email: [email protected]
As some of you may have heard, the Nichols Brothers will be opening the Santa Ynez Valley classic, The Red Barn, shortly. The sale was completed within the past few weeks, and I understand that the restaurant is being spruced up. We are not expecting a huge overhaul here, despite the worn state of this Santa Ynez Valley haunt.
The Red Barn, located in the town of Santa Ynez, has been the “go to” steak house and bar for years. It is a locals spot, particularly among the cowboys and cowgirls. The bar is a bustling place, which for years turned out some great drinks and snack foods. The restaurant had been known for its meat, notably its prime rib, steaks, ribs and hamburgers (I have eaten too many of these). There have been very few signs of it going gourmet, sticking with iceberg lettuce and a big glob of great ranch or blue cheese dressing.
We are all wondering how the Nichols Brothers will spin this classic. I hear that they were passing out a questionnaire among Red Barn diners asking for dishes that should be retained. Smart move. I suspect that we will see a hybrid of the Red Barn and Mattei’s Tavern. I also suspect that prices will head north, but we will wait to see how far.
In the meantime, Sides Hardware and Shoes continues to do a brisk business. This will be a busy time for Jeff and Matt. They seem to be smiling and we love it.
No word yet on the plans for Mattei’s Tavern, which is dark. Rumor has it that the great Blackberry Farm folks will have something to do with the restaurant when it reopens.
I will post when the Red Barn reopens and give you updates on Mattei’s as I get them.
If you were wondering where my husband and I dined last night, it was one of our “go to” spots, Hitching Post II. That’s Frank Ostini over the oak pit, although he seems to be focusing more on wine these days. The Hitching Post and Frank had quite a run for years following Sideways. Famous for Santa Maria barbeque, Frank garnered some Food Network segments. Iron chef Cat Cora named Hitching Post II as one of her favorite local restaurants, waxing on about the amazing hamburgers. These are only served in the bar on certain weekdays. And they are sooooo good. But “The Post” as we say is well known for its prime steaks, great fries and solid local wine list. The wait staff is fabulous as well, many having worked there for years. For locals, they know what you order and always stop and chat. Executive Chef Brad is a great guy and a talented chef. Check out the specials, such as the chanterelle appetizer in season. This is my “Cheers”. You should definitely get a reservation.
There are many other “Go To” restaurants here, and I will cover them in future blogs.
While we have great steak and taters, which go remarkably well with our BIG REDS, the real deal gourmet spot in the Restaurant at the Ballard Inn. The smallish menu offers something for everyone, and the food is creatively and beautifully prepared to order. Whether it is the simple, great spin of toasted black and white sesame seeds on the perfect ceasar salad, or the complex sauces that marry so well with a protein, this is our true gourmet spot overseen by the executive chef and owner Budi Kazali. The waitstaff is first rate and the dining room is elegant. You can choose to have a glass of wine, or sometimes dinner, on the big front porch. You definitely need reservations.
Another great spot is the Mirabelle Inn & Restaurant in Solvang (I could not find a dedicated website, but there is a lot of information on this one). This is a charming restaurant located in the heart of Solvang. It was also the home of the Nichol Brothers first “Brothers” restaurant. Master Chef Norbert Schultz was classically trained in Europe, and this shows in his food. His ingredients are fresh and quality and stand out in his simple, but elegant preparations.
We thoroughly enjoyed perfectly prepared double, frenched lamb chops in the three course tasting menu a few weeks ago. The starter was three lightly cooked fresh oysters…very very tasty.
The Santa Ynez Valley is full of great spots to eat, which is ever so important in a wine destination. Please contact me for a larger list of great choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner…text or email me at 805 588-3616 or email me at [email protected]