Imagine a small town somewhere North of Santa Barbara. There is only one main street through town and not a single traffic light to be found. There are open fields, plenty of cattle, and rows upon rows of grape vines growing in the distance. Now, imagine that this small town offers tasting rooms on every corner, culinary delights coming from nearly every restaurant kitchen, and the places to stay are just chic enough to attract an LA crowd but quaint enough not to take away from the charm. Have you fallen in love yet? If so, pack your bags and head to California’s Santa Ynez Valley to a small town called, Los Alamos.
As a teenager living in nearby Santa Maria (about 20 minutes North) Los Alamos was merely a place to get gas in an absolute pinch driving home from Santa Barbara. Fast forward 20 years (yikes, I am getting old) and the town is quickly becoming known as “Little LA” thanks to the handful of restaurants, shops, and tasting rooms that have opened their doors since the one time stagecoach town’s renaissance began. Chris and I were lucky enough to spend a few days relaxing and exploring the 7 (short) blocks this town has to offer.
Where to Stay
Book a room at the recently renovated Skyview Motel located on top of a vineyard covered hill overlooking the 101. After a 2 year renovation Skyview is a mix of Mid Century Modern Palm Springs meets old West vibes of the high desert with a healthy dash of Central Coast rustic charm. Skyview features 33 guest rooms all facing a perfectly landscaped courtyard sprinkled with quaint seating areas and a fire pit. The pool is a perfectly curated mix of black & white cushions, vintage inspired day beds, and of course, the yellow & black vintage MOTEL sign that is original to the property. Every morning guests are offered complimentary coffee and breakfast in the lobby. We enjoyed overnight oats, hard boiled eggs, and croissant while relaxing on the large deck overlooking the farms of Los Alamos. Our room offered a small fireplace (perfect for the cool Summer nights of the area), cozy king size bed, and the most beautiful tile floors in the bathroom. For added privacy book one of the larger rooms offering a private patio over looking the properties vineyard. Bonus: Skyview offers complimentary Linus bikes for guests ride into town!
Where to Eat
Hands down my number one recommendation for dining while in Little LA is Bell’s. The small restaurant (with a big reputation, everyone we encountered told us we could not miss it!) opened back in March of 2018 by husband and wife duo Gregory and Daisy Ryan…who just happen to be alums of Thomas Keller’s NYC hot spot, Per Se. There is a charming indoor dining room as well as an adorable outdoor patio complete with potted herbs, umbrellas, and French inspired tables. Don’t miss the moules & frittes or the snails in garlic butter…or the egg salad sandwich…really, there is nothing you can go wrong with. Chris and I had a relaxing lunch on the patio and shared the moules, a frisée salad, the snails, and a bottle of Foxen Chenin Blanc that was the perfect pairing. We were tempted with dessert but skipped…I regret that decision still.
Another quaint Los Alamos spot, Plenty, serves up breakfast, lunch, and dinner most nights. Think classics with a modern twist like an egg and goat cheese scramble, a short rib melt (!!), and a chorizo quesadilla. We popped in for coffee and shared a fresh from the oven peanut butter cookie that was a little piece of heaven.
Bob’s Well Bread located on the South end of Bell Street opened it’s doors back in 2004 and today serves up scrumptious breakfast and lunch while supplying their homemade bread to nearly every restaurant in town. Grab the baquette with proscuitto or mushroom toast, I promise, you will say thank you later.
If you are hoping for a bit of a step back in time (and want to feel like a local cowboy) while in town stop by the 1880 Union Hotel’s Saloon for dinner. Order the tri-tip ends or the tri-tip sliders and don’t forget a beer or a bourbon to go with it. After dinner take your whiskey or your bourbon to the back and play a game of pool or just sit back, relax and wait for a real cowboy to stroll on in.
Other local favorite, Full of Life Flatbread, has been serving piping hot flatbread right out of it’s 20 ton hearth for over 15 years. The menu changes weekly to ensure every flatbread is filled with the freshest ingredients (probably harvested from the planter boxes in the yard every morning) and the best part is gluten free and vegan options are available! Don’t miss the Lil’ Alamos Salad, a fresh take on a classic French carrot salad.
If you find yourself staying at Skyview (or even if you’re not!) be sure to make reservations for dinner at their hilltop restaurant, Norman. Cactus pillars and a gold burst Mid Century door welcome diners for weekend brunch and dinner most nights (they are closed on Tuesday). Try the Morro Bay oysters with a glass of rosé, the fried squash blossoms, and if you are really going for it, the mushroom and grits. Norman also offers a robust Happy Hour menu with cocktails and wine for $9 and a variety of snack options.
Roasted bone marrow, tempura oysters, and pork carnitas are just a few of the fun offerings at Pico Restaurant located inside the old General Store building. While the menu changes weekly the ambiance and delightful drinks are a mainstay. Fun Fact: Pico has been named one of the top 100 Wine Restaurants by Wine Enthusiast for the last 2 years.
Where to Drink
If you find yourself dining in Los Alamos chances are you will also find yourself enjoying a beautiful glass (or bottle) of wine but don’t miss the local tasting rooms scattered through town.
Lumen is located inside of Pico Restaurant and offers two tasting options starting at $15.
Muni Wine, maybe one of the smallest tasting rooms in town, is located on the lawn of the Alamos Motel and offers tastings of their uniquely named varietals.
Casa Dumetz is a bright and breezy Mediterranean space serving Rhone style wines. Don’t miss out on the Feminist Party, a GSM that owner and winemaker, Sonja created to honor those who have helped her along the way.
Lo-Fi Wines is located half a block from Bell’s and is owned by friends, Craig Winchester and Mike Roth, who both live in town. Their goal of keeping Lo-Fi local is evident, some of their wine grapes are grown in Mike’s yard while others come from the vineyard at Skyview. Plan on spending some time sipping while listing to the ever growing collection of vinyl.
Once you are ready to sit down and relax for a few hours head to Bodega for an al fresco sipping experience. The yard is a dream of mature trees, a white washed greenhouse filled with plants (that you can purchase), bocce ball, fire pits, hammocks, and plenty of areas to lounge. Order a glass of natural rosé or some Marigny, a Carbonic Gris from the Willamette Valley. Once you find your favorite stop by the perfectly curated wine shop for some bottles to take home.
What to Do
Besides the obvious, wine tasting, there are a few quaint antique stores. Sisters Gift and Home is a little Joanna Gaines meets Central Coast cool with an ecclectic mix of vintage denim and white washed home goods. The Depot Antiques is a super funky space (that even has it’s own tasting bar, in case you get thirsty) that seems to never end. Plan to spend some time sifting through vintage jewelry, clothing, dishes, and furniture. My favorite find was an equipale table buried way in the back…too bad it wouldn’t fit in the car to bring home…
One Sunday a month Skyview Motel throws a La Vie Rosé pool party open to the public. Tickets are typically around $30 which gets non guests access to the pool, a glass of rosé, and an afternoon of music and sunshine. Be sure to check Skyview’s website for exact dates.
While it may feel like there is plenty to keep you busy remember that Los Alamos is still a small agricultural town, which in my opinion is what makes it so unique. You won’t be finding any clubs or big box stores but isn’t that part of the charm? Enjoy your trip!
*Thank you to Skyview and Bodega for hosting portions of our trip. All opinions expressed are my own.