Five Iconic California Food Chains Worth Visiting

Travelers know  California as the sunshine state with beaches and Hollywood celebrities. What some visitors miss is the fact it is also home to some excellent food chains. From juicy burgers to Cuban pastries the State features a formidable variety of venues. So, for the foodies among you wishing to bookmark new spots to try; here are five iconic  California food chains worth mentioning.


Porto started in 1960 when the Porto family left Cuba. After first attempting to leave their home country, the Porto family struggled with no income when Raul, the father, was let go from his job. Five Iconic California Food Chains Worth Visiting pin

When the family finally emigrated from Cuba to California, Rosa continued her cake business. From day one, the bakery did well with over 50 customers a day. Soon Raul Sr and both their kids joined Rosa full time. With time, the Porto’s restaurant expanded to several locations! 

What to Try

One of the best options for a snack is Rosa’s Cuban Cheese Rolls, along with Refugiados (guava and cheese strudels). The Porto Potato Ball is also a famous must try item.

For fuller meals, we recommend the meat or chorizo pie. And of course one shouldn’t leave without trying a delicious pastry or dessert item! We recommend the mango mousse or Cuban cake.

Autism Travel Tips

  • Parents should know that the restaurant does not offer seating reservations.
  • The best time to go to beat the crowds is 2:30 pm and 4:30 pm, Monday-Thursday.
  • At peak hours, the average wait time is under fifteen minutes in the bakery line, and under ten minutes in the cafe line.

Zankou Chicken

The family who started Zankou Chicken formerly ran a Zankou chicken in Beirut. Today, their presence in Hollywood and other areas since 1948 means shwarma and rotisserie chicken are tried and tested Los Angeles foods.


What to Try

Travelers can enjoy their lunch for one, a fifteen dollar half chicken plate which includes hummus, salad, garlic spread, pita, and soda. The shwarma is also a must have, and the garlic spread will ward off the most tenacious vampire!

Autism Travel Tips

  • Zankou features a small parking lot, but visitors can find plenty of street parking nearby. Should you opt for take-out (we always do0 ask for extra pita bread and condiments particularly the garlic spread.

The Habit

Many people know that In-n -Out is a staple of California, but we wanted to include a surprising mention on this list for a burger joint! The Habit is the perfect place to get a flame grilled patty with fresh ingredients and many other menu options, including malt shakes!

What to Try

At the different Habit locations, diners have many options to get the burger they want, including delicious veggie patties! They also have some of the most interesting topping choices, including avocado and pineapple on some burgers. Try out a malt shake, or get some fried onion rings on the side!

Autism Travel Tips

  • Some Habit locations boast a comfortable area for patrons to sit and wait for their food by the counter.
  • Some select Habit locations feature drive through areas which are great for kids who get antsy sitting down for a meal.

Dog Haus

Lovers of hot dogs and burgers alike will want to try out Dog Haus, where one can get both in one sandwich! Dog Haus, based in Pasadena, is a food franchise that sells humorously named gourmet hot dogs. Even people who don’t like hot dogs are sure to find something interesting here!

What to Try

Dog Haus features many great options for any lover of hot dogs. We enjoyed the Scott Baioli, a hot dog with smoked bacon, white American cheese, garlic aioli, and caramelized onions. Adventurous eaters can try out The Hangover burger, full of mayo, cheese, smoked bacon, Haus chili, and a fried egg. Also, don’t leave without trying the tater tots topped with cheese sauce!

Autism Travel Tips

  • Dog Haus food is heavy and laden with fats, grease, and carbs. Family members with sensitivity to these should order carefully.

Umami Burger

One of the five basic flavors is umami, described as any flavor with a “full” or “brothy” taste. Umami Burger is a gourmet burger restaurant which features unique and delicious burgers. Some of the burgers are even artistically designed!

What to Try

First-time visitors should try the Classic burger with shiitake mushrooms, parmesan frico, caramelized onions, and Umami house ketchup. Big eaters of any gender can try the Manly Burger with beer-cheddar cheese, bacon, onion strings, mustard and Umami ketchup. They also offer vegetarian, turkey, and fish patties! Finally, diners can get customized fries with their choice of “truffle,” “smoother,” or “manly” flavor additions.

Autism Travel Tips

  • Umami is a casual, yet somewhat upscale environment. Parents should make sure kids know to stay seated and act politely at the table.
  • Many Umami Burger restaurants have bars, for those who are old enough to enjoy!
Have you visited Southern California lately? What food chains are your favorites?

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