It was a boffo get-away for us to spend two nights in Santa Maria, which only proves everywhere one can go can prove interesting with a little digging:
Trip up to Santa Maria included a picnic lunch stop at Rancho Siquoc winery in the SANTA YNEZ VALLEY and some very lovely River Red before hitting the back Zaca Canyon route to 101 which hits near Santa Maria.
Start with a grand suite corner room at the venerable Santa Maria Inn which includes breakfast for half the cost of anything comparable in a larger city. Breakfast buffet at an elegant garden view window table was a very gracious way to start the day. Nice buffet, small but covered all the obvious bases with excellent local fruit choices, very good coffee, fresh orange juice and a beautiful setting. Good start.
Just down the street is old school Shaws for "meat" which is what you get in SANTA MARIA - ordered the tri-tip which typically comes with far more than one can eat so we left with enough food for two to three later meals. Very good, particularly when combined with the salsa to add a fresh crunch to the smokey, nicely crusted trip-tip. Very much a well loved local place and a good way to feel Santa Maria. Their Ceasar Salad, while not traditional was very good with crunchy romaine, lots of parmesan albeit it domestic, and very tender home made crutons with a very light, piquant creamy "caesar" dressing. Garlic french bread was also included along with the local piquinto beans and salsa.
The real mission of this local get away was to take DH to the newly opened La Simpatia in GUADALUPE which hit all the right notes, including a greeting by the now infamous hostess who scrambled the intended Chowdown a few weeks ago. The after-meal treat to walk the Oso Flaco trail could not have been prettier that day. In fact since the surrounding hills are brilliant green now after the recent rains, this is a perfect low season time to poke around this part of the world.
Easy to pick up all the right fixings for Super Bowl guacamole at the market right next door to La Simpatia: tomatillo, tomato, cilantro and jalapeno.
Dinner that night was Far Western Tavern in ORCUTT which was the low-point - they have gotten just too full of themselves for what they now offer for the price, but the setting remain fun and the bar was the place to be on a weekday night,. However no restaurant should have a dish on their printed menu that now comes with an "up charge" after the diner chooses it from the list, with no prior warning of the "up charge". Either pencil out that side dish from the inclusive menu list or pencil in the surcharge.
In this case it was the grilled vegetables that was offered as an included side, with the waitress with the attitude informing us of course we knew this came with an "up charge" didn't we? No as I pointed it out on the list of included side choices, of course we did not. So that was an all harm and all foul moment in my mind. Even worse is they listed additional charge side dishes that gave the dinner fair warning which made this printed menu oversight for the "included" grilled vegetables even more annoying.
And stop up-selling the items that used to be part of the Far Western traditions, like the included relish tray etc. Please also consider offering less than 16 ounce options for the sirloin. Their "popular" cowboy steak which at least was down to an 8 ounce option was only okay. While the affogato was nice, it would have been far better to include two scoops of ice cream instead of the addition of the amaretto because one ended with a bowl of soup as the ice-cream ran out well before the expresso and liquid accompaniment. Don't think we will be back - Shaw's in downtown Santa Maria was the far better option for the price.
On the way back home it was a stop in LOS ALAMOS for lunch only to learn most to the newly regarded spots are closed on Tues/Wed, but were very pleased with the one that was open - Plenty - on the main street for its decor and creative menu touches_ home made ginger soda, a grilled cheese on Well-Bred bread and a curry chicken salad sandwich, both served with a small side salad. Excellent latte as well.
So we will have to save American Flat Bread and Bell Street Gardens for another visit - just make sure not on a Tuesday or a Wednesday so we don't have to see all the "closed" signs. Small town, I under stand and wish them all well turning this quaint town into a weekender destination.