California Culinary Creations
Dishes Created in California
California has proven herself fertile in many ways. Like its agriculture, ideas also seem to grow more easily here, and foodservice pioneers from the Golden State have given the world an impressive bounty of concepts, creations, and culinary innovations. Here, we salute those achievements, which have spanned the history of the California Restaurant Association, before and beyond…
• Boysenberries – Around 1935, Walter Knott of Knotts Berry Farm in Buena Park and Anaheim Parks Superintendent Rudolph Boysen experimented with a new strain of berry, but the plants kept dying on the vine. Knott took the scraggly plants, nurtured them to health, and named the new berry—a cross between a loganberry, red raspberry, and blackberry—after its originator.
• Cafeterias – In 1905, a L.A. woman named Helen Mosher established the world’s first cafeteria; the concept was popularized by the four Boos Brothers, who opened a chain of them throughout the City of Angels.
• California cuisine – Alice Waters of Berkeley was the first to lead the culinary movement toward freshness, simplicity, and originality by using local produce, California wines as both ingredients and accompaniments, and an array of ethnic and indigenous ingredients, 1971.
• California-style coffee shops – Beginning in 1950, coffee shops with custom-fabricated equipment, full-exhibition kitchens, and 24-hour service begin making their debuts.
• The cheeseburger – Lionel Sternberger of Rite Spot Restaurant, Pasadena, lays claim to adding cheese to a hamburger steak, 1924.
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• The chili dog – Art Elkinal’s pushcart, Inglewood, 1935.
• Chicken Tetrazzini – Although disputed by some, it’s widely believed chef Arbogast at The Palace Hotel in San Francisco created this dish, 1908.
• Chiffon cake – In 1927, L.A. insurance agent Harry Baker invented this airy cake, which he sold only to the reigning royalty of the silver screen at Hollywood’s Brown Derby restaurant. Eventually, he sold the recipe to General Mills, which popularized it via Betty Crocker.
• The chili size – L.A.’s 24-hour “chili parlor,” Ptomaine Tommy’s, was the inventor of the “chili size,” a burger patty smothered in chili (or chili burger), circa 1920s.
• Chinese takeouts – First known as “chow chows,” America’s first Chinese eateries sprang up in California in the mid-19th century to serve Cantonese laborers; their popularity soon spread.
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• Chop suey – A San Francisco waiter created this dish for Li Hung-Chang, the first Chinese viceroy to visit the city, 1878.
• Cioppino – Portuguese and Italian fisherman in San Francisco created this fish stew, circa 1900.
• Cobb salad – Brown Derby founder Robert Cobb invented this salad one day in 1936 using ingredients he found in the restaurant’s icebox. The invention would become one of the first “main course” salads in American culinary history.
• Crab Louis – Solari’s, San Francisco, 1914.
• “Doggie bags” – Lawry’s the Prime Rib restaurant in Los Angeles introduces the concept of “doggie bags,” take-home leftovers ostensibly meant for the family pooch.
• Double-decker hamburgers – Bob Wian of Bob’s Pantry (later Bob’s Big Boy), Glendale, introduces the double-decker hamburger, 1937.
• Drive-ins – A&W founder Roy Allen first opened his root-beer stand in Lodi in 1919. After opening a second store in Sacramento, he introduced America to a new concept in dining – the drive-in. So-called “tray boys” provide customers, who wait in their cars, with curbside service.
• Drive-throughs – The car culture gives birth to the drive-through when San Diego restaurateur Robert O. Peterson opens Oscar’s in the late 1940s. By 1951, the restaurant would be known as Jack in the Box.
• Fish tacos (Rubio’s) – While on spring break in Baja, Mexico, Ralph Rubio (of Rubio’s Restaurants) got his first bite of this taste sensation, extracted its recipe from a local taco-stand vendor, and brought it home to San Diego, which adopted it as its fast-food signature dish, 1983.
• French-dipped sandwich – Legend has it that Philippe Mathieu, founder of L.A.’s Philippe The Original, inadvertently dropped a sliced French roll into a roasting pan filled with hot juice. His customer, a police officer, asked for the sandwich anyway, and a sandwich star was born, 1918.
• Fortune cookies – The Hagiwara family, who operated the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, are the legendary inventors of this future-seeing treat, circa 1895-1942. Also credited to David Jung, Los Angeles, circa 1916.
• Green Goddess dressing – Green Goddess dressing was created by the chef at San Francisco’s The Palace Hotel during the 1920s. It was created in honor of actor George Arliss, who was appearing in a play called Green Goddess. This classic dressing is a blend of mayonnaise, minced anchovies, chives, tarragon, parsley, scallions, and garlic.
• “Googie-style” architecture – Southern California architect John Lautner creates “googie”-style coffee shops. The buildings feature bold angles, colorful signs, plate-glass windows, sweeping cantilevered roofs, and pop-culture imagery.