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Oct 2, 2010 11:42 AM

Wine Tasting and Dinners Solo - Santa Ynez Valley and Solvang

I'm headed to the Solvang/Santa Ynez Valley next week with the intention of wine tasting for a day and fitting in a good dinner Tuesday and Wednesday and then stopping by Santa Barbara for breakfast Thursday before heading to Long Beach for a wedding.

I'll be traveling solo and am considering a wine tour through the grapeline for ease, though tours are not my first pick. I'm looking for suggestions for places I can dine comfortably alone and whether you'd suggest the tour idea or instead doing 2-3 wineries on my own. I'm thinking about staying in Solvang for the two nights. I'm a east coast food person, looking for 1 mid-price dinner, 1 treat, and any good SB AM suggestions. Thanks for any ideas, love this board!

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  1. Grapolo in Santa Ynez has a bar counter where you can dine alone easily and it is a very good dining choice to start out with - Northern Italian. This would be a mid-price place.

    Root 246 in downtown Solvang would be your high end treat- and as such I do think they go the extra mile to accommodate the solo diner. And another treat that is out of the way and intimate is the Ballard Hotel restaurant in the very tiny little village of Ballard in the SY Valley, smaller and maybe one would feel more conspicuous dining solo there but it is a foodie place and often those can be a lot of fun when solo because everyone wants you to have a good time.

    Assuming you have a car, a trip out to Rancho Siquoq is worth it for the drive alone and if you don't over do the tastings, hopefully there will not be drinking/driving problem where a tour would be the better choice. The very scenic Highway 154 lately going from the Santa Ynez Valley down into Santa Barbara has been the scene of far too many bloody and deadly accidents - too many wine tasters, casino goers and just plain crazies, drinkers and impaired drivers on that road lately so we take these drinking/driving precautions seriously here.

    Breakfast at the outdoor tables at Anderson's Bakery on State Street in Santa Barbara (If you are not Danished out by then) the prime people-watching breakfast spot in town, so again easy to enjoy alone looking out on the passing street scene. (Check to see if the Danish owner is not on her month long holiday).

    Or a real local breakfast treat would be to head over to Guadalupe for any of the Mexican cafes for heuvos rancheros, or even the lucious chile relleno at La Simpatia in the same town. You head west from Santa Ynez towards the ocean to Highway One to find Guadalupe and then back to Highway 101 to head south into Santa Barbara. Out of your way, but if you are already up there it is a very worthy culinary diversion to visit Guadalupe. Counter service or small booths at La Simpatia so very easy to dine alone there.

    Root 246
    420 Alisal Road, Solvang, CA 93463

    2 Replies
    1. re: glbtrtr

      Thanks so much glbtrtr, I really appreciate all your advice and details. I will have a car and just booked a hotel in Solvang, so Root 246 will be a convenient as well. I'm hoping to spend some time in Los Olivos too and have read the Los Olivos cafe is a good lunch spot, even with the old Sideways baggage. My stay is short, so fitting in some nice tasting and food is the main goal and not mass imbibing wine. The SB tips sound very promising, I can't wait!

      Root 246
      420 Alisal Road, Solvang, CA 93463

      1. re: foodfan17

        I agree with the earlier recommendations, though I've heard Root 246 is not as good as it was when it opened. The Los Olivos cafe is good and offers a variety of things, but I really like the food at Patrick's Roadside Cafe, which is right around the corner. You might check it out. And there's also a Greek restaurant (Petros?) in the Fess Parker Inn. (same people, i believe, as the one in Manhattan Beach) It's pretty good, especially if you're in the mood for small plates.

        Root 246
        420 Alisal Road, Solvang, CA 93463

    2. I have always been a fan of the wineries along the Foxen trail. Curtis, Sisquoc, Foxen are all fine. I am getting a brain freeze on the one winery about half way between Curtis and Foxen on the West side of the road and I did enjoy their wines. For dinner I have eaten at the bar at Mattei's Taven on several occasions, and I liked the service there better than in the restaurant.

      2 Replies
        1. re: glbtrtr

          As soon as I left the office, I realized it was Zaca Mesa that I was thinking of.

      1. Hi Foodfan - we just did something similar and the best suggestion I can give would just be to head to Los Olivos on the Santa Ynez Valley Transit bus. You could spend two days tasting your way up and down the high street there and some of the best wineries have their tasting rooms in the town - thinking Qupe, Carhartt, Andrew Murray, Blair Fox, Epiphany and then there's the general tasting room (Herman Story, J Dusi and some other stuff from SLO) and the LO cafe where you can eat/get wine by the glass etc.

        In Solvang itself in the TastesOfTheValleys wine bar you can get a tasting flight of Au Bon Climat which is the only place to properly taste that wine which is superb.

        Eating - Solvang and Los Olivos have branches of Panino which I thought were sensational sandwiches for lunch.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ManInTransit

          I agree with what you have to say regarding Los Olivos, tasting at the winery rooms or the Los Olivos Tasting Room and Wine Shop in a cozy little shack is great fun and you can eat solo at the bar at Los Olivos Cafe.

          I would add that Solvang also has an excellent olive oil tasting bar/store and farmer's market right on the main street.

          If you're in Buelton, DON"T eat at The Hitching Post. We found it totally overrated, our meats were all underseasoned (probably because they seem to mostly serve seniors).

          1. re: bogie

            Kind of agree on the Hitching Post. We ate there as we stayed in Buelton. I thought the steaks were decent but were about one-step more cooked than we'd asked for.
            It was a decent meal but was certainly overpriced for what it is although I do really like their own wines.

            Devastated that we totally forgot about the Olive Oil tasting bar after noticing it on our first day.

            Hitching Post
            3325 Point Sal Rd, Casmalia, CA 93429

        2. My SB AM recommendation is Renaud's Patisserie--fresh, buttery, flaky, croissants, breads, and other pastries. It's a small shop, so definitely good for 1 diner, and outdoor seating as well (if this fog clears up)!

          2 Replies
          1. re: kireifresca

            No quibble with me on that at all and an excellent suggestion. It is a one of the kind place in our town and should not be missed. Superb French food, pastry and bakery items at Renauds- and a casual enough place where a solo diner will feel very comfortable, either downtown or or at Loreto Plaza - more tables at the latter.

            1. Thank you to everyone for sharing tips and local favorites! My trip to Santa Barbara was a success and I'll absolutely return.

              In Los Olivos/Solvang, I ate dinners at Los Olivos Cafe and Root 246. Root 246 was nice, but LOC created a consistently delightful food through each course. I understand why their salads are popular at lunch. Paninos was a perfect lunch break during my day of tasting and the danishes from Olsen's Bakery were light and flaky; a bonus to staying at the Hadsten Inn. I'd recommend the Inn as a good mid-point location, with updated, clean rooms and friendly staff.

              In Santa Barbara I made it to Renaud's Patisserie and the almond croissant held up to the hype. The macarons were quite nice as well, better than the Thomas Keller version I had recently at Bouchon in nyc. I also swung by La Super Rica, which I enjoyed, but didn't quite stand up to the tacos I had in Austin this summer at Torchy's Tacos.

              Though I only had a few hours and one full day, I was able to make it to Andrew Murray, Daniel Gehr, Rusack, Melville, Lucas, Dierberg, Stolpman, and Lewellen, and tasted Au Bon Climat at Tastes of the Valley. I wanted to make it to the wine ghetto, but ran out of time. Based on discussions with locals, I think stopping at the wine ghetto is well worth a stop. If you're looking for closely situated tasting rooms, Los Olivos has a much stronger collection.

              Many thanks, you all ensured I had a wonderful visit. I love the chowhound community!

              La Super Rica
              622 N Milpas St, Santa Barbara, CA 93103

              Tastes of the Valleys
              1672 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA

              Root 246
              420 Alisal Road, Solvang, CA 93463

              9 W Victoria St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101