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Jan 13, 2010 10:16 AM

Birthday Dinner in Santa Barbara/Buellton/Los Olivos?

Hi all,

I am taking a trip with a bunch of friends to Santa Barbara for my birthday and was hoping to get some recommendations for a great dinner spot. Any ideas? Could go fun or upscale. Really wide open. What are some chowhounder favorites in the area?


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    1. Cold Spring Tavern, (, on San Marcos Pass between SB and Solvang is a great spot. Old road house with great food. It is a great place for lunch as well.

      1. Bradley Ogden has a restaurant in Solvang I've heard is killer.

        1. This will get switched to the California board...and I would ask the question there, but until then....
          Where are you staying and or you driving? Cold Spring Tavern is a fun place, but not a choice if you're having some wine and/or cocktails and have any distance to travel....unless you have a serious designated driver or car. There's a reason it used to be a stop on the Pony Express.
          Hitching Post is always fun....and very good. In Los Olivos, there's Patrick's Road House and Los Olivos Cafe....both very nice. Also a (fairly) new restaurant in the Ballard Inn that I haven't tried, but hear very good things about. Also in Los Olivos, just not right in the town square, is Matty's....or Brother's Tavern. Very nice place.
          In Santa Ynez, a very good Italian restaurant called Grappolo. Also crowded...make a reservation in advance.
          I've been to Root 246 in Solvang, Ogden's new place. Really very nice. Though had a very strange experience with the wine "person", who tried to convince us that the champagne wasn't flat....but the glasses were too clean to allow it to bubble propertly.
          ( opposed to the dirty glasses they usually prefer to use?)
          The other option, which is more casual but great fun, is American Flatbread. Only open on weekends, so it gets croweded....but there's a bar (saloon, really) in the front. I'm having a senior moment and can't think of where it is.....Lompoc, maybe? You can google it. Lots of people celebrating things, having a good time. Terrific flatbread pizzas. Not wine selection. And a very nice story about how the company got started. (making food for kids with cancer that tasted good.)
          Have a great time! It's one of my favorite favorite destinations. I'm heading up there next week. And if you get a chance, stop by Olivos Ranch and taste/buy some olive oi. Right across from Brander winery. Terrific place/nice people.

          5 Replies
          1. re: perk

            Perk wrote: I've been to Root 246 in Solvang, Ogden's new place. Really very nice. Though had a very strange experience with the wine "person", who tried to convince us that the champagne wasn't flat....but the glasses were too clean to allow it to bubble propertly.
            ( opposed to the dirty glasses they usually prefer to use?)

            ///////////Apparently this is true according to a recent article in the LA Times. Lint from the dish cloth left on the glass accelerates the bubbles, microscopic as it might be.

            Second trying Root 246 in Slovang as it gets great reviews and puts you in the middle of the wine country and all the other activities out there for celebration. I have not been to Root 246 myself, but I can also second Grappolo in Santa Ynez which is my favorite out that way, next to the "cowboy" Maverick Saloon which is always good for music and a good time but without the scary dark drive that takes you to the wonderful Cold Springs Tavern.

            However, if you want your party down in Santa Barbara/Montecito best to do a search of this forum and see many of the same places always getting recommended. You asked a pretty large area question. There is a lot to like around here. If you can narrow things down a bit more we can give you more specifics.

            One decisions is whether you want to stay up in the Santa Ynez Valley wine country or down in Santa Barbara - the road connecting the two is definitely not recommended for anyone post-party so best if you stay and enjoy one destination or the other or save your driving to the daytime between the two. Highway 154 connecting them is called "Blood Alley" for all too many good reasons.

            1. re: perk

              American Flatbread is in Los Alamos. Haven't been there yet, but it looks interesting. I'm not sure it's a special occasion place along the lines of Root 246, Brothers Tavern, or the Ballard Inn, though.

              1. re: dgasser

                American Flatbread is not a fancy place or expensive. It is damn near family style and when busy it is elbow to elbow. Delicious food, excellent local wines, that were $5.00 a glass forever- haven't been in 8 or so months...smore dessert to die for. Worth the 10 minute drive up the 101 from Buellton. Hit a tasting room in Los Alamos before hand, and it makes it even more worthwhile!

                1. re: JalamaMama

                  Agree I love the American Flatbread place, casual and noisy. The Flatbread are varied and often use local fresh organic produce. we love the cheese and the house pepperoni and spicy peppers. They use very high quality cheeses on the flatbreads, prize winning Serena in the mix. The salads are extremely high quality and even the small carrot and celery one is scrumptious because of the dressing. I have seen salad specials with burata cheese. Lots of wine choices and you can get a glass or bottle while you wait. I have never made it to dessert because we overorder pizza and stuff ourselves silly.

                  Be very aware that you WILL wait, as they do not take reservations and they can get extremely backed up, especially for large parties. They can only make a few pizzas at a time in the wood burning oven in room you are seated in. We have had some inexcusably long waits and because of that my brother-in-law refuses to return.

                  American Flatbread
                  225 Bell St, Arroyo Grande, CA 93420

                  1. re: coconutz

                    I find this kinda hard to believe- the pizza oven is buring at close to 800*- so the pizzas are done in less than 4 minutes/5 minutes! Sometimes you do wait, because of the amount of peoples- but it is not due to the pizza oven!

            2. We just got back from a night in Solvang, purely to have dinner at Root 246. Chose to stay at adjacent Hotel Corque, as I got a promo e-mail for $99/night. I had eaten there once before but hubby was a Root 246 virgin. I had high hopes for him to love it as much as I do, and he did. We poked around a couple of hours before dinner so I could show it to him. We were welcomed to come into the kitchen by one of the servers (all of whom are friendly, knowledgable and professional - how refreshing!). Our server, Jennifer was terrific and Mel, who I think is the bar manager, really knows her stuff. If you are unsure about a wine choice or pairing, put yourself in her capable hands. Food, presentation, amazing. Truly. I had a "stew" of veal short ribs with sheetbreads and root vegetables. I hate " " but it was like no stew I have ever had. The vibe is casual and comfortable but the three separate areas are beautiful, a remarkable make-over. And Mr. Ogden is always there, making the rounds, greeting regulars by name and with a hug.
              The hotel was lovely and a real bargain for $99 (not valid on Saturday night, tho). Nice to be able to just walk back to your very comfortable bed. Could make for a very fun birthday weekend!

              1 Reply
              1. re: sbgirl

                Wow, I had sheetbreads? Sweetbreads, duh. Forgot how to spell, too, in my enthusiasm. Anyhoo, the place rocks. period.