One could easily call Los Alamos a hidden gem of the Santa Ynes Valley wine region. With a population of just 1,275, it is decidedly sleepy and certainly off the beaten path of Santa Barbara County.
It’s not to say the seven-block main drag, Bell Street, isn’t hopping on summer weekends, but the general pace of life in Los Alamos can best be described as dreamy. And that’s just how the locals like it. All said, though, the town has a surprisingly sophisticated food scene—a reflection of the region’s outstanding family farms, ranches, and well-managed fisheries—and even its own Michelin-starred restaurant.
Los Alamos was established in 1876 as a stagecoach stop, but it soon became a ranching hub and, by the late 20th century, an increasingly prolific producer of high-profile wines thanks to its locale in the Santa Ynez AVA, which also encompasses Santa Ynez, Buellton, Ballard, and Solvang. Santa Ynez Valley is exceptional among California wine regions because it’s cooled by ocean breezes and coastal fog, so grapes like pinot noir, chardonnay, chenin blanc, and gamay thrive here.
While many of the wines hailing from this region are first-rate, it’s the family farms and Los Alamos’ burgeoning restaurant scene that have turned the little town into culinary destination. Note that most places shutter early and may only be open on weekends. Here's how to enjoy a quick Los Alamos escape.
Where to Stay in Los Alamos
(Courtesy of Skyview Los Alamos)
The reinvention of this dreamy 1950s motel is the work of gifted hotel preservationist Kenny Osehan, of Shelter Social Club hospitality group, as a tribute to the region’s ranching heritage. The stylish, hacienda-inspired rooms are breezy and kitted out with Western flair like cowskin rugs and clawfoot tubs. The on-site wine bar and picnic tables are the perfect place to kick off happy hour. // 425 Bell St., rememberthealamomotel.com
SkyviewMidcentury style meets working vineyard life at this renovated roadside motel with just 33 rooms and scenic vistas on the other side of town. A heated pool, a casual restaurant and bar, and free bikes seal the deal. // 9150 US 101, skyviewlosalamos.com
Restaurants + Wine Bars in Los Alamos
Long before Michelin food critics stepped foot in Los Alamos, baker Clark Staub's wood-fired flatbreads were getting noticed by California foodies and winemakers.
(Courtesy of @fulloflifefoods)
The laidback charm of this French bistro belies its Michelin-starred status. A labor of love from married duo Daisy and Greg Ryan, Bell's serves locally sourced, refined yet playful fare. At the hands of Chef Daisy (named a Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2020), sea urchin (delivered by the couple's neighbor Stephanie Mutz, one of the nation’s only female urchin divers) shares a plate with caviar and mille crepe, while an egg salad sandwich on toasted house-baked bread with tomato jam makes for a surprisingly memorable lunch. Bell's serves two meals a day with an option of takeout midday and a $90 per person prix-fixe at dinner. Reservations are highly recommended. // 406 Bell St., bellsrestaurant.com
Full of Life Flatbread
It's self-taught baker Clark Staub, not the Michelin-starred Bell's, who gets credit for igniting the modern food scene in Los Alamos. (Daisy Ryan calls him a “pioneer.”) Local ingredients take the spotlight at Full of Life Flatbread (which first opened here in 2004 as American Flatbread), a lively space centered on poetic wood-fired food. In addition to flawlessly blistered seasonal flatbreads, look for starters including a fresh salad and vegetable or pork and beef meatballs with chanterelles, plus rustic fruit-forward desserts. The restaurant also offers outdoor dining in its atmospheric garden where you're likely to find some winemaker neighbors often stopping by. // 225 Bell St., fulloflifefoods.com
Chef Cameron Ingle is an alum of New York’s esteemed Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and it shows. While he celebrates local seafood and meat, vegetables are his passion, as evidenced in dishes like roasted Bautista Farm beets with smoked goat cheese and pistachios. But you’ll also delight in simple, protein-focused fare such as steak frites (the beef is sourced from nearby Motley Crew Ranch) and Morro Bay Pacific Gold oysters with hot sauce. The bar program is also outstanding. Pico is located in a 19th century building that once served as the town's general store, but you can also dine in its spacious garden. When weekend brunch returns in April, consider waking up inside the onsite one-bedroom cottage. // 458 Bell St., losalamosgeneralstore.com
Bob’s Well Bread Bakery & Café
Arrive early to beat the inevitable line for stellar baked goods, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, salads, and other treats. This is a great place to nab picnic supplies and happy hour nibbles, as well. // 550 Bell St., bobswellbread.com
Pit master Chris Priedite's weekend-only pop-up (located behind Bell’s) is a love letter to California’s year-round grilling climate with a nod to Santa Maria–style barbecue. There’s plenty to love here, from the brisket and ribs to handmade flour tortillas to buttermilk pudding. // 406 Bell St., prieditebbq.com
The tasting room at Casa Dumetz Wines(388 Bell St.) and its adjacent sister business Babi’s Beer Emporium are the friendliest places in an already welcoming town. Regular events include a weekly speaker series, restaurant pop-ups and, even a monthly in-depth vineyard tour with tastings and lunch for those who wish to learn more about winemaking. Don't miss the offerings of winemaker Sonja Magdevski along with her Cider Factory collab with husband Greg Brewer. // Bodega(273 Bell St.) is a laidback shop for low intervention and organic wines with a tasting room, a lovely garden, and even a rental cottage. // Lo-Fi Wines (448 B Bell St.) is another sweet little bar for natural, easy-to-drink, low alc wines.
Fun Things to Do in Los Alamos
Team local wine tasting and lunch with a horseback ride through a working ranch.
(Courtesy of @kap_land_and_cattle_co)
When it's time for fresh air, consider adding an outdoor ride to your wine tasting.
Experience a piece of local history by taking a private horseback ride with Katie Parker, granddaughter of actor and winemaker Fess Parker, on the family’s Los Olivos ranch, KAP Land & Cattle. Fear not, oenophiles: Wine tasting is part of the deal. // In Santa Ynez, Vino Vaqueros offers private riding tours and tastings at Estelle Vineyards and Round Up Valley Ranch. // Prefer to pedal? Bike the backroads with Santa Barbara Wine Country Cycling Tours.
There are also abundant hiking trails in the region, from coastal trails and oak groves to grasslands.