California is the world’s fifth-largest producer of food and other agricultural commodities, and by far the largest in the U.S. It is also a place known for its entrepreneurial spirit and creativity. Put those two factors together, and it’s hardly surprising that over the years the state has been the birthplace of some of the best-known food products and fast-food chains in the country and in some cases the world.
Taco Bell, Carl’s Jr., Baskin-Robbins, even McDonald’s are all California natives, but there are plenty more, from a high-quality ice cream brand found in supermarket freezers across the nation to a coffee roaster so influential that it inspired even Starbucks. (These are America’s favorite coffee brands.)
Another native of the Golden State is George Geary, a cooking teacher and pastry chef and the author of numerous books including “The Cheesecake Bible” and “L.A.’s Legendary Restaurants.” His latest work, “Made in California: The California-born Burger Joints, Diners, Fast Food & Restaurants That Changed America,” tells the origin stories of some 50 California food and drink brands founded between 1915 and 1966, complete with historical photos and images of old menus and advertising materials. Some of these are among the most successful restaurant chains in America.
To assemble our list of 25 particularly iconic ones, 24/7 Tempo chose 21 of the nationally best-known brands from Geary’s book, drawing on his reportage and in some cases on corporate websites for additional information, and added four more famous brands founded in the Golden State after 1966, whose backgrounds we researched from various other sources.