9 Great places to eat in Santa Barbara County

Where to eat in SBC Wine Country

The City of Santa Barbara is filled with great places to eat that are easy to find. When you get out into Wine Country, finding those places can be a little more difficult. We find that word of mouth is the best way to find great places to eat, so here are a few spots we’ve found through great recommendations. From fine dining to fast casual there are plenty of great options for dining over the 2015 Vintners Spring Weekend.

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Full of Life Flatbread 

in Los Alamos

On the weekends this place is hopping!  There are often Winemaker dinners held here, and it is a gathering spot for winemakers from the area.  If it’s busy, order a flatbread to go!  We ordered a 50/50 split flatbread and enjoyed it with a bottle of local wine and an amazing view of the Los Alamos Valley.
225 Bell St, Los Alamos, CA 93440

Thursday: 4:30 to 9 pm
Friday and Saturday: 4:30 to 10 pm
Sunday Supper: 4 to 8 pm

(805) 344-4400

Mattei’s Tavern in Los Olivos

If you are looking for elegant fine dining, Mattei’s Tavern is the place.  The Tavern was built in 1886 as a Stage Coach Stop, it became a hotel in 1887 when the railroad came through.  Today it is owned by Charles Banks & Chef Robbie Wilson.  The food is modern and upscale with local ingredients.  Their beautiful wine list changes often and is all served in Zalto glasses which makes the wine taste even better.
2350 Railway Ave., Los Olivos, CA 93441
Dinner is served Wednesday through Saturday 5:00 to 10:00 and Sunday 5:00-9:00
(805) 688-3550

Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe in Los Olivos

The Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe is the perfect spot to stop for a little lunch or dinner when you are tasting in Los Olivos.  You are likely to see a gaggle of winemakers here, enjoying lunch with family. The last Friday of each month they have a guest winemaker in the house, walking around talking to guest and pouring their wine.  This place is elegant without being stuffy and their selection of local wines is spectacular.
2879 Grand Avenue, Los Olivos, CA 93441

Open for lunch and dinner from 11:30-8:30 Monday – Friday

Saturday & Sunday, open for breakfast from 8:00 – 10:30 a.m., 11:30 – 8:30 p.m. for lunch & dinner.


Sides Hardware & Shoes in Los Olivos

Sides Hardware & Shoes is a Brothers Restaurant in Los Olivos.  The Nichols Brothers have been a fixture in this area since 1996.  They began with Brother Restaurant in Solvang then moved to Matteis Tavern in 2002 where they were until opening Sides Hardware & Shoes in 2012.  The food is from scratch, fresh and innovative.  A down-home feel with an elevated menu.  The name is from the buildings previous tenants and has a front porch and back patio for dining.  But it’s small so plan ahead and set a reservation,

2375 Alamo Pintado Avenue, Los Olivos, California, 93441

Open daily for lunch (11.30am – 2.30pm) and dinner (5 – 8.30pm, 9pm Fridays & Saturdays)


Industrial Eats in Buellton

Jeff & Janet Olsson have been in this community for awhile catering events with their company New West Catering.  People in the Wine Industry here were very familiar with them for their fabulous food at special events.  Finally, they opened Industrial Eats and gave folks a place they could find them all the time.  The restaurant is small and fast/casual.  Order at the counter and find a seat, maybe at the big community table.  You will smell things cooking in the wood fired ovens which is their only method of cooking here.  The menu changes daily, depending on what the local farmers and vendors have available and is written on large rolls of butcher paper that hang on the wall behind the counter.  You can sign up for butchering classes or just pick up some of the amazing smoked and cured meats they sell at the deli counter.  And if you want to add photos to your Facebook feed that will make you drool, like their Facebook page where they post tantalizing photos of the incredible food they are serving during the day.

2879 Grand Avenue, Los Olivos, CA 93441

Open daily 10 am to 9 pm

(805) 688-8807

Chomp in Solvang

Sometimes you just need something basic to eat.  A non fussy stick to your ribs kinda dinner.  Chomp is the place to go.  Located in downtown Solvang this place serves all American Cuisine; burgers, hot dogs, fish & chips, fries, onion rigs and some amazing shakes and malts.  The large wait staff of high school age kids, bustle about moving food quickly and efficiently with a team spirit.  The ice cream shakes are amazing and they have local beers and wines available.

1693 Mission Drive , Solvang, CA 93463

Open Mon – Thu, 11:30 – 8:30pm & Fri – Sun, 11:30am – 9pm

(805) 688-7733

Ballard Inn and Restaurant

We were lucky enough to attend the 1st annual Larner Vineyards Winemaker’s dinner here last year.  Chef Budi Kazali creates meals that are special, and memorable.  His style is Asian/French fusion is elevated by the amazing fresh ingredients that come from local farmers.  Pair this with an amazing local wine list and you have more than dinner, you have a great memory.  This small restaurant has only 12 tables, so be sure to make a reservation.

2436 Baseline Ave., Ballard, CA 93463

(800) 638-2466

Open Wednesday thru Sunday from 5:30 to 9:00

Terravant Winery Restaurant in Bueltton

Until recently known as Avant Wine and Tapas, the newly rebranded Terravant Winery Restaurant is one of our favorite stops.  The restaurant is on Industrial Way in Buellton and is attached to Terravante Wine Company which is a custom crush facility for local winemakers.  The restaurant serves amazing tapas and has 52 wines on tap on their Wine Wall, most of which are local. The food also is local, most of it coming from within a 30 mile radius of the restaurant.

35 Industrial Way, Buellton, CA 93427

11AM-9PM —Wine Tasting 7 days a week

Lunch: 11AM-3PM • Happy Hour: Mon-Fri 3PM-5PM • Dinner: 5PM – 9PM

Live Music: Thur, Fri, & Sat from 6PM-close


Trattoria Grappolo in Santa Ynez

The Grand Tasting is wonderful for tasting wines, and it’s also great for finding new restaurants.  Last Spring Michael tasted a bite from their booth at the Grand Tasting and knew where we were going for dinner.  Located in the city of Santa Ynez, this restaurant was busy when we arrived and we managed to get a seat at the bar.  I must admit to falling into a perfect spot, as we watched the pizzas go into the wood fired oven and were treated to a full show of culinary choreography as the staff seamlessly worked in the small space, making pizzas and pastas.  This kitchen works like a well oiled machine and it is a joy to watch.  And the food…well it’s pretty good too.

3687 Sagunto St, Santa Ynez, CA 93460

Lunch: Tuesday – Sunday, 11:30-3:00   
Dinner: Monday – Sunday, 5:00-10:00


Again this is just a sampling, there are many more wonderful restaurants that I look forward to visiting.

And if you are headed to the Grand Tasting on Saturday April 25th at River View Park in Buellton, you will find many restaurants there with tastings to try!

For More information on the Santa Barbara Vintners  visit them at http://www.sbcountywines.com.

Santa Barbara County Wine Getaway

Welcome to Santa Maria!  Allegiant Airlines has new low budget flights from Vegas to Santa Maria!  No frills but short.  The flight was 48 minutes and then a 30 minute drive south to Los Olivos and the Santa Barbara Wine Country.  Of course the selection for flights is slim.  They fly on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.  San Luis Obispo is just 30 minutes North and then another hour to Paso Robles.  We flew out on a mid day flight leaving Vegas at 1:45 and we were pulling out of the parking lot with our rental car by 3!  A short drive down the 101 and we were in Los Olivos for tastings!  Of course even closer you can hit the Santa Maria Wineries and take the back roads south through Foxen Canyon, or head straight to the coast and taste in Lompac.  We arrived at the small but nicely appointed airport and exited down the ramp to the tarmac to the sounds of an airshow!  Bi planes doing death spirals greeted us.  The drive was short and lovely.  Exit at 146 onto Rt 254 and pass the Saarloos and Sons property on the left then continue to Los Olivos (o LEE vos  who knows how long I had been pronouncing it incorrectly before someone filled me in) and take a right onto Grand Avenue with around 30 tasting rooms lining the street.  During the weekends the town can be very busy in the summer.  Our trip brought us out for the Carhartt Winemakers dinner on Saturday night.  On our last trip we tasted at the tiny and adorable Carhartt tasting room where we fell in love with their style and wines.

One of the things I learned more about on this trip to Santa Barbara County was the location of different vineyards in the area.  I had not put together that Happy Canyon was so close and the infamous Bien Nacido vineyard is just up the road from Foxen Canyon.  Time to get out the maps! This area is much less about estate vineyards and more about sourced grapes from small specially tended vineyards.  Sea Smoke is located in the Santa Rita Hills and this prime real estate they keep to themselves only selling grapes to Brewer-Clifton (their Chardonnay) and to Foxen (their Pinot Noir).  Exclusive deals like this with winemakers, wineries and growers are typical in this area and the respect for the grapes, growers and the differences with the micro climates and soils show in the wines.


3CV Cimarone tasting room

3CV & Cimarone

This tiny tasting room is in Los Olivos right next to Carhartt.  It is the first winery from Happy Canyon to open a tasting room in Los Olivos.  Our tasting began with some great approachable wines at $20 and under.  They went straight to the distributors to get the 3CV (three creek vineyard) name out there.  From there they began developing higher end wines under the Cimarone name. They are working with Bordeaux & Rhone varieties as well as a Sangiovese.  All the wines were delicious and approachable. The tasting room is open Thursday – Sunday from 11-5.


Longoria Tasting Room


Before heading to Santa Barbara I downloaded Steve Heimoff’s book to my Kindle and I looked up winemakers in Santa Babara.  Richard Longoria has been making wine from the Santa Rita Hills since the 1970’s and has been making wines at Longoria since 1982.   This winery turns out around 3500 cases per year in small lots from 50 to 700.  They pull grapes from their Estate vineyard at Fe Ciega as well as from Bien Nacido and a blend of the 2 vineyards Pinot grapes which makes their Lovely Rita Pinot Noir which is simply delicious!  We tasted the Pinot Grigio and the Chardonnay both of which are amazingly well balanced.  They also had an Albarino this year which sold out very quickly. The tasting room is in one of the oldest buildings in Los Olivos and has charming metal siding.  Inside the tasting room the pourer was full of great information on the vineyards and microclimates, the soils and the difference in weather from vintage to vintage.  There is not a bad wine in the place.  Joyful tasting.


Sides Hardware and Shoes

Dinner was next!   When we were last in town we had dinner at Matteis tavern where the Brothers were cooking at the time and had a fantastic dinner.  They have since moved from the large tavern (which I hear there is rumor that it is being converted into a resort) and into the historic Sides Hardware and Shoes building on Alamo Pintado just off of Grand Avenue.  The location is quaint with 4 to 6 tables out on the patio on the sidewalk and maybe 20 tables inside.  We had an amazing dinner beginning with an ahi tuna appetizer.  Then Michael enjoyed the Salmon and I had Lamb with goat cheese gnocchi.  One of those meals where you close your eyes and savor each bite.  We paired with the Au Bon Climat 2010 Pinot Noir as we were in a Pinot mood and it was delicious.  For desert we had the special which was a corn ice cream with blueberry compote.  All in all a wonderful evening and a spectacular start to our weekend!