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Excellent Dining in Northern Santa Barbara County

Updated: Aug 31, 2022

Santa Barbara Wine Country has some of the highest-rated restaurants on California’s coast! Our Chefs and restaurants have earned a Michelin star + many Michelin Bib Gourmand awards and listings, multiple awards from Food & Wine, Wine Enthusiast, and Wine Spectator, plus too many California and Local Foodie awards to count.

This lively food scene, and the home of Santa Maria-style barbecue, is right outside your door at Vintage Ranch!

You’ll find award-winning Italian, French, bakeries and Santa Maria-style barbecue joints, plus plenty of great wine-country pizza, Thai, Mexican, and just plain down-home cooking. We even have our own local ice cream shop – plus the latest in cool places with amazing views.

Santa Maria-Style Barbecue

Santa Maria style Barbecue: dining in Santa Barbara wine country

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Santa Maria was originally a series of ranches, and in the mid-19th century, the ranchers hosted Spanish-style meals for its vaqueros (cattle workers and cowboys), cooking dry-rubbed beef tri-tip on a crank-down grill over red oak fire and served with salsa. Today, this style of barbecue is the most popular grilled meal in the area (especially at steak houses and neighborhood barbecues) and is typically served with regional pinquito beans and bread. Cook Santa Maria style tri-tip at home with these recipes.

4 Best Santa Maria Style Local Restaurants:

  1. Far Western Tavern in Orcutt is a contemporary California ranch cuisine inspired by local traditions, Far Western Tavern is recognized as a landmark of Santa Maria-style barbecue.

  2. The Hitching Post is located just moments from the heart of Santa Maria in Casmalia, a picturesque western town. It’s one of the oldest and most authentic Santa Maria-style barbecue restaurants you’ll find.

  3. Within the 1917 Historic Santa Maria Inn sits the Century Room, an elegant and charming restaurant serving fresh and imaginative California cuisine – a classic in Santa Maria.

  4. Jocko’s is a famous, Santa Maria-style steakhouse in Nipomo, which features amazing food in an easygoing and unpretentious atmosphere since 1926. It’s known for its generous portions and classic Santa Maria dishes.

Right in Old Town Orcutt

Orcutt was founded in 1906, at the height of oil production in the Santa Maria Valley and became a bustling center of trade. Today, it anchors the area as Santa Maria Valley’s charming old town, appealing to both locals and visitors as the perfect spot to eat, drink and shop.

Trattoria Uliveto by Liz Dodder,

At Trattoria Uliveto, Chef Alfonso Curti has assembled an outstanding menu of fine Italian dishes, an extensive wine list, specialty cocktails, and original desserts.

Kay’s Orcutt Country Kitchen is a local favorite for down-home cooking and the best breakfast on the Central Coast. The Shift is a comfort food haven, where everything is made from scratch, born out of a very popular local food truck.

Old Orcutt Santa Maria dining in Santa Barbara wine country

Photos by Pizzeria Bello Forno & Doc Bernstein’s

Pizzeria Bello Forno focuses on wine-country wood-fired pizzas and more. Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab offers unique and traditional flavors of ice cream in this location of the original, born in Arroyo Grande.

Photos by Liz Dodder,

For stellar lunch at a winery, don't miss the Mezze Picnic + wine flight at Presqui'le Winery, just 5 miles from Vintage Ranch. This full lunch comes with the wine flight, and consists of various dishes on a platter to share, and you won't leave hungry. The summer picnic includes Gazpacho, Hummus/Bean Dip, Farmer’s Cheese, Farm Salad, Marinated Steak, Bagna Cauda with G Veggies, and house-made focaccia, crackers, and pita to sop up all the delicious flavors.

Down the Road in Los Alamos

Los Alamos is as hip and cool as Orcutt is charming. Just 15 more minutes down the 101, this tiny town is brimming with gourmet Chefs, delicious comfort food and cool boutique, hotels and wine tasting.

Photos by Liz Dodder,

Bell’s Los Alamos, which is the recipient of this year’s Food & Wine Best New Chef, is a French-inspired Bistro in Los Alamos, California. Formerly Bell Street Farm, Bell’s is owned and operated by Daisy and Greg Ryan, both of whom worked at iconic Michelin-star restaurants before returning to Santa Ynez Valley.

Bob’s Well Bread features artisan, hand-made bread made in small batches. It was named by Travel + Leisure Magazine as one of the 15 Top Bakeries in Small Towns.

Plenty on Bell is the project of creative genius and long-running Los Alamos Chef Jesper Johansson. Don’t miss his comfort food, beautiful creations, breakfast burritos and famous peanut butter cookies. Pico is a modern restaurant occupying Little LA’s historic General Store and offers fine dining, changing with what's locally available from farmers, and winemaker, plus a full bar with wines from around the world.

Photos by Liz Dodder,

Norman at Skyview Los Alamos is the town’s newest, hip hangout for high-end bites and sips. This place comes with a gorgeous view!

Further Afield

It’s worth venturing a little further north to these spots in the Five Cities: Spoon Trade, Ember, Ventana Grill and the Oyster Loft. And in the south, wine mecca Santa Ynez Valley is home to First & Oak (the area’s only Michelin-named restaurant), Coast Range, SY Kitchen and more.

No matter where you dine, you’ll be in hog heaven at our local wine country restaurants!

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