In the past few years, Los Alamos California has transformed from a dusty pit-stop to one of Santa Barbara County's premiere day trip destinations. Attracting weekend visitors from as far away as Paso Robles and Los Angeles, Los Alamos–only 7 blocks long with a population under 2,000–is now dotted with high-quality food and wine options, all while maintaining that dusty, old-west charm. One of the best options is Bell's, a delightful French bistro right in the heart of town.
Bell's occupies the former Bell St. Farms location and is run by the husband and wife team of Greg and Daisy Ryan. Given Bell St. Farms helped kick-start Los Alamos's transformation, the Ryans had big shoes to fill. In our opinion, they succeeded. We recently dined at Bell's and were thoroughly impressed with every aspect of our experience. It was so good, in fact, that we immediately added Bell's to our Where to Eat list.
Both Ryans have impressive culinary resumes, having worked in some of the most renowned restaurants in New York City, Los Angeles, and Austin. Their dedication and skill–Daisy runs the menu and kitchen while Greg oversees operations–is apparent from the moment you walk in the door.
What We Loved
The French onion soup was the standout starter. Possibly the best, most authentic rendition of this classic bistro fare I've experienced. Even if you don't gravitate towards that dish, I highly recommend someone in your party give it a try.
The steak frites, another classic bistro dish, were great. Cooked to perfection with excellent fries. Any conservative eaters in your group should definitely lean toward this option.
Being adventurous type, I decided to order the mackerel with rice and tomato butter. My only prior experience with mackerel was catching it off the Harford Pier then poorly cleaning and preparing it myself. Bell's rendition was a step up, to say the least. Two fresh, line-caught fish from Santa Barbara. Expertly prepared and presented. If you like seafood and this item is available, I highly recommend trying it.
If you're eating at Bell's with a group, just order one of every dessert option. Our party of four did just that and everything was excellent.
Get Yourself to Los Alamos
If you're planning a weekend trip to Los Alamos soon–and you definitely should be–no visit would be complete without a stop at Bell's.
Food & Wine covered Bell's and the Ryans earlier this year.