Santa Barbara Wine Country hasn’t always been a foodie destination. In recent years, though, a few eateries have put towns like Los Alamos and Santa Ynez on the map. That makes me happy because if you know me, you know how much I like good food! So of course I was excited when new restaurant The Bear and Star hit the wine country culinary scene. Located in downtown Los Olivos, The Bear and Star offers ‘refined ranch’ food in a true farm-to-table dining experience.
The Bear and Star is the latest venture from brother and sister duo, Eli Parker and Ashley Parker-Snider — the team behind Fess Parker Winery and The Bubble Shack, among others. They’ve partnered with esteemed chef, John Cox (formerly of the Post Ranch Inn), to open The Bear and Star inside The Fess Parker Wine Country Inn.
The Bear and Star is named after the two states Eli and Ashley’s father, Davy Crockett actor Fess Parker, called home – Texas and California. As the name implies, The Bear and Star pays tribute to the ranch-style cuisine of Texas, while staying true to the California mentality of using fresh, local and in-season ingredients. In fact, this place epitomizes farm-to-table dining – most of the menu’s offerings are sourced from the family’s nearby ranch. The Bear and Star is the true definition of a farm-to-table, or ranch-to-table, restaurant!
The 714-acre Fess Parker Home Ranch is located only a few miles away from the restaurant in Foxen Canyon. Here, they raise Wagyu cattle, chickens, rabbits, pigs and bees on the property. There’s also a large garden filled with organic vegetables and fruits. It’s always nice to know where your food comes from, especially when sourced only a few miles down the road.
The look of The Bear and Star is sophisticated and contemporary, but with a ranch-style, rustic twist. I dig it. Throughout the space, small cowboy touches – like a skull hanging over the fireplace – add to the ranch theme while making it feel comfortable and inviting.
When you walk into the restaurant, you’re immediately welcomed to the casual and inviting bar area, complete with cowhide rugs and a cozy fireplace.
The dining room, which is just past the bar through a large, wooden sliding door, has oversized chairs, Pendleton-esque pillows and leather accents. The design, which is the work of designer Oliva Villaluz, results in an elegantly casual feel that perfectly complements Chef Cox’s menu.
Now, let’s get to the good stuff: the food! While I have only eaten at The Bear and Star twice, I was impressed by both meals. Whatever you decide to eat, you should definitely order the cornbread to go with it. It comes warm in a cast iron skillet and yes, it’s tasty. But what really makes it are the two accompanying house butters. Salted and browned butter (oh yes!) really take it to the next level.
On the menu you’ll find appetizers like Crispy Ranch Squash with Sweet Soy Chili Sauce and Smoked Wagyu Carpaccio with Cured Egg Yolk and Pea Puree. There’s also Morro Bay Oysters with Pink Peppercorns, which are super tasty. If you want something more on the hearty, meaty side, the Parker Ranch Chili comes piping hot with a layer of melty cheddar on top.
Speaking of meat, the Prime Filet is not to be missed. Tender and juicy, it proves that this place knows how to perfectly cook a piece of meat.
Our most recent visit happened to be during their Sunday Supper, an optional three-course meal for the table. While the menu changes every Sunday depending on what the chefs are inspired to make that day, you can bet it’s going to be comforting and delicious. Our Sunday Supper started off with Black Eyed Peas (so good) before we dove into the most delicious fried chicken!
While I admit it wasn’t the most health-conscious meal, it was incredibly satisfying on that crisp fall evening. And, in the spirit of comfort food, we capped it off with a super decadent Cast Iron Cookie. Served warm with vanilla ice cream and a glass of milk, it was one impressive way to end the meal.
THE CHEF’S ROOM & WINE ROOM
When dining at The Bear and Star, don’t miss peeking into the Chef’s Room. It offers a glimpse of the kitchen and some prized kitchen equipment. Off the dining room and behind a wall of 200 bottles of wine, is the exclusive Wine Room. Used for private dining and wine tasting events, this secret room includes a 16’x9’ wine storage wall and plush velvet chairs. It’s even got its own entrance if your group wants to be incognito.
With a menu that changes frequently to adapt to the seasons, The Bear and Star is a great addition to the valley, dishing up tasty ranch-inspired cuisine in a cool space. I know where I’ll be this winter when I’m craving something comforting and delicious!
**The Bear and Star**
Open: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Location: 2860 Grand Ave – Los Olivos, CA