The locals of Los Alamos have a nickname for their little California town: Lost, almost.

Not just because it’s teeny-tiny—the town’s main drag, Bell Street, is only seven blocks long—but because, for a long time, it was the kind of place that people intentionally didn’t talk about. “The rich and famous came here to the Santa Ynez Valley to escape the limelight,” explains Daisy Ryan. “They came here to be left alone.”

To be lost—but only almost. Because despite its middle-of-nowhere vibe, Los Alamos is actually pretty easy to find: Just a three-hour drive north of Los Angeles on The 101. “It’s off one of the most major highways there is,” Ryan laughs. “So, really, it’s on the beaten path.”

Ryan grew up in the area and has long been charmed by its lore. She can tell you how Los Alamos was a popular stagecoach stop after the Gold Rush over 150 years ago; how its surrounding hills served as inspiration for the legend of Zorro; how Michael Jackson’s infamous Neverland Ranch is just down the road. She can also tell you about the area’s more current attractions—its stellar farms, sprawling ranches, and easy access to the fresh seafood of the Central Coast.

Her love for the region runs so deep that in early 2018, after cooking at restaurants like Gramercy Tavern, Brooklyn Fare, and Per Se, she and her husband Greg (who also worked at Per Se, after his own stints at Tribeca Grill and the Beverly Hills Hotel) returned to the valley to put down their own roots: a French-inspired restaurant in Los Alamos called Bell’s.

A room at The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern.

Photo: James Baigrie

But despite the newfound attention, Los Alamos still retains its pioneer town aesthetic and under-the-radar magic—it’s still the kind of place where you can get lost, almost. “There’s an authenticity to what people are doing here; we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Daisy says. “With Bell’s, it was just a mix of good luck and being in the right place at the right time.” As Greg puts it: “It’s amazing how certain circumstances have allowed this little town, with its one stretch of street, to flourish organically in a way that no one really would have ever dreamed.”

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