California’s wine regions all up and down the Golden State are back in full swing. Wineries from Sonoma to Napa to Paso Robles have seen oenophiles return in force, with plenty of great new tasting rooms to check out. Down at the southern end of California’s Central Coast, Santa Barbara wine country offers bucolic drives where you can skirt along the edge of the Pacific or cut inland to wind up and around verdant hills. As you traverse the area in pursuit of amazing wine, we figured you’d want to have a few places to stop off and dine. So we made the journey ourselves, and discovered some outstanding eateries where talented chefs are making use of the bounty of ingredients—especially seafood—at their disposal to make food that pairs perfectly with your wine getaway.
Your mileage may vary on whether you find the Danish affect of the city of Solvang annoying or endearing, but what is not up for debate is that newcomer Vaquero Bar is a place worth visiting. A team of hospitality industry friends—chefs Lincoln Carson, Anthony Carron and Steven Fretz, as well as winemaker and restaurateur Rajat Parr—teamed up to create a place they could call their own (even if that meant hanging the sheetrock themselves). Soon to be joined by the restaurant Coast Range, Vaquero Bar is currently slinging drinks and serving tasty classics like wagyu steak tartare and chicken liver pate with white and red strawberries.
An alum of the iconic Brooklyn restaurant Roberta’s, Brendan Smith is joined by his wife Rachel Greenspan in creating this wood-fired pizza spot in Montecito, just south of Santa Barbara. The chewy, beautifully charred sourdough crusts are the backbone of some outstanding pies like the maitake mushroom, the meat lover’s that’s covered in pepperoni, sausage and pickled onions or the summer peach with mozzarella, fontina, Jimmy Nardello peppers, spring onion and silk chile. The non-pizza options are pretty great, too; try the meatball al forno with harissa tomato sauce and the burrata with strawberries, fennel, pistachios and dandelion pesto.
The Ritz-Carlton Bacara resort located just north of Santa Barbara has reimagined some of its existing restaurants spaces–so guests may now not want to leave the property to eat anywhere else. The new ‘O’ Bar+Kitchen, which replaced the gastropub off the hotel’s main lobby, leans into the fact that some of the best seafood in the world is a stone’s throw away by piling generous mounds of Santa Barbara uni on a tostada with avocado mousse. And over at Angel Oak, which pairs A5 Wagyu with a 12,000-bottle cellar and stunning views of the Pacific, the restaurant’s chef Efe Onoglu is stretching his legs for the brand-new San Setto. It’s a Japanese restaurant utilizing Santa Barbara seafood, as well as imported selections, to create a contemporary menu featuring sushi.
Located right on Santa Barbara’s main drag, the restaurant from award-winning sommelier, restaurateur and winemaker Rajat Parr serves up homestyle Indian cooking and an impressive list of natural wine, including their own tasty jugs of house red, white and orange vino. Relax on Bibi Ji’s back patio and enjoy dishes like lamb chops with cumin, turmeric and nutmeg; papri chaat with ajwain, potato, chickpea, yogurt, tamarind and chili; and halibut moilee, a take on the dish from Kerala, a state on India’s southwest coast.
As you venture away from Santa Barbara in pursuit of wineries around Los Olivos, take a pit stop in Buellton at this restaurant and butcher shop located a few blocks from the coastal Highway 101. A pair of big wood-fired ovens on the back wall of Industrial Eats‘ casual, subway tile- and plywood-lined dining room drive the operation, cranking out delicious pizza like gorgonzola, apple and bacon, and fennel sausage, tomato, mozzarella and basil. These pies accompany a collection of sandwiches that includes a beef tongue pastrami reuben, in addition to small plates like fava with ricotta, mint, lemon and toast.
Learn more about Robb Report’s Culinary Masters event taking place in San Diego on September 25-27 here.