One of the most special places I’ve ever found is a former stagecoach stop tucked away in the forest, on the San Marcos pass. A winding, narrow road leads to this little out-of-the-way place, and when you arrive, it’s a little like time stood still. My husband brought me here on our honeymoon, and we came back this summer for our first anniversary. It’s very romantic, with tiny dining rooms and creaky wooden floors, kerosene lamps and antique furniture. It can get very busy on the weekends, and next door is the tavern, equally charming, with live music and outdoor seating. Lunch is best, I think, much less expensive and the food is just as good. Plus, who wants to drive through that pass in the dark? There’s a tiny “antique shop”, really a mini-museum, that tells more of the history of the place. It’s fun to imagine travelers taking the stagecoach from Los Olivos to Santa Barbara to catch a train. Riding for hours on rickety, wood-spoked wheels over rutted, rocky roads, eager to get to the tavern, a short respite from the ordeal. Be sure to order a glass of water with your meal. It comes from the spring and I swear, you can taste the difference.
We went back last summer for our anniversary and I took a few more photos with my iPhone to show you a little more of the place. It’s really like no other restaurant I’ve ever been to in Southern California and has a ton of history. It’s small, dark and romantic and gets packed on summer weekends, especially when they have live music next door. It’s an out-of-the-way location on an old stage coach stop and the roads leading up to it are dangerous, so I recommend going during the day time if you’re not familiar with the twists and turns of San Marcos Pass. But it’s totally worth the drive, and you’ll love it. Trust me.