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A Guide to Los Olivos by a Local-Turned-New Yorker

New York City-based, celebrity-loved jewelry designer Jennifer Fisher grew up in Montecito, California, and has spent a lifetime visiting Los Olivos with her parents. Now, she travels with her own family to enjoy the region’s rural Wine Country charms. 

Fisher’s grandfather, who was a polo player in Santa Barbara, would regularly socialize with friends at historic Mattei’s Tavern in the ‘60s. “It was this very cool cowboy bar back in the day,” she said. Over the years, Fisher has watched the town slowly evolve with elevated restaurants, wineries, boutiques and the recent addition of The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern, which the designer recently visited with her family.

I have fond childhood memories of spending weekends in Los Olivos, riding horses and getting breakfast at Ellen's Danish Pancake House, which is legendary and still stands there today. It’s such a special little town that’s only about two blocks long. If you blink, you’ll miss it!
– Jennifer Fisher

What makes Los Olivos a must-visit Central Coast destination?

Los Olivos holds an authentic wine country experience within the Santa Barbara region without having to travel to Napa Valley. There’s a smattering of funky little restaurants, shops and a variety of iconic wineries with scenic vineyards. It still feels very much under the radar, yet more elevated than other nearby towns. It’s the perfect weekend getaway to feel refreshed, whether it’s a romantic retreat or a family trip.

Describe your stay at The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern.

Everything feels curated from the moment you check in. We were welcomed in a separate cottage with seasonal apple cider and homemade snacks. There’s also a cute boutique you can peruse before heading to your room. We were there in winter and all the fireplaces were lit, including the outdoor firepit when we arrived to our beautiful room. . It felt so cozy and relaxing. Another highlight was walking to the coffee bar, Felix Feed & Coffee, every morning, which has a very cool Western saloon vibe. There are so many small details throughout the hotel that, as a designer, I appreciate – like the handmade dishware, layers of leather, charred oaks and of course, the original architectural elements. It’s all very thoughtful. One aspect that surprised me the most was the gym: it’s set in a large renovated farmhouse overlooking the pool. We’d work out as a family, then sit by the pool and order lunch.

I loved sipping an Old Fashioned cocktail at the iconic bar where my grandfather used to hang out. They also have my favorite Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé – not many places do!
– Jennifer Fisher

What was your dining experience like?

Executive Chef Rhoda Magbitang has great pedigree and her food is delicious. The celery root soup was amazing. Even my kids loved it. And for dinner, I had a perfectly seared scallop with beets dressed with smoked yogurt. We dined on the porch which has a cool indoor-outdoor feel and is lovely, even in the colder nights! I also recommend sitting as close to the exposed kitchen as possible – it’s a front-row seat to all of the chefs in action. One thing you cannot miss is the breakfast “sammie”. It has farm-fresh eggs and applewood smoked bacon on a homemade biscuit. My kids loved them!

What other restaurants would you recommend in town?

Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe has been around forever. It’s in the middle of town and has outdoor seating to enjoy delicious pizzas and fresh salads. They also have a great grab-and-go wine selection with vintages from the surrounding wineries. Panino is the best sandwich place in town. My kids are obsessed with it. Get the No. 8 called “The Italian” – it’s absolutely mouthwatering. I can just taste the prosciutto, salami and provolone! An added plus: you can bring a bottle of wine and sit outside. There’s a very cute bakery called Bob’s Well Bread and the Italian restaurant, Leonardo’s, is a place everyone goes and is great for larger gatherings. I also love Nana Thai, which has great Thai food, of course.

What are your favorite wineries in the area?

Beckman is a really good one. I bought a case of Cabernet Sauvignon from there and shipped it back to New York. If you want to go for lunch, book a table at Petros. You can sit outside overlooking Santa Ynez’s beautiful pastoral hills and there’s always a warm breeze. It feels like Napa. Another one I really like is Roblar, whose name nods to all the oak trees on the estate.

Where would you recommend to shop?

Los Olivos General Store is filled with cute giftable kitchen products from food to utensils. They have an amazing selection of cheese boards and wooden spoons that inspire you to entertain when you get home. They also sell my line of salts and fragrances, as well as bottles of wine you can enjoy at tables outside. Jedlicka’s is a great western saddlery where you can purchase tack room essentials like feed, but also authentic cowboy boots and hats. For a nice selection of laidback California clothing, head to Wendy Foster – I worked at their Montecito boutique in high school! J. Woeste is a cute shop for gifts and their outdoor nursery sells a range of home accessories from cute gardening supplies and cocktail napkins to books. They also have a section themed with hearts and angel objects that my daughter absolutely loves.

What are some wardrobe staples to pack?

Layers are important in California because it can get really chilly when the sun disappears behind the clouds, or you’re sitting under an oak tree having lunch. I always pack thin turtleneck sweaters that you can easily take off when you’re in the sun, as well as a beanie and boots because there can be a lot of gravel. And, of course, I always have a selection of my jewelry including 2.5-inch thread hoops, an ear cuff if I’m wearing a beanie, my floating diamond huggies and the signature charm necklace I make. I always wear it – it’s my good luck talisman.