Special Report

25 Iconic Food and Drink Brands Born in California

Source: George Rose / Getty Images

The Cheesecake Factory
> Year founded: 1978
> Original location: Beverly Hills
> Original name: Same

The original Cheesecake Factory was actually a cheesecake factory — a bakery specializing in cheesecake and other desserts, first in Detroit in the late 1950s and then in the San Fernando Valley. In 1978, David Overton, son of the original baker, opened a small cafe called The Cheesecake Factory in Beverly Hills with a menu offering little more than sandwiches and, of course, cheesecake. The concept expanded beyond Southern California and in 1993 The Cheesecake Factory went public. There are now more than 200 around the world.

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The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
> Year founded: 1963
> Original location: Brentwood (Los Angeles)
> Original name: Same

Eight years before the original Starbucks opened in Seattle, a UCLA student named Herbert Hyman launched the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf as a company providing coffee service to offices. In 1968, after honeymooning in Sweden — where coffee is taken seriously — he decided to import and roast his own coffee, and opened his first store. By the mid-1970s, there were 10 stores around Southern California, but it really started to grow after an employee improvised a cold coffee-and-chocolate beverage that evolved into the chain’s popular Ice Blended drinks — predecessors of Starbucks’ Frappuccinos. Today there are more than 1,000 Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf locations in 27 countries.

Source: Keithready / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Del Taco
> Year founded: 1964
> Original location: Yermo
> Original name: Casa Del Taco

When he got out of the Air Force in 1954, Ed Hackbarth got a job managing Bell’s Hot Dog Stand on the legendary Route 66 in San Bernardino east of Los Angeles. (Bell’s was co-owned by Glen Bell, who later created Taco Bell.) Hackbarth struck out on his own in 1964 with a taco and burger joint in the small Mojave Desert town of Yermo. It was a success, so he started expanding, bringing in one partner and then another, along the way dropping the “Casa.” By 1976, when the partners sold the operation, there were 50 Del Taco locations. Today there are 596 around the country.

Fatburger
> Year founded: 1947
> Original location: Los Angeles
> Original name: Mr. Fatburger

Restaurateur Lovie Yancey moved from Texas to Arizona and then to L.A., where she teamed up with a professional boxer named Charles “Suitcase” Simpson and in 1947 opened a three-stool stand which she called Mr. Fatburger — the idea being that the burger was so “fat” with condiments that it was a meal in itself. After she and Simpson parted ways, she lost the “Mr.” from the name, and in 1973 began to expand. She started selling franchises in 1981 (Magic Johnson, Janet Jackson, and David Spade were among the investors). Today there are 117 Fatburgers in 16 countries.

Foster’s Freeze
> Year founded: 1946
> Original location: Inglewood
> Original name: Foster’s Old Fashion Freeze

“California’s Original Soft Serve” ice cream stop got its start in 1946 when George Foster bought the rights to develop Dairy Queen units around the Golden State. But he planned to serve low-butterfat ice milk and legislation sponsored by the California dairy industry banned him from using the term “dairy.” He named his operation after himself instead, originally selling just soft-serve, sundaes, and shakes, but soon adding burgers, hot dogs, and such. He expanded quickly, growing to 360 locations around California by 1951. Today, the chain has shrunken to just 67 units.