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By Courtney Cochran

More good news for Southlanders! Your own backyard contains yet another hidden gem for wine country travel – the tiny town of Los Olivos.

Part country western throw-back, part progressive rural hamlet, Los Olivos is the picture of wine country cute and makes the perfect spot to unwind from tasting at the many Santa Barbara-area wineries nearby. And with a population of just 1,000 inhabitants, the small town nestled in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley delivers big on charm for its size.

Los Olivos Grows Up

Once part of a stagecoach line and later a stop on the Pacific Coast Railway, Los Olivos retains its historical charm in its many ridiculously cute Victorian-era buildings and the friendly demeanor of just about everybody you meet there (something you certainly don’t find in nearby LA every day).

But my favorite thing about the place is its seamless bringing together of the past and the present, an accomplishment that’s particularly evident in the operations of some of my favorite businesses in and around town. Because what’s really wonderful about wine country travel is when it inspires feelings of being transported to a different era, even when you’ve only really traveled for a couple of hours in your car.

From Stage Stop to Pit Stop

Brothers Restaurant calls the historic Mattei’s Tavern – a stagecoach stop built in 1886 – home to its critically acclaimed but decidedly unpretentious eatery on the outskirts of Los Olivos. The spot hits just the right notes with its dynamite but simple cuisine that marries old American favorites like steaks and chops with contemporary Asian and French influences.

Even better yet, the surroundings inspire a sense of the past that’s as warming as the spot’s fireplaces: be sure to check out the old photos, guest books and other mementos from the spot’s early days as an inn before or after your meal. Brothers is open daily for dinner starting at 5pm, and reservations are strongly recommended.
2350 Railway Avenue, Los Olivos, CA Tel: (805) 688-4820

Decadence with a Dash of the Past

Originally built in the 1930s, the storied Los Olivos Grocery has kept its historic name but seriously updated the caché of its wares. Whereas the always-popular spot once sold mostly everyday staples to the valley’s early 20th-Century inhabitants, it now boasts an impressive contemporary inventory of goodies including European style hearth breads, artisan cheeses from around the world, espresso drinks, rare wines and top-notch locally grown and organic produce.

Besides all this, Los Olivos Grocery whips up gourmet take-out or eat-in lunches daily courtesy of the establishment’s in-house chef. Folks who’d like to eat on the spot can do so while enjoying sweeping views of the Figueroa Mountains from the grocery’s covered porch while travelers anxious to hit the tasting trail can take their gourmet lunch to go. Expect service with a smile at this gem that’s open daily from 7am to 9pm.

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