You know you are somewhere wondrously errant when you arrive at a place and 95% of businesses are all closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Los Alamos kicks up its
feet boots and takes a load off in the middle of the week. TGIM people, TGIM.
Let’s be clear: Los Alamos isn’t some derelict, forgotten-about, one-horse town. Thanks to a handful of folks equipped with a vision and a passion for their trade, Los Alamos is gaining more “horses” by the day. Case in point, Shelter Social Club and the rebirth of The Alamo Motel.
Past Ojai, past Montecito, past Santa Barbara (keep driving, it’s worth it), just 2.5 hours north of Los Angeles is this tiny strip of a town that’s a refreshing total of just 3.9 square miles. Anchored by the Union Hotel since 1880, Los Alamos as a whole feels a lot more like a slice from a bygone era. Picture an ideal stop for Johnny Cash in his early years; that’s Los Alamos in a 3.9oz nutshell.
In tandem with this tactile nostalgia there is a crosscurrent of new that’s delicately woven into the fabric of Los Alamos. That’s primarily due to the renovation of the motel by Shelter Social Club and the Angeleno expats that have pitched their tents here and opened not good but great restaurants. Take Full of Life Flatbread (translation: dinner destination for self-control-obliterating pizza and local wine) and Bob’s Well Bread (the egg in a jar with purple potato puree was so unforgettable I crave it for brunch every bloody weekend), purveyors of utopian bliss.
The Alamo Motel and Shelter Social Club are focused on just one task: “creating experiences and spaces that bring community together.” It seems simple, but when the community is one of just a close-knit 1,890 the reality is they may not be that open to it.
Luckily S.S.C. isn’t at all interested in altering this or any other community. In fact, maintaining the property’s original integrity is of the highest order. Because they opt not to tear down and rebuild and instead to update and enhance, they are nurturing an actual manifestation of community. Take being invited to BBQ with these fellas on a Saturday night, for instance.
As impregnable as the people and culture of Los Alamos appeared to be, satisfied and content with what’s always been, there is also a visceral warmth that imbues welcoming new travelers, winemakers, restauranteurs, shop owners, and new friends.
1880 Union Hotel (drink)
This is better left for the traveler to determine ad hoc.
If NOTHING else:
Meet some strangers and leave with new friends.