Long ago, Cold Spring Tavern was once a well-frequented stagecoach stop. Today, it is a rustic and extraordinary restaurant, offering a unique menu, fantastic food, and an experience that feels like a walk back in time to the old Wild West. It is only 20 minutes from downtown Santa Barbara, in the Los Padres National Forest, and it will undoubtedly be amongst the coolest, off the beaten path destinations, you will ever experience.
The drive is delightful, and the day will not be soon forgotten. Turning off of Highway 154 onto Stagecoach Road is always beautiful. In the summer, the winding roads offer views of the mountains and wildflowers along the hillsides. During the rainy season, it is jaw-dropping. The hills are vibrant green, the oak-studded landscape has more depth of colors and the scenery looks like it has been photoshopped.
Vibrant Green Hills for Miles
Cold Spring Tavern is located on the famed and beautiful San Marcos Pass, also known as Hwy. 154, right off of Stagecoach Road. It’s not just a name, but indeed, it was a stagecoach stop in 1868. The original structure is thought to be built in 1860 and was initially constructed as a stagecoach stop.
Along the route between missions, Adelaide Ovington, a former actress, and writer bought the place for $2000 in 1941. Arguably, Adelaide only wanted the front door, as she is quoted as saying, “I want to buy that door, and whatever comes with it.”
Living in the Wild Wild West
Ten outbuildings, including the bar and restaurant, is what came with that door. Adelaide and her daughter, Audrey, ran the Tavern until Adelaide’s death in 1972. Then, Audrey continued to run the Tavern solely, until her passing in 2005. Its current owners have continued the tradition of great food, cold beer, and they keep the memories, and Wild West feel, alive.
Head on up for lunch and you’ll most likely see bikers, and people of all ages, hanging out or listening to music. Belly up to the Tavern bar and order a fantastic tri-tip sandwich, from the barbeque set-up outside the Tavern.
Cold Spring Tavern’s French Dip is the best you’ll ever taste, with mounds of thinly sliced tri-tip on fresh-baked French bread, with hot au jus on the side. The Bison burger is a generous patty of fresh ground natural bison, cheese, bacon, and all the fixings.
If you have a chance, check out the impressive Log Cabin Bar fireplace, built-in 1955. The mantel over the bar was made from the last Edison electric pole used in the area.
Log Cabin Bar Fireplace is a Piece of History
At dinner, the warm glow of gas lanterns, roaring fire, and the weathered setting is the perfect ambiance for a memorable event.
Delicious food and generous portions are enough to make it worth the drive. But there is so much more. Your dinner will come standard with several options. I recommend the beef chili starter that comes with your meal and garlic mashed potatoes alongside your entrée.
If you’re a meat lover, you must order the perfectly prepared grass-fed, rib-eye steaks. The menu offers many entrees that you don’t see on most menus. Try the New Zealand Venison, Rabbit Loin or a Buffalo Burger.
“Country Roads…Take Me Home”
Volumes of historical events and fun facts surround the Tavern. Before you go, do a little research to enhance your experience. The staff will also have some good stories for you. It’s fun to visit a place that was graced by talents like Anthony Perkins, Susan B. Anthony, Roy Rogers, and Charles Shultz. The sorted history includes robberies, gambling, ghosts, and shootings. The typical Old West events that movies are made of.
When it’s time to hit the road, the lyrics “Country roads….take me home”, by John Denver come to mind.
Winding down the mountain offers several places for great photos. The famed Cold Springs Bridge is a magnificent sight. I highly recommend taking someone special to this magical place. It is a lovely way to chill out, relax and recharge. It’s interesting how this place takes you back to a slower time.
I think that fact that no one had their phone out, says a lot. There are all different types of restaurants because there are different types of people who all look for various elements of a pleasant experience. It is a real treat to find a place that feels like you’ve come home to a different time and space. The food is real, and the experience is out of this world.
Experience is Out of this World
Homestyle breakfast is served Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.Lunch and dinner are served daily from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Check the website if you’re interested in events or live music. It is a good idea to make reservations, especially on the weekends. They have a big local beer and wine selection, or you can also bring in your own wine for a $15 corkage fee.
Cold Spring Tavern is located at 5995 Stagecoach Road, Santa Barbara, Contact info: (805) 967-0066 INFO@COLDSPRINGTAVERN.COM