It’s never a bad time to head north to the Santa Ynez Valley for a weekend of wine tasting, superb eating, and all-around relaxation. The Central Coast wine enclave is abuzz with a slew of new restaurants, tasting rooms, luxury lodging, and even a sky-high zip line opening in the region. For flame-licked steaks grilled Santa Maria style, traditional Danish breakfast, and everything in between, here are 14 fabulous places to eat around the Santa Ynez Valley.Read More
14 Fabulous Places to Eat Around the Santa Ynez Valley
For vineyard views, Danish delights, and stellar seafood, here’s where to eat in Santa Barbara County’s rolling wine country
Full Of Life Flatbread
Full of Life Flatbread has been holding it down on Bell Street in Los Alamos since 2003 when Clark Staub opened the quirky pizzeria. Whether topped with pepperoni, mushrooms, or caramelized onions, every ingredient is well-considered and sourced. Order the hush-hush Beast for dessert.
There are two ways to experience Bell’s in Los Alamos, the acclaimed Michelin-starred restaurant from Daisy and Greg Ryan. For those who are feeling fancy, reserve a table for dinner where Daisy prepares a seasonally-driven prix fixe menu for $90. (Reservations are released a month in advance.) For those in a more casual state of mind, the bistro-leaning lunchtime menu is solid and also available to-go.
The restaurant also plays host to the Priedite Barbecue pop-up on Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. where Nick Priedite and Brandon Dwan smoke up outstanding brisket, sausages, and pork ribs. The seasonal buttermilk pudding for dessert is a must.
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Vega Vineyard and Farm
Conveniently located off the 101 Highway, Vega Vinyard and Farm feels nothing short of idyllic. With vineyards and olive groves that span for acres and a working farm and petting zoo, too, there’s something for everyone at hospitality veterans Jimmy and Karen Loizides’s agro-tourism destination. Chef Christopher Rossi’s serves lunch and dinner on the sprawling grounds; menu highlights include the cavatelli cacio e pepe and deviled eggs with blue crab.
Ellen's Danish Pancake House
There’s no better way to start the day than with a proper Danish breakfast. While the wait times at the more popular morning spots in Solvang, like Paula’s Pancake House, can be daunting, there’s usually ample room at Ellen’s Danish Pancake House. Opened in 1947, the local favorite turns out Danish-style breakfasts, pancakes, and other diner staples in a boisterous room.
Na Na Thai
After years of popping up at Bar Le Côte in Los Olivos, Na Na Thai finally has a home to call its own in a Buellton strip mall. Owners Ashley and Nik Ramirez serve flavorful renditions of Thai classics including pad thai, fried chicken, moo pad krapow, and more. If possible, snag the best table in the house — a vintage Pac-Man arcade console that doubles as a two-top. Note: The restaurant’s weekdays-only schedule means it’s best to plan in advance.
Hitching Post II
This staple eatery is a must-stop for first-time and long-time visitors alike for Santa Maria-style barbecue prepared over red oak. The steaks are dependably great but don’t overlook the immensely juicy grilled quails, and be sure to pair them with locally produced wine.
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Comfort food reigns supreme at Peasants Feast, where burgers, tacos, and what may be the best fried chicken sandwich in a 100-mile radius headline the menu. Owners Michael and Sarah Cherney approach each dish with care, a connection to local farms and producers, and an eye toward feeding regulars and travelers alike. This small cozy corner of Solvang buzzes daily, especially on weekends.
Good Seed Coffee Boutique
Good Seed might as well be Solvang’s city hall. Part coffee shop, part bakery, the busy Mission Drive space teems with locals, tourists, and passersby, all eager for an espresso drink or cup of drip coffee. The bakery doesn’t disappoint either, with a variety of toasts, breads, granola bowls, and more. It’s the kind of food and location that makes everyone show up on a busy Saturday morning.
It can be a tough task reimagining a historic restaurant like the Tavern at the Inn at Mattie’s Tavern, Auberge Resorts Collection, but chef Rhoda Magbitang deftly balances meeting the expectations of longtime guests with making the menu her own. Start with the warm focaccia served with butter before settling into platters of squid ink rice and delicate Central Coast abalone. A chocolate souffle to finish is a must.
Bar Le Côte
Swing in for lunch, happy hour, or dinner at Bar Le Côte, the seafood-focused sister restaurant to Michelin-starred Bell’s in Los Alamos. Executive chef and co-owner Brad Mathews is behind the stove at this Los Olivos gem. The menu is chock-full of local seafood and European nods that pair exceptionally well with wines. The peel-and-eat shrimp and saffron buns with sea urchin butter appear on nearly every table.
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Bob's Well Bread
Pastries, sandwiches, and other bready delights are the order of the day at Bob Oswaks’s Ballard outpost of Bob’s Well Bread. This Ballard standalone has proven to be a hit with wine country visitors, so don’t be surprised to find some weekend lines — and Oswaks himself working the counter.
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Nella Kitchen & Bar
Chef Luca Crestanelli’s Nella Kitchen & Bar in Los Olivos is a gorgeous mix of Italian flavors and coastal California sensibilities. The hotel restaurant has a sturdy bar for wine sipping and chatting, a patio for catching sunny rays, and a robust menu of pinsas, seafood snacks, and meaty mains. The Verona-born chef also oversees S.Y. Kitchen in Santa Ynez, which is known for its scratch-made plates of pasta like the wild mushroom pappardelle.
Head to Maverick Saloon for a break from the wine crowds. The dusty wooden semi-dive is popular with locals and features dollar bills on the ceiling, live music and events most weekends, and a full slate of cocktails and pub fare.
The Lucky Hen Larder
Cynthia Miranda’s adorably appointed Lucky Hen Larder is the perfect stop for picnic provisions in the Valley. The to-go lunch menu is full of satisfying sandwiches, like the tri-tip on ciabatta and the antipasto with ham, fennel salami, prosciutto, olive salad, and more, while the takeout cheese and charcuterie platters are expertly curated for parties large and small.