At Antica Olive Oils and Vinegars, the namesake cooking elixirs adhere to Italian standards stricter than the mothers who created them. The shop stocks a rotating inventory of more than 50 extra-virgin olive oils, which originate in Italy, Spain, Tunisia, and other exotic locales and bear the taste of olives crushed at the peak of harvest months. Creative flavors infuse each oil, with almonds, chipotle peppers, and Tuscan herbs lending their profiles to oil meant for sprinkling on salads or drinking straight out of a champagne flute. White and dark balsamic vinegars also emanate unique flavors–aged apricot, honey ginger, and lavender among them–but their journey to bottles is much longer. They steep in seasoned wood casks in Modena, Italy for up to 18 years and bubble over an open wood fire before immigrating stateside.
Before moving to California, the owners of Finbars Italian Kitchen lived in a Brooklyn neighborhood densely populated with Italian families. Like the rest of the neighborhood, they attended St. Finbar parish, where they gossiped and traded recipes with “grandmas, moms, and quite a few uncles that all know how and love to cook.” Later, as transplants to the West Coast, they infused the “straight to the point food” they knew and loved with fresh, California-style ingredients such as cilantro, zucchini, and celebrity secrets. Their menu soon grew to reflect both their traditions and culinary developments, with dishes such as chicken tequila fusilli, pad thai linguine, and New York prime steaks. Today, they serve their freshly made dishes in two locations, where live music entertains diners on weekends.
As sunlight pours through the lace curtains of McKenna's lemon-yellow tearoom, hostesses deliver light treats and 37 types of tea to frilly, glass-topped tables. Triangle-cut finger sandwiches, cheese- and vegetable-filled quiches, and leafy salads flaunt their fresh ingredients on the restaurant’s chinaware, which sit alongside steaming teapots that transform lunches into sumptuous high teas or shift blame after ill-timed wolf whistles. The shop unfurls its tearoom and garden patio to a myriad of private events, hosting elegant celebrations for bridal showers and children's birthdays, which get magical enhancement with appearances by Snow White and other fairy-tale characters. After nibbling on teatime dishes, patrons can peruse the selection of gifts, accessories, and shabby-chic housewares in the gift shop to help commemorate their outing without filling pockets with Devonshire cream.
From 14-hour days during the beginnings of their first restaurant in Long Beach more than 37 years ago, Super Mex founders Manuel and Socorro Orozco built franchises across Southern California. Inspired by the local cuisine of the village he was born in—Villa Jimenez, Michoacan, Mexico—Manuel brought his passion for traditional Mexican food to California, where the business grew with a dedicated following of college students. Striving to craft dishes that taste homemade, Super Mex offers Mexican classics such as burritos, tostadas, and flautas.
The Taco Surf empire grew from the dream of a father and son who, in 1988, decided to found a restaurant that captured the distinctive flavors as well as the festive spirit of Baja California. Basing the menu on generations-old family recipes, the duo stick to tradition by making everything from crispy tortilla chips to tamales in-house. Charbroiled flank steak, slow-cooked pork, and grilled chicken appear throughout the menu; however, the ocean's influence is unmistakably prominent. The iconic Baja tacos arrive brimming with breaded white fish and drizzled with a signature spicy Baja sauce, which the restaurant generously sells by the bottle and by the thimble.
At John’s Philly Grille, the best dishes come served atop all manners of buns. That’s because the staff of the eateries—inspired by the City of Brotherly Love—specializes in hoagies and deli sandwiches, filling fluffy, halved baguettes with hot and cold ingredients such as pastrami, veggies, cheesesteak, and barbecued beef. Traditional fixings are layered on top of classic or turkey burgers, which can be paired with starters such as fried zucchini or cheese fries.