Get Out Of Town!
New Foodie Destination in Old Town
June, 2017 - Issue #153

Los Alamos was one of those places that I've driven past for years.

Just off Highway 101, past Buellton, but before Santa Maria, it was always on the way to somewhere else. Until now.

Los Alamos finally became our destination when my wife booked a surprise overnight get-away for my birthday. Lodging at The Alamo Motel. Dining at Pico at the Los Alamos General Store.

We made our escape from Santa Clarita late on a Friday, arriving in time to check into our room before dinner. Outside, The Alamo retains its 1940s-vintage motor court charm. Inside, the renovated rooms exude hipster chic. White walls, plywood floors and furniture, white bedding, and in ours, a cow-skin rug.

Pico sits just across Bell Street in what used to be the farm town's general store. Again, period exterior, renovated interior. The storefront facade retains its old school look, while inside, racks of wine complement antique farm implements.

Just a year old, Pico already is a bona fide foodie destination. Its menu promises house-made and locally-sourced ingredients. And that's what it makes ordering so difficult. Every item sounds so amazing that fear of missing out triggers indecision. Choosing one thing means saying no to three other equally-appealing options.

Following guidance from our patient waiter, we started with house-cured bacon praline along with the sweet potato soup. We added the braised oxtail for a taste of adventure and shared the heart of ribeye for our main.

The bacon arrived in a jam jar. Thick, crispy strips of smoked pork belly standing at attention. Not at all what I expected, but better than I could have imagined. Words won't do it justice. Just order it.

The soup came next, delivered in a Thermos-like bottle, and poured into the bowl where glazed chestnuts and caramel apple rested. So smooth and pleasant, it made me reconsider my dislike of sweet potatoes.

True to the waiter's description, the oxtail did look like a brownie, served atop pureed local sweet potato. And as with indulging in a brownie, we savored each rich, savory bite.

The perfectly-cooked ribeye was complemented by crispy Brussels sprouts dressed in a dark, tangy glaze.

Pico's biggest surprise? It wasn't crowded. True, we arrived well after 7pm, but it was a restaurant scene so unlike the usual LA experience. Nobody lined up waiting to get in. Attentive service, with plenty of time between courses. No one talking loudly on a cell phone.

That vibe permeates Los Alamos, a still-small town. We were the last to leave Pico, and among the last people out for the evening. Bell Street was ours as we wandered back to the hotel. One other pedestrian and no cars.

Traffic did pick up in the morning. A tractor drove by during breakfast at Bob's Well Bread. Somehow we were hungry after our indulgence at Pico. Which was a good thing, because breakfast at Bob's is not to be missed.

Modeled on a European bakery, it features handcrafted bread, hearty breakfasts and coffee, of course. They even have gluten-free bread, which meant April could enjoy Egg-in-a-Frame #1: a local farm egg over easy, in a grilled slice of bread, with herb-roasted tomatoes and dry-aged goat cheese.

I ordered Egg-in-a-Jar, mostly because I wanted to see what it looked like. Purple potato puree topped with gruyere cheese, poached egg, bacon lardons, chives and creme fraiche - in a jar.
We sat on the patio, watching more diners trickle in and fill in the empty tables around us.

I wish they'd kept driving. But that's not likely. Los Alamos is no longer a detour on the way to somewhere else. It's a worthy destination for a weekend of dining.
Eric Harnish is a resident of Castaic, a place more people should drive past in order to shorten the line at the taco truck.

Stop in Los Alamos
Alamo Motel


Bob's Well Bread
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