Next Stop: Los Alamos

Along the outskirts of the Santa Ynez Valley lies a town frozen in time. Originally a stagecoach stop and a depot for the Pacific Coast Railway, this quaint borough still fosters an Old Western charm. But when it comes to food, Bell Street—named after one of the founders of the town—is booming  with a historic honky-tonk, quirky accommodations, and fresh eateries sure to cure any craving.

When this all-natural, locally sourced pizza haven isn’t baking pies in its oak-fired oven, Full of Life Flatbread, 225 Bell St., Los Alamos, 805-344-4400,, opens its doors for the food artisan community to enjoy the season’s freshest flatbreads. Relax on the garden patio while savoring the heirloom tomato and watermelon salad drizzled with balsamic herb blossoms ($13) and the fire-roasted tomato salsa pizza ($19), paired with a glass of Axis Mundi’s 2008 Syrah.

Just off the main drag, Charlie’s, 97 Den St., Los Alamos, 805-344-4404, sits at the edge of town and dishes out everything from the famous dirty burger, the Harry (from $8)—made with two patties and bacon on a French roll—to chicken tacos ($3) and milk shakes (from $3).

A row of motorcycles can be seen perched outside of Ghostriders, 550 Bell St., Los Alamos, 805-344-2111, an old pub named after the bikers who have come and gone. While the dress code is usually leather jackets and biker boots, inside, locals can be seen with a cold brew, chowing down on the spot’s newest menu addition—pickled tacos (from $6).

Step off the beaten path and curl up into Rancho Alamo Camp 1, 4300 Hwy. 135, Los Alamos, 805-344-1000, a 1938 California ranch house and vineyard on 25 acres full of redwood, oak, and Cyprus trees. Stay in the three-bedroom cottage or studio fit with a pool, steam shower, and sauna. Ask about owner Natalie Werk’s cooking classes offered in the main house.

Still standing strong since 1880, the building that once housed the town’s original general store now occupies Cafe Quakenbush, 458 Bell St., Los Alamos, 805-344-5181, The grounds may be old, but inside, chef Jesper Johansson stirs up nothing but the coziest comfort foods, including the spicy pulled-pork BBQ sandwich ($11) and peanut butter cookies (from $2) to die for.

Don’t let the elegantly restored facade fool you, inside the Victorian Mansion, 326 Bell St., Los Alamos, 805-344-1300,, is an eclectic mix of themed suites that range from a 1950s suite (from $245)—fit with a ’56 Cadillac convertible, a private hot tub, and a drive-in movie—to the Egyptian Suite (from $245), where a life-size coffin is the portal to your hidden bathroom.

After 12 years of vacancy, the 1880 Union Hotel, 362 Bell St., Los Alamos, 805-344-2744,, has reopened its original wood barn doors, offering 14 rooms (one dubbed the Michael Jackson room, where Jackson and Paul McCartney filmed the music video “Say, Say, Say”), a saloon pouring its featured 1880 Ale, and a dining room—where antique chandeliers from the set of Gone With the Wind dangle from the ceiling—serves up fresh, local foods.

To read other articles from Food + Wine, check out our October/November 2010 issue on stands now, or available to purchase online here.

Tagged in: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Comment