Browsing Tag

Casa Dumetz


The Cotswolds of California: Lost in Los Alamos

Assuming you’re in the right state—California, not Nevada—finding Los Alamos is easy. It’s about 50 miles north of Santa Barbara, just off the 101 freeway. You exit onto the main drag of this town of 1,890 people, which means it’s nearly impossible to get lost once you’re there, too. But step inside the establishments of Los Alamos and you might very well start to feel disoriented. From the old west vibe of the 1880 Union Hotel to the wouldn’t-be-out-of-place-in-Manhattan interior of Bob’s Well Bread bakery and coffee shop, Los Alamos is full of surprises.

A vintage car rally during Los Alamos’ annual birthday celebration, Old Days

The first of these was when, shortly after checking in to the 1880 Union Hotel, we stopped into Babi’s Beer Emporium and Emilio Estevez pulled us a pint. We had read that his partner, Sonja Magdevski, owned the establishment and the adjoining Casa Dumetz wine tasting room, but we didn’t expect to see Estevez at work behind the pumps. While we both tried to feign a polite level of indifference, D. couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tell him how much he liked Repo Man. I was far too starstruck to chip in anything about The Breakfast Club or how, more recently, I had blubbered through a flight while watching his 2011 film, The Way. Of course the real stars of Babi’s are the beers; I sipped a Pilsner from Hangar 24 Craft Brewery out of Redlands, California while D. hit a 10+% triple IPA, which explains why he can’t remember the name of it.

The bar at Babi’s Beer Emporium

But more than beer, this town is about wine. In addition to Casa Dumetz, Bell Street hosts a tasting room for Bedford Winery and, in a tiny building at the front of the Alamo Motel, a recently opened outlet for Municipal Winemakers. The latter’s Rhone-style Bright Red and Bright White dry Riesling were standouts from our tasting. Hollywood makes another appearance—this time inside the glass—at the Wine Saloon, which features Kurt Russell’s Gogi Wines and a stellar rosé from Kate Hudson and Matt Bellamy’s (of Muse) label. Tres Hermanas, who have a tasting room 10 miles away in Los Olivos, have taken over the bar at the newly renovated The Station. Over a glass of their crisp white Grenache, one of the owners told us about their plans to open the restaurant by late November. In the meantime, they were offering burritos to their hungry bar patrons.

Cafe Quackenbush and Art Gallery

We passed on the burritos in favor of pizza at the vibrant Full of Life Flatbread. The pie was good, but it was upstaged by a dessert of a sheep’s milk cheesecake with plum sorbet. At lunchtime, dining options in Los Alamos expand to include Bell Street Farm, Café Quackenbush, and Bob’s Well Bread. And for a taste of Los Alamos before Hollywood showed up, try Charlie’s, which has the advantage of being open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. Many of the restaurants and bars I’ve mentioned so far still only open on weekends to cater for tourist traffic.

To keep you occupied between eating and drinking, there are a handful of antique and vintage shops to dip in and out of on Bell Street. The Gentleman Farmer and The Depot Mall, on the site of the old Pacific Coast Railway depot, were two of my favorites.

My only advice is this: visit Los Alamos now. The mere existence of the shops, bars, and eateries I’ve mentioned proves that Los Alamos has already been discovered, but it still doesn’t feel overrun. Today Los Alamos is Solvang before Sideways. Given the Hollywood presence we encountered, it won’t be the case for long.

See more pictures of Los Alamos on Pinterest here.

The Details

Where to Stay:

1880 Union Hotel
362 Bell St.
Los Alamos, CA 93440
(805) 344-2744

March 2015 Update: On subsequent visits we enjoyed staying at both the Victorian Mansion Bed & Breakfast and the Alamo Motel. The former has over-the-top themed rooms; we stayed in the 1950s suite complete with a Cadillac bed “parked” at your own personal drive-in showing your choice of Grease or American Graffiti. At the latter, ask for one of the refurbished rooms.

Sleeping arrangements in the 1950s suite at the Victorian Mansion

The Victorian Mansion Bed & Breakfast
326 Bell St.
Los Alamos, CA 93440
(805) 344-1300

The Alamo Motel
425 Bell St.
Los Alamos, CA 93440
(805) 344-2852

Where to Eat:

Cafe Quackenbush
458 Bell St.
Los Alamos, CA 93440
(805) 344-5181

Full of Life Flatbread
225 Bell St.
Los Alamos, CA 93440
(805) 344-4400

Bell Street Farm
406 Bell St.
Los Alamos, CA 93440
(805) 344-4609

Bob’s Well Bread
550 Bell St.
Los Alamos, CA 93440
(805) 344-3000

Where to Drink:

Casa Dumetz / Babi’s Beer Emporium
448 Bell St.
Los Alamos, CA 93440
(805) 344-1911

Wine Saloon
362 Bell St.
Los Alamos, CA 93440
(805) 344-2744

The Station
346 Bell St.
Los Alamos, CA 93440
(805) 344-1950

This post is part of a series on the search for the Cotswolds of California, i.e., an idyllic weekend escape within easy reach of Los Angeles. Earlier I profiled the Ojai Valley here and the Santa Ynez Valley here.