elizabeth Hahn makes bite-size chocolates using fresh cream and seasonal ingredients. Try the lavender caramel with sea salt and the vanilla-bean ice cream bar covered in chocolate. 1801 L St., Sacramento.
Michael David Winery: It may not have the prestige of Napa or Sonoma, but Lodi is gaining recognition as a wine region in its own right. Among the best producers: Michael David Winery, known for reds such as the 2009 Lust Zinfandel. 4580 West Hwy. 12, Lodi.
Sciabica: Golden bottles of olive oil line the walls of the 76-year-old Sciabica, owned by a local Sicilian family and known for its cold-pressed oils, including the smooth, nutty Sevillano Variety Fall Harvest and bolder flavors such as spicy jalapeño. 2150 Yosemite Blvd., Modesto.
Hooper House Bear Creek Inn: The five light-filled bedrooms at this 19th-century inn have electric fireplaces, large sleigh beds, floral prints, and antique leather furnishings. The best part: innkeeper Rhonda Prothko whips up hearty frittatas and berry-topped yogurt parfaits for breakfast. Merced. $
Houa Khong Restaurant: You’d never expect to find something as exotic as Houa Khong in sleepy Merced. Here, locals gather in a no-frills dining room for authentic, home-style Laotian and Thai dishes such as neuasavanh (dry fried beef), eggplant curry, and sticky rice. 85 E. 13th St., Merced; 209/727-5541. $$
Vineyard Farmers’ Market: Fruit vendors under a shaded arbor with chalkboard signs—cantaloupe, 99 cents each!—line the route to this twice-weekly market, where area purveyors sell everything from small-batch honey and artisanal cheeses to heirloom tomatoes and ruby-red strawberries. 100 W. Shaw Ave., Fresno.
Grandmarie’s Chicken Pie Shop: The 1960’s live on at this Fresno institution, thanks to electric-green booths, swivel chairs, and septuagenarian waitresses who call you “Hon.” The signature dish is made from scratch and covered in warm gravy. 861 E. Olive Ave., Fresno. $
Superior Dairy Products Company: At the 1929 ice cream parlor, even a single scoop of one of the freshly made flavors—which range from burgundy cherry to peach—is more than enough for two, and sundaes are topped with the dairy’s own whipped cream. 35 N. Douty St., Hanford; 559/582-0481.
Padre Hotel: Stylish accommodations in Bakersfield were unheard-of until this design-minded hotel opened its doors two years ago. Inside, rooms have Art Deco furnishings and cheeky names such as Oil Baron and Head Honcho. 1702 18th St., Bakersfield; 661/427-4900. $
Noriega’s: Patrons share large platters of rustic specialties such as hearty oxtail stew, tender marinated beef tongue, and sharp blue cheese at this 1893 restaurant run by members of Bakersfield’s large Basque-American population. 525 Sumner St., Bakersfield. $$
Restaurant Pricing Key
$ Less than $25
$$ $25 to $75
$$$ $75 to $150
$$$$ More than $150