A Taste of California:
Where to Eat Along the Pacific Coast

From sea bass ceviche in San Francisco to squash blossom pizza in Beverly Hills, discover the most detour-worthy dishes on this classic road trip, thanks to the American Express® Global Dining Collection.

There are few American road trips more iconic than driving from San Francisco to L.A. along the Pacific Coast Highway—preferably in a convertible. (Driving north to south is the way to go here—that way, you won’t have to pull over and cross the road every time you want to snap a photo of those spectacular, sun-drenched views.) Built in 1934, State Route 1 winds along the coastline from Mendocino, about 150 miles north of San Francisco, to Orange County near Dana Point—offering an ever-changing panorama of jagged cliffs, rolling fog, towering bridges, and phone-background-worthy tidefalls.

It’s a real bucket-list trip, which is why you definitely don’t want those sights to pass you by as you’re, say, scrolling through restaurant reviews while sitting passenger-side, or listening to music on hold while the hostess at that popular brunch spot checks to see if she can squeeze you in at noon. Fortunately, as part of the American Express Global Dining Collection benefit, Card Members can bypass that waitlist and access exclusive reservations at some of the world’s best restaurants when they book through the Platinum and Centurion Cards’ complimentary concierge service. Basically, it was built for dining and planning on the go—which is pretty invaluable when you don’t want to settle for your third-choice restaurant just because you had to pull over and catch that Pismo Beach sunset. Keep reading for four destinations you have to hit on your way down the California coastline, and the dishes you need to try while you’re in town.

Atelier Crenn

San Francisco

Our Pacific Coast Highway journey begins in San Francisco, where no visit is complete without a drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. If you feel like exploring by foot for a while, take a stroll down the Embarcadero, San Francisco’s scenic bayside promenade, stand-hop at the sprawling Alemany Farmers’ Market (said to be the oldest in the state of California), or sign up for a mural walk and take in SF’s kaleidoscopic outdoor art scene with Precita Eyes—a neighborhood organization that has sponsored mural projects and offered art classes for decades.

You’ll need to work up an appetite for your visit to Atelier Crenn, which just earned its third Michelin star (owner Dominique Crenn is the first U.S.-based female chef to receive that honor). It’s one of the West Coast’s bastions of modernist, experimental—and occasionally avant-garde—cuisine, where the tasting menu (presented on a flower-filled log) is filled with dishes like seaweed-salt-baked rutabaga and tiny, sculptural tartlets filled with geoduck, sea urchin, and winter citrus. Go off-menu and receive a special “kitchen treat” when you book an exclusive table through Concierge.

Nobu

Palo Alto

There’s more to Silicon Valley than tech companies and Teslas. Pace Gallery opened its Palo Alto location in 2016 and has already hosted exhibits by art world giants like David Hockney and James Turrell, while early spring’s lineup includes a series of works dedicated to the city and people of San Francisco. From there, balance your contemporary art fix with a dose of nostalgia and head to the charming, neoclassical Stanford Theatre (built in 1925) to catch a screening of an Old Hollywood gem (make sure to stick around during intermission to catch the organ player).

The perfect way to cap off the day? Dinner at Nobu, located on the ground floor of Palo Alto’s Epiphany hotel. The menu is a mix of traditional Japanese dishes and slightly unconventional takes on the country’s cuisine (expect to see options like sashimi tacos and Maine lobster with wasabi pepper). Your best bet, however, is to hand over the decision-making and opt for the American Express special Global Dining Collection omakase menu, a Japanese phrase that roughly means “I’ll leave it up to you” (“you,” in this case, being the chef), which is available exclusively to Card Members through Concierge.

NoMad Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles

Much has been made of Downtown L.A.’s recent cultural and architectural resurgence, and the best way to get a feel for the neighborhood is to do something that almost feels like a SoCal taboo: walk. Wander around and you might find yourself at the steps of the Broad (this museum has not one but two of Yayoi Kusama’s immersive, mirror-strewn rooms), browsing the L.A. Flower Market’s colorful stalls, belting your heart out in The Grammy Museum’s mock recording studio, or getting lost in The Last Bookstore—a labyrinth-like shop with a stellar selection.

The last (well, maybe) stop of the day: The NoMad—its moody lighting and plush velvet couches provide some cozy relief from the glaring sun and tables are held daily just for American Express Platinum and Centurion Card Members. Chef Daniel Humm serves up luxe comfort food like a honey-glazed half duck for two, along with lighter fare for soaking up the hotel’s signature cocktails (the fried sunchokes and kanpachi ceviche lettuce wraps are surefire hits).

The Rooftop by JG

Beverly Hills

Ah, Beverly Hills. Where else can you find a Tudor mansion sandwiched between a sprawling Spanish Colonial villa and a topiary-flanked Georgian Revival home?

It’s fitting that a neighborhood filled with architecture that spans styles and centuries is also home to some equally eclectic restaurants. After a bit of world-class window shopping on Rodeo Drive and a stroll along the manicured grounds of the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel, stop by The Rooftop by JG, located in the Waldorf Astoria, where Card Members have special table access via American Express Concierge. Here you'll find a mashup of apps-with-a-twist (spiced chicken samosas with cilantro yogurt, chili rubbed beef skewers with Thai basil dipping sauce), elevated classics (crispy fish tacos with chipotle mayonnaise and spicy cabbage, seared red snapper with wok fried cabbage and water chestnuts), and an impressive salad selection (this is L.A., after all).

Explore California’s epic coastline and cuisine in unparalleled style with the American Express® Global Dining Collection.

The American Express® Global Dining Collection is a benefit for Platinum Card® Members offering special access to reservations and experiences with some of your favorite chefs. To learn more, visit americanexpress.com/globaldiningcollection. Terms apply.

We are not responsible for notifying a restaurant of any food allergies when suggesting or making reservations at restaurants.