3 Great Foodie Pit Stops in Santa Barbara County

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It’s really not a big deal to get from San Francisco to Los Angeles, CA. You’ve got multiple flights and highways to choose from and you can get there in minimal amount of time. But like going anywhere, the getting there can be where the real riches are found.
Last week, we pointed the car down the 101, chosen because it splits the difference between the speed and monotony of the 5 and the beauty and leisure of the 1.  Per usual, we filled up the hours in the car, reading aloud and listening to the blues station, but we hadn’t planned anything along the route, other than fueling the car and ourselves as needed. So a bit of foodie providence found us stopping in Los Alamos, a little town located in Santa Barbara County, aka smack in the middle of wine country. As well as hosting the only surviving depot of the Pacific Coast Railway — Los Alamos was a stagecoach stop in 1876 but got its PCR depot in 1882 — it also contains several notable eateries.

After sussing out the slightly sleepy main street, we somewhat naively wandered into Bell Street Farm with our guitar cases in hand (having been burned hard once, the guitars always come in)  because a) it was open at 4 pm and b) it had a sign that said picnic supplies.
“Yay the musicians arrived,” a man in a cowboy had exclaimed as we walked in which is always the right thing to say to two people with guitar cases whether they are planning on playing or not.

The man in the hat was owner Jamie Gluck, who opened Bell St slightly over a year ago in a former bank, after vacationing in Los Alamos for years. He handed us menus full of farm-to-table goodness (salads, soups, fresh baked bread, pulled chicken and port, cheese plates…you get the idea), insisted I try the wine he was pouring, and greeted everyone who walked in with equal cheer.

We felt like we’d found the party.  While talking to Gluck and the other diners, we happily dined on a couple of exceedingly well-constructed sandwiches. We also met local wine-maker Angela Osborne of Grace Wine Company, who found her way from New Zealand to Los Alamos on a search for the best Grenache. A satisfying pit stop on all counts. If we weren’t on the road and playing elsewhere that night, we would have stayed and tried more of the wine.

Nonetheless, before we left, Osborne told us where to find her wine in the East Bay. So last night, with cause to celebrate, we found our way to The Punchdown Wine Bar in downtown Oakland for a glass of her “Tribute to Grace” Grenache. Full of fruity, smokey goodness, it provided a fine toast. Here’s to grace!

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