9 Casual SoCal Wine Destinations

Experience these top-tier wine programs in low-key atmospheres

9 Casual SoCal Wine Destinations
With a higher-end, Restaurant Award–winning sibling next door, Olio Pizzeria in Santa Barbara, Calif., is a wine-dedicated destination for an easy night out. (Courtesy of Olio Pizzeria)
May 6, 2021

While there’s a time and place for a dining splurge, sometimes it’s just as satisfying to enjoy a laid-back meal without all the fanfare. But unfussy cuisine doesn’t have to come with unimpressive beverage options, as these Southern California spots prove. All hold Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards for their wine lists, and all feature moderate or inexpensive pricing. For everything from a quick bite to a no-frills night out, stop into these wine-centric destinations across Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and several surrounding cities.

For more wine-and-food destinations around the world, check out Wine Spectator’s nearly 3,800 Restaurant Award–winning picks, including the 100 Grand Award recipients worldwide that hold our highest honor.

Do you have a favorite you’d like to see on this list? Send your recommendations to restaurantawards@mshanken.com. We want to hear from you!

Note: Opening hours and menus are subject to change as the industry continues to adjust to evolving regulations.


Hozy’s Grill

1760 E. Lemonwood Drive, Santa Paula, Calif.
Telephone (805) 525-1068
Website www.hozysgrill.com
Best of Award of Excellence

Classic American dishes and Napa Cabernet Sauvignons are at the center of Hozy's Grill, but this Best of Award of Excellence winner offers plenty more. The all-day spot is located by the Santa Clara River in Santa Paula, Calif., where it’s open for breakfast through dinner. Along with considerable by-the-glass and small-format lists, the wine program of nearly 400 labels includes many California Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, along with French and Italian reds. There are bottles and verticals from well-known Cabernet wineries like Joseph Phelps and Beringer, available for pairing with a range of steak options. Chef Merced Robles’ menu also includes dishes like swordfish with mango salsa, chicken parmesan, seafood linguine and buttermilk fried chicken.


Packing House Wines

540 W. First St., Claremont, Calif.
Telephone (909) 445-9463
Website www.packinghousewines.com
Best of Award of Excellence

 A dish with gnocchi and sage at Packing House Wines
Packing House Wine serves seasonal cuisine in the dining room and hosts wine tastings in the on-site retail store. (Courtesy of Packing House Wines)

About a 30-minute drive east of Los Angeles, Packing House Wines has a robust wine shop on site, so it’s no wonder the restaurant side features a strong list. Wine director and co-owner Sal Medina’s 1,200-label program boasts many wines from California and France (especially Burgundy and Bordeaux), including Cabernets, Syrahs and more. There’s also a vast Champagne selection and verticals from California powerhouses like Opus One and Continuum. While there are some relative splurges on the list, it’s one of the most value-driven Best of Award of Excellence–winning programs, with inexpensive pricing overall and a bounty of under-$100 and even under-$50 bottles. In the kitchen, chef Javier Macias crafts an eclectic menu of small plates like garlic fries and a cheese board, and larger ones like shrimp tacos and short-rib Bolognese.


Bo Beau Kitchen + Rooftap

144 Pine Ave., Long Beach, Calif.
Telephone (562) 983-0056
Website www.cohnrestaurants.com/bobeaukitchenrooftap
Award of Excellence

 The entryway to Bo Beau Kitchen and Rooftap
The top floor of Bo Beau offers open-air seating with the same aesthetic feel as the indoor space downstairs. (Enrique Aguilar)

With a large hearth, a wood-paneled interior and picnic tables for rooftop dining, Bo Beau Kitchen + Rooftap provides a comfortable space to enjoy chef Ruben Gonzalez’s combination of French and American cuisines. Gonzalez's menu showcases dishes like baked brie, beef tartare and French onion soup. Guests can enjoy these with picks from wine director Michelle Sitic’s Award of Excellence–winning wine list, which is strongest in Californian selections. Its nearly 140 labels highlight the state’s Pinot Noirs and Cabernets, while offering several Ports and an international array of Chardonnays.


Mason Bar and Kitchen

307 E. Branch St., Arroyo Grande, Calif.
Telephone (805) 202-8918

Website www.masonbarag.com
Award of Excellence

 Four friends cheers their wine glasses at a booth in Mason Bar and Kitchen
From tacos to sandwiches to burgers, there’s an array of casual dishes to pair with the wine list at Mason Bar and Kitchen. (Courtesy of Mason Bar and Kitchen)

Local cuisine is at the heart of Mason Bar and Kitchen in Arroyo Grande, Calif., which earned its first Award of Excellence in 2020. California is also the main focus of the restaurant’s wine program, overseen by wine director Daniel Perez. Opening with a sizable by-the-glass list, the 180-label selection features many Cabernets, Pinot Noirs, Grenaches, Syrahs and Golden State blends. Sparkling wines and California Chardonnays are highlighted too. These join chef Michael Carollo’s menu of dishes like toasted-herb focaccia, peppercorn-crusted beef carpaccio, carbonara and seared scallops.


Olio Pizzeria

11 W. Victoria St., Santa Barbara, Calif.
Telephone (805) 899-2699
Website www.oliopizzeria.com
Award of Excellence

 The entryway and sign of Olio Pizzeria
Olio Pizzeria has earned a Restaurant Award every year for nearly a decade. (Courtesy of Olio Pizzeria)

Inspired by the pizzerias and wine shops found throughout Italy, Olio Pizzeria in Santa Barbara, Calif., serves up pies in a casual environment. Holding an Award of Excellence since 2012, the pizzeria is also located next door to its more upscale sister restaurant and fellow Award of Excellence winner Olio e Limone Ristorante. Wine director Silvio Pedrocchi’s 230-label list is fittingly focused on Italian and Californian wines, and offers a hefty by-the-glass selection of both, plus many Ports and Italian dessert wines. The diverse white-wine list taps regions throughout Italy and California, and is joined by an array of Nebbiolos, Sangioveses and Cabernets. Chef Alberto Morello’s menu includes pizzas like Margherita and Carbonara pies, as well as pastas, paninis and traditional Italian mains.


Osteria Mamma

5732 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, Calif.
Telephone (323) 284-7060
Website www.osteriamamma.com
Award of Excellence

 A wall of wines at Osteria Mamma
The wine program at Osteria Mamma boasts impressive selections as well as inexpensive pricing. (Courtesy of Osteria Mamma)

Holding an Award of Excellence since 2014, Osteria Mamma is a Hollywood beacon for the food of Italy’s Veneto region. Chef Mirko Paderno’s menu features classics like grilled branzino, along with a range of pastas, pizzas and other seafood dishes. These are served alongside wine director and co-owner Filippo Cortivo’s 300-selection list, which begins with substantial by-the-glass options. The inexpensive list is full of values, with an abundance of labels priced between $40 and $60. There are also many bottles from northern Italy, including Veneto, rounded out by wines from the rest of the boot. Picks from California, France, Spain and farther abroad are also available.


Rustic Kitchen Market & Cafe

3523 S. Centinela Ave., Marina del Rey, Calif.
Telephone (310) 390-1500
Website www.rustickitchen.la
Award of Excellence

 The wine cellar at Rustic Kitchen Market & Cafe
Pick up goods like cheeses and meats or stay for a full-service meal at Rustic Kitchen Market & Cafe. (Courtesy of Rustic Kitchen Market & Cafe)

Rustic Kitchen Market & Cafe is a multifunctional destination in the Mar Vista neighborhood on the outskirts of Los Angeles. By day, the Award of Excellence winner sells casual deli dishes and market provisions like cheese, charcuterie, gelato, coffees and teas. At night, it transitions into a restaurant and wine bar, offering hearty dishes from chef Noelle Fanaris like braised short rib and pan-roasted salmon with truffle mashed potatoes. Fanaris is a managing partner along with her husband, John, who also serves as wine director. The 365-label wine program excels in California, France and Italy. The list opens with an extensive by-the-glass section of over 60 options and 10 different wine flights, with themes like “Orange is the New White” and “Big Bad Reds,” all of which include 3-ounce pours of three wines for under $30.


Santa Barbara FisHouse

101 E. Cabrillo Blvd., Santa Barbara, Calif.
Telephone (805) 966-2112
Website www.fishousesb.com
Award of Excellence

Located by the water in Santa Barbara, Calif., this Award of Excellence winner is appropriately all about seafood. Chef Jesus Charco’s menu lists familiar favorites like fish tacos, lobster macaroni and cheese, tuna poke and grilled salmon. Some staples come with a twist, like shrimp and chips (in addition to a classic fish-and-chips option), and a handful of non-seafood items are available as well, like a Hawaiian-inspired chicken sandwich with pineapple and flash-fried cauliflower tossed in Thai chile sauce. On the moderately priced wine list, the 175 selections are managed by wine director Chris Jow and emphasize Californian picks. There’s plenty of outdoor seating, but even the indoor dining room offers some West Coast sun through a central atrium.


Smitty’s Grill

110 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena, Calif.
Telephone (626) 792-9999
Website www.smittysgrill.com
Award of Excellence

Smitty's Grill is a family-owned spot where comfort is key. The walls of the cozy dining room are decorated with black-and-white photos that lend a homey feel, and there’s also a tented outdoor patio with a working fireplace. Wine lovers will feel especially welcome by the Award of Excellence–winning wine list, comprising more than 200 selections overseen by wine director Jessica Cisar. There are dozens of under-$100 bottles on the list, which is geographically well-rounded but focuses on California. Nine labels are available in half-bottles, and a selection of rare wines are poured via Coravin in addition to a conventional by-the-glass program. Chef Gabriel Olvera serves a menu of American classics, from wedge and Caesar salads to steaks, barbecue ribs, buttermilk fried chicken and pot pie. Smith Brothers Restaurants, the group owned by brothers Gregg and Bob Smith, also includes Best of Award of Excellence winners Arroyo Chop House and Parkway Grill.


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