Coming from the UK, where food service is an entire different kettle of fish to that in the USA, I knew I would have to get used to the bizarre cultural differences that rear their heads only in restuarants.
Firstly, refillable drinks. The only place in the UK known for refillable drinks is the ever great Nandos, whereas in the US, places are known if they DON’T offer free refills. Not only do places over unlimited soda, but unlimited fries is not an entirely unheard of treat as well, such as in Red Robin. My personal favourite in Red Robin has to be the ribs and macaroni cheese combo. As bizarre as it sounds, it’s delicious and couldn’t get more American, although you might want to load on vegetables and fruit that day as well in order to actually garner some nutrients from the food you consume.
In N Out Burger is fast becoming an American classic, old school joint like Ruby’s. Their menu is limited (hamburger, cheeseburger, double cheeseburger) but their food is delicious and their fries surprisingly still resemble potatoes. Another fast food favourite of mine is Del Taco (not to be confused for the more famous Taco Bell), their chilli cheese fries are something to behold and their 99 cent churros (I do love a good churro) are fantastic. Again, all of this food is delicious but also terrible for you, so gorging on fast food maybe isn’t advisable!
The gem in Southern California’s food market is their Mexican food, but once again I found myself loving a chain – Baja Fresh. The tortilla chips and salsas laid out were so much more fresh and inviting than the gloopy salsas available in the UK. Their veggie burrito was delicious and didn’t leave me feeling as though I’d consume half a kilogram of lard. Another tasty delight of California is their avocados. It might sound stupid but even if you don’t like avocado, I’d recommend trying one from somewhere that can actually grow and serve them to you ripe and fresh, rather than watery and a bit suspect. Plus, if you order anything with the word California in the name, it is bound to include avocado.
The California Yoghurt Factory was a complete education to me. We do have the odd frozen yoghurt place in the UK but not with anywhere near the huge range of flavours and toppings available here. Cake Batter was my top and I will endeavour to return to California in the near future simply to enjoy this dessert again.
Overall, the biggest thing you notice is the sheer relentless joy of the waiting staff in restaurants. Of course it’s all part of the job, and it helps them garner tips, but there’s something so relaxing about having a happy waiter! The only place like it in the UK I know if is TGI Fridays, that takes all its lessons from its American counterparts. If you can handle the chatty service there, then you’ll love America. Don’t forget to tip generously though!