The terrain of the Santa Ynez Valley is diverse, with its green pastures dappled with horse ranches and vineyards. The landscape is studded with oak trees that signify one has landed in Chumash country. It is an agricultural area surrounded by the Santa Ynez Mountains on the south and the San Raphael Mountains on the north. The Santa Ynez River runs east and west through the valley. Like the diversity of the landscape, the area has an eclectic range of Santa Ynez Valley Restaurants.
A love of wine brings many people to the area, and pairing wine with outstanding cuisine motivates chefs and restaurant owners to make their home in this valley. Due to the fertile lands and agriculture in the area, the farm-to-table concept is prevalent in many dining experiences. From breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the local produce inspires the menu at every Santa Ynez Valley restaurants.
Santa Ynez Valley consists of six distinct communities, Solvang, Santa Ynez, Buellton, Ballard, Los Alamos, and Los Olivos. Solvang is known for its timber buildings and Danish pastries, including Aebleskiver, although today, Solvang’s dining scene is very eclectic. In Santa Ynez, the town’s Western theme reflects the country flair in their restaurants. Los Alamos is named for the cottonwood trees in the area, and the town reflects its vintage old-west heritage. Los Olivos features many wine-tasting rooms and galleries. Buellton is the gateway city to the Santa Ynez Valley, and Ballard is the smallest and home to the Ballard Canyon AVA. Let’s explore some of the Santa Ynez Valley Restaurants offered in these six communities.
Breakfast or Lunch at Bob’s Well Bread Ballard
You cannot start your day without a visit to Bob’s Well Bread. Bob Oswaks opened his first location in Los Alamos in 2014. I first visited his bakery that same year. I discovered Bob’s gluten-free Centennial bread on that occasion and was hooked. The bread is dense but yummy. A loaf of that bread is heavy weight-wise and consists of oats, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds, salt, water, psyllium husk, olive oil, and maple syrup.
The concept of Bob’s Well Bread is producing artisan breads and baked goods from ingredients sourced locally using old-world European traditions. Well-Bread means doing good things, supporting the community, and donating what is not sold that day to local food banks.
Several years ago, Bob decided to open his second location in Ballard to give the locals another opportunity to cater to the locals that live in Solvang, Los Olivos, and Santa Ynez. The artisan bakery is located on Baseline and Alma Pinta, within 10 minutes of the surrounding cities. It is located at a major crossroads. The building is historic in that its past included a filling station, a country store, and a restaurant known as the Ballard Store and Restaurant. The bakery lies across the street from the Ballard Inn and if you are staying there, make sure you walk across the street and sample the cuisine of Bob’s Well Bread.
Must-tries: Raisin Challah French Toast with Bacon Lardons or the Avocado Toast Tartine for Breakfast. I chose the Avocado Toasts with on Centennial Bread with a poached egg.
Lunch means the meatloaf sandwich, Bob’s Well Bread signature Sandwich. The secret of this meatloaf is combining both pork and beef.
Bob’s Well Bread is open from 8 am to 3 pm on Thursday to Sunday.
Breakfast or Lunch at The Baker’s Table Santa Ynez
I first discovered The Baker’s Table in 2013. This artisan bakery and café is located in Santa Ynez. Having been open for almost ten years, the restaurant has a huge following of locals and regulars who visit the area. Once you discover The Baker’s Table, you will want to return to break bread with a French Twist. The restaurant is now in a new location in the heart of downtown Santa Ynez.
Owner Amy Dixon trained at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. She excels at creating bread and pastry. Amy is known throughout the valley for her Pain au Levain Bread.
The restaurant’s menu consists of fresh local fare. At lunch, there is a selection of salads and sandwiches.
The Croissant Sandwich is a favorite breakfast dish, consisting of scrambled eggs and sharp cheddar cheese served with applewood smoked bacon. Make sure if you visit to make room for dessert.
Amy donates her leftovers to two local charities.
This is an excerpt from an article on Santa Ynez Valley Restaurants I wrote for Wander With Wonder.