Tuesday, October 19, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 33

Santa Maria Sun / Cover Story

The following article was posted on August 3rd, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 22 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 19, Issue 22

18th Annual Best of Northern Santa Barbara County

By Sun Staff




Best Santa Maria Restaurant

Skid into Shaw’s
There’s no place more quintessentially Santa Maria than Shaw’s Steakhouse, which won Best Santa Maria Restaurant and Best Tri-Tip Sandwich this year for its oak pit barbecue excellence. The steakhouse is a favorite among locals and those who roll into town once a year for their favorite car show.

Shaw’s Steakhouse

714 S. Broadway, Santa Maria

You might have the nicest roadster or hot rod in town, but you’ll still struggle to find some parking at Shaw’s Steakhouse in Santa Maria. The famous restaurant is almost always packed with locals looking for a perfect sit-down dinner experience. And when a big car show or the Elks Rodeo comes to town, the place lights up like the Fourth of July. From the legendary steaks and tri-tip to the fresh seafood, Shaw’s is an institution in the valley. Shaw’s represents a dedication to quality that has been upheld for years by Guggia Enterprises, which knows Santa Maria-style oak pit barbecue isn’t something just for backyard parties, but makes for an unpretentious fine dining experience as well.

Runner-up: Moxie Cafe

—Joe Payne


Best Nipomo Restaurant

Jocko’s Steakhouse

125 N. Thompson Ave., Nipomo

Jocko’s Steakhouse in Nipomo might be the most famous restaurant that does absolutely no advertising. They don’t need to—the restaurant’s loyal and dedicated customer base does it all for them, either by boasting about the perfectly aged and seared steaks they ate there or placing one of the iconic “Follow me to Jocko’s” bumper stickers on their rides. Locals who voted Jocko’s as Best Nipomo Restaurant know they go there for more than just the down-home, delicious food, they go there for that fun, familiar experience. Everyone is free to “come in and monkey around,” as it says on the side of the building, and enjoy a century-long Nipomo tradition.

Runner-up: Rancho Nipomo BBQ



Best Orcutt Restaurant

Kay’s Orcutt Country Kitchen

135 E. Clark Ave., Orcutt

Every kitchen begins with Kbut there’s only one Kay’s Orcutt Country Kitchen. A quaint daytime diner located in the heart of Old Town Orcutt, Kay’s is cherished by those in and outside the community for many reasons, and the food is just one of them. 

“People don’t just come to Kay’s for a meal, they come for the experience,” manager Jessica Smith told the Sun. “It’s the team, the atmosphere, the ambience, the whole experience that keep people coming back.” 

Next time you’re cruising through Orcutt looking to fuel your appetite, don’t settle for anywhere less than the best! 

Runner-up: Far Western Tavern

—Caleb Wiseblood


Best Lompoc Restaurant 

Scratch Kitchen

610 N. H St., Lompoc

Scratch Kitchen is a combined effort of the Caudillo family that has created memorable meals in Lompoc for several tasty years. Maybe you’re feeling like a baby arugula and prosciutto salad topped with balsamic onions, goat cheese, pine nuts, prosciutto, and EVOO. If you want something with more meat, there’s also the braised short ribs with a celery purée, farmers market vegetables, and red wine demi. The kitchen prides itself on using fresh produce to bring the authentic farm-to-table taste in every dish. 

“I expected my mama’s cooking (or somewhere thereabouts), but I was served way more than I anticipated or could have even imagined,” Mark V said on Scratch Kitchen’s Yelp page.

Runner-up: American Host 

—Karen Garcia


Best Guadalupe Restaurant  

Romo’s Market

727 Guadalupe St., Guadalupe

For great Mexican food on a budget, Romo’s Market in Guadalupe is the place to beat. But this year, among  North County residents, it beat out the competition as Best Guadalupe Restaurant.

Feed yourself (and probably a friend) for $10 or less and fill up on dishes like carne asada fries, breakfast burritos, tortas, tacos, enchiladas, and more. Heck, you can even bring your own pot and take your menudo to go! Romo’s is also a market, as the name implies, so load up on your grocery essentials or just grab a beer to go with that quesadilla. 


Runner-up: La Simpatia

—Ryah Cooley


Best Los Alamos Restaurant 

Full of Life Flatbread 

225 Bell St., Los Alamos  

About 20 miles south of Santa Maria, tucked away in Los Alamos, is the local foodie gem Full of Life Flatbread. Loyal customers never get bored since the menu has changed weekly for the past 15 years. The dishes that are available to order vary depending on what’s in season at the local farmers’ markets.

“We’re honored,” owner Clark Staab said. “We came when there was not a lot here, and I’m honored to still be relevant. People come here because they like the seasonality of what we do.”

Recent menu offerings include a Coachella Valley date and bacon flatbread as well as Korean-style beef short ribs. While the menu will change by your next visit, it’s sure to be just as yummy as before. 

Runner-up: Charlie’s Restaurant 



Best Los Olivos Restaurant

Sides Hardware and Shoes, A Brothers Restaurant

2275 Alamo Pintado Ave., Los Olivos

If you haven’t been to Sides Hardware and Shoes, A Brothers Restaurant, you might wonder why Jeff and Matt Nichols named their elevated comfort food venue after the business that first occupied the building.

“The location is historic and a special building for the Los Olivos community and the entire Santa Ynez Valley, and when we had an opportunity to lease it, we were all in,” Jeff said. 

With that respect for history comes a respect for quality food. Though not quite as classically oriented as their other restaurant, the Red Barn, Sides is a “lunch-driven” restaurant with a focus on sandwiches, salads, and more.

“We really just wanted a craftsman American cuisine,” Jeff said. “Can’t get enough of that.”

Runner-up: Mattei’s Tavern



Best Buellton Restaurant 

Industrial Eats

406 E. Highway 246, Buellton 

Industrial Eats in Buellton brings a whole other vibe to its customers, from the menu to the the graffiti art on the walls. The eatery and butcher shop is housed in a repurposed warehouse, and its communal tabletops make it a perfect place for strangers and friends to come together and chow down. Jeff and Janet Olsson, owners of New West Catering and Industrial Eats, said their inspiration come from Jeff’s previous experience in the food industry. 

“I worked for Tom Douglas in Seattle in 1999 and he had just opened the Palace Kitchen,” Jeff said. “I loved it and asked him what his inspiration was, and he said, ‘I just opened a place where I would want to hang out.’” 

Whether it’s for a fennel sausage pizza or a cut of meat fresh from the butcher shop, stop by and hang out with the Olssons, and see why locals voted their spot the Best Buellton Restaurant. 

Runner-up: Hitching Post II



Best Solvang Restaurant

Paula’s Pancake House

1531 Mission Drive, Solvang

As you cruise down Mission Drive in Solvang, it’s nearly impossible to escape the communal gaze of the plethora of mouth-watering eateries. But one establishment outshines the rest. Your foot slams on the brake pedal. You leave the car in the middle of the street—there isn’t time to park. At this point, there’s no force on earth that could keep you from devouring the Danish pancakes found at Paula’s Pancake House, this year’s winner of Best Solvang Restaurant. This family-owned diner, which also serves American breakfast standards and lunch items, has been a Solvang staple since the late ’80s. You can take the time to park, but you won’t want to leave Paula’s once you’re there.

Runner-up: Root 246



Best Santa Ynez Restaurant 

Dos Carlitos Restaurant & Tequila Bar

3544 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez

Dos Carlitos Restaurant & Tequila Bar is a sibling restaurant to Carlitos Cafe y Cantina in Santa Barbara and Cava Restaurant & Bar in Montecito, but the restaurant has definitely carved a beloved place for itself in Santa Ynez. Dos Carlitos combines the experience of the open fire grill and the smoky essence of authentic specialty dishes and salsas with a twist. Take the grilled chicken quesadilla: asadero cheese, caramelized onions, poblano chiles, guacamole, and chipotle cream. It’s easy on the budget and just the right portion to satisfy your cravings with each flavorful bite. Not to mention the grilled anaheim chiles that are stuffed with queso fresco, served with handmade corn tortillas. Call in to make a reservation so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy a dish of mouthwatering goodness. 

Runner-up: SY Kitchen



Best Restaurant. Period.

Hitching Post, Casmalia 

3325 Point Sal Road, Casmalia 

It may not have the claim to fame that its sister restaurant in Buellton found by appearing in the hit film Sideways, but the original Hitching Post in Casmalia is steeped in tradition and well known among locals as one of the best places to grab a piece of California-style barbecue steak. For more than a century, the Hitching Post has burned red oak to add a perfect sear and flavor to unnumbered slabs of charred beef. And despite not making an appearance on the silver screen, the flagship location still has earned plenty of accolades, including earning a spot on Forbes magazine’s list of “10 Great BBQ Joints in the USA.” 

Runner-up: Cubanissimo Cuban Coffee House & Cafe 

—Spencer Cole


Best Food Truck

BBQ In The Stix

Santa Maria

For our car-themed Best Of issue this year, it’s only fitting that BBQ In The Stix—which is famous for taking Santa Maria-style barbecue on the road—won Best Food Truck. Founded by grillmaster and owner Ronny Cavazos and his family, the BBQ In The Stix food truck houses a bonafide Santa Maria-style oak pit barbecue. They grill some of the juiciest tri-tip, chicken, and other meats you can find on the Central Coast, and load them up on a toasty ciabatta roll or wrap them in a tortilla.

“I really believe that quality and consistency set us apart,” Cavazos told the Sun via email. “We want to make sure that the food we serve up is the same whether it’s your first visit or your 10th.”

Runner-up: Cubanissimo Cuban Coffee House & Cafe



Best Breakfast

Kay’s Orcutt Country Kitchen

135 E. Clark Ave., Orcutt

It’s no surprise that Kay’s Orcutt Country Kitchen, also voted Best Orcutt Restaurant, is taking home the gold for Best Breakfast this year. How’s that old saying go? Slow and steady wins the race? Well, there’s no better way to take things slow after a hard day’s night than Kay’s famous Too Much to Drink Last Night omelette, complete with diced chicken-fried steak, bacon, jack and cheddar cheese, and sausage and bacon gravy. 

“The key to our food is consistency. We consistently buy the best and serve the best,” manager Jessica Smith told the Sun. “Plus, no one can turn down our bacon.” 

Runner-up: Jack’s in Old Orcutt



Best Bakery

Gina’s Piece of Cake

307 Town Center East, Santa Maria

Rev your engines for Gina’s Piece of Cake, which nabbed the top spot for best local bakery thanks to fresh ingredients, devoted staff, and variety, according to owner Gina Martin. 

“My staff is amazing,” Martin said. “Customers have been coming to us for so long they have a high level of expectation, and we want to make them happy.” 

Martin said the bakery doesn’t just specialize in sweet treats like brownies, cookies, custom cakes, and more, but also features savory treats like her favorite, the linguisa, jalapeño, and cheddar roll. 

“The smell is just amazing,” she said. “There’s something here for everyone, no matter what your tastes are.”

Runner-up: Orcutt Bakery

—Rebecca Rose


Best Seafood

Atari-Ya Japanese Restaurant

1551 Stowell Center Plaza, Santa Maria

When Santa Marians are looking for something from the sea, there’s plenty in town to choose from, but it’s hard to compete with the level of freshness and skilled preparation at Ataria-Ya Japanese Restaurant. The sushi menu at Atari-Ya boasts a wide array of traditional sashimi, with yellowtail, salmon, scallop, oyster, mackerel, red snapper, clam, and even a few types of roe to choose from. They also get creative with the California-style rolls, like the rainbow roll, which includes a variety of fish, or the crunchy calamari roll, which includes tempura squid fried to perfection. There’s also standbys you’d expect from any seafood joint worth its soy sauce, including oysters on the half shell and king crab.

Runner-up: Mariscos Ensenada



Best Burger Joint

Orcutt Burgers

1099 E. Clark Ave., Orcutt; 1771 W. Grande Ave., Grover Beach

If you’re in the mood for some juicy burgers, you don’t even have to get out of the car when you visit Orcutt Burgers. The local burger joint opened its doors in the Santa Maria Valley in 1998 and has continued flipping patties ever since. And while the menu has evolved over the years, the delicious burgers have carried on in the tradition of excellence. Bite into one of these bad boys at one of two locations in either Orcutt or Grover Beach. Don’t forget to try the zucchini fries dunked in their housemade ranch. 

Runner-up: Santa Maria Burgers 



Best Pizza

Cheesy Wheels
Locals burn rubber to make it to the family-owned Pizzeria Bello Forno, where staff like Stefan Spallino serve up pies including the pear and prosciutto (left) and the Chicken Bianci (right). It’s why the restaurant won Best Pizza in this year’s Best Of readers poll.

Pizzeria Bello Forno

119 E. Clark Ave., Orcutt

Owner Bob Spallino worked in catering for 12 years and brought his keen eye for authentic imported ingredients to Pizzeria Bello Forno. The flatbread pizza eatery, which opened in 2017, is known for mixing traditional favorites with unusual flavor combinations that appeal to a broad audience. 

“The business has been good, but I don’t take it for granted,” Spallino said. “A lot of people tell me that our food tastes like what they’ve had in Italy. We make everything from scratch and use high-end ingredients. People like the whole vibe here. We wanted to create something that’s different.”

Runner-up: Klondike’s Pizza



Best Steak

Hitching Post, Casmalia 

3325 Point Sal Road, Casmalia 

They say you haven’t had a Santa Maria-style steak until you’ve been to the Hitching Post. It’s a hidden little gem out there in Casmalia, the restaurant’s flagship location. It’s one of the only features in the tiny town, but don’t let that you deter you from stepping into a little piece of history before biting into a oak fire-grilled steak. Some patrons have the option of sitting next to the grill, which is featured behind a glass partition. Watch the cooks sear your steak up close, but be warned: Your mouth may begin to water. 

Runner-up: Jocko’s Steakhouse



Best Tri-Tip Sandwich

Shaw’s Steakhouse

714 S. Broadway, Santa Maria

When you’re drag racing down Broadway and you’ve just got to have a Santa Maria-style meal on the go, the best tri-tip sandwich around is grilled over the oak pit right downtown at Shaw’s Steakhouse. Well respected for how the staff barbecue their meat, especially Santa Maria’s signature cut, Shaw’s serves a hefty portion of the succulent steer between two slices of fresh white bread. Though you could eat it in the car, it’s way more fun to munch on Shaw’s tri-tip sandwich in one of the booths that overlooks the glass-boxed oak pit Santa Maria-style barbecue.

Runner-up: BBQ In The Stix



Best Salsa

Cielito Lindo

1130 E. Clark Ave., Santa Maria

In 2001, Rosa Gascon, her husband, and son opened the doors to Cielito Lindo, the family’s authentic take on Mexican food. 

“I think the Orcutt community was really hungry for a real taste of Mexico,” Gascon said. 

What draws Gascon’s customers time and time again is the fact that they can see the ingredients of the restaurant’s salsa on the grill. Everything from the chilies, tomatoes, onion, and cilantro are grilled and combined to make their mild and mucho hot salsa every other day. Gascon laughs when she mentions that the restaurant has tried different salsa flavors, but her customers demand the original two, so seasonal flavors don’t last very long. 

Runner-up: Vaqueras



Best Taco


1555 S. Broadway, Santa Maria

What once started as a taco truck has since expanded into a brick-and-mortar restaurant, where customers can sit and enjoy their meal with table service. What brings people back to Vaqueras aside from the inviting atmosphere and Ranchera music playing in the background is, of course, the food. Word on the street is their tacos are amazing—a double corn tortilla holds together tender pieces of carnitas garnished with diced onions and cilantro. The best meals are the ones with simple and few ingredients, so with every bite you can get the complete flavor. Of course you can garnish it with salsa, but take a nibble on the taco as is and try the succulent selection of meats.

Runner-up: Taco Roco



Best Burrito

La Unica

2530 S. Broadway, suite G, Santa Maria

If you’re wondering how big La Unica’s burrito selection is, just picture all of the vintage cars in Jay Leno’s Garage wrapped in giant tortillas. From the Surf and Turf to the Philly Cheese Steak, La Unica’s got it all. 

“When customers aren’t sure what they’re in the mood for, I don’t automatically try to sell them the biggest burrito we’ve got,” owner Alicia Chavez told the Sun. “I’ll truthfully recommend what I think they’d like, even if it’s just the bean and cheese. It’s all about the little details and going the extra mile to make sure customers go home happy.”

Runner-up: Vaqueras



Best Deli Sandwich

Papa Napoli Italian Deli 

325 E. Betteravia Road, suite B9, Santa Maria 

Just like a big four-door SUV, Papa Napoli Italian Deli has room for the whole family. The local deli, which tops each table with games and toys, has been owned and operated by the Napoli family for nearly 35 years, according to owner Donna Napoli. Many of her regular customers have been eating at Papa Napoli since they were children, Napoli said, and now they’re bringing their children in. 

“We’re truly a family-oriented, mom-and-pop place,” Napoli told the Sun. “You’re not petrified that your kid is going to get in trouble here.” 

The warm atmosphere plus quality food—including Papa Napoli’s famous pastrami sandwich—keeps customers new and old happy and, most importantly, full. 

Runner-up: Woody’s Butcher Block 

—Kasey Bubnash


Best Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt

Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab

725 E. Betteravia Road, Santa Maria

A hot summer’s day is the perfect time for the family to pile into the car and head on over to visit the doc for a scoop or two of ice cream. Doc Burnstein’s popular flavor motor oil will keep your body’s engine fueled and ready for some fun in the sun. In a cup or on a waffle cone, this dark chocolate and Kahlua ice cream with fudge swirls is the perfect treat to beat the heat. In August of this year, the doc will be celebrating 22 years of cooky flavors in a fun, family atmosphere. Molly Kasdan, the head of corporate promotions for the ice cream business, said: “Our main thing is that we want people to have an experience and look back and have a positive memory of that experience.” 

Runner-up: Yogurt Creations



Best Vegetarian Restaurant 

Natural Cafe 

Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, Goleta

It’s not easy to find high-quality vegetarian and vegan options on the Central Coast, but veggie-loving Californians can always count on the Natural Cafe to pull through with fresh plant-based deliciousness. 

“We really cater to that need,” Santa Maria General Manager Jackie Moran said. 

Moran said the Natural Cafe’s veggie stir fry is a customer favorite, second only to the Hungry Planet Burger, a completely vegan burger that tastes so much like beef, employees have heard complaints from vegetarians who don’t like the taste of the “meat.” 

“That has been our biggest complaint,” Moran said with a laugh, “so we’ll take it.” 

Runner-up: Moxie Cafe

—Kasey Bubnash


Best Cheap Eats

Efren’s, Santa Maria

1625 S. Blosser Road, Santa Maria

Looking for a meal that’s worth digging into your spare change jar and in between the couch cushions for? Look no further than the $1.60 tacos and $6.99 breakfast burritos, two popular items that Efren’s owner Nora Alvarez said her customers always come in for. 

“We’re so proud of the food that we serve and the compliments from our customers that we get after they’re done with their meal,” she said. 

The breakfast burrito is packed with chorizo, bacon, eggs, and potatoes. Or, if you’re feeling extra meaty, check out the chorizo, eggs, and beef option. 

Runner-up: The ‘A’ Street Café



Best Restaurant to Impress

Hitching Post, Casmalia 

3325 Point Sal Road, Casmalia 

The voters have spoken and it’s a familiar name and face. It should be no surprise that Santa Marians and surrounding residents chose the Hitching Post in Casmalia as the Best Restaurant to Impress, especially considering those same voters chose it for Best Steak and Best Restaurant. Period in this year’s awards. And you can hardly blame them. Why wouldn’t you want to take someone to a place you know has not just be the best steak but the best food? Its sister restaurant may be a movie star, but the Casmalia location is the darkhorse fan favorite for Northern Santa Barbara County. 

Runner-up: Far Western Tavern



Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant 

Klondike’s Pizza

2059 S. Broadway, Santa Maria; 104 Bridge St., Arroyo Grande

There’s only one place in town where you can chuck used peanut shells on the ground and be encouraged to keep going. It’s no wonder Klondike’s Pizza was voted the Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant. Give it a call sometime and be treated to the Super Mario Bros. theme song if you are placed on hold. Serving up hot slices of ’za on the Central Coast since 1988, Klondike boasts pretty much every Alaskan-based fare (short of live grizzly bears) it can. The menu includes traditional pizzas but also burgers, a variety of sandwiches, and real Alaskan reindeer sausage. There’s also a great arcade for the kids to enjoy while you eat and relax.

Runner-up: Crumbles Cafe & Bake Shop 



Best Farm/Produce Stand

Make a stop
A cruise down Highway 101 doesn’t need to stop if you want fresh strawberries, just take the Stowell exit and visit The Berry Stop. Owner Kathy McPike loves to serve locals and travelers alike, which is why her business won Best Produce/Farm Stand this year.

The Berry Stop

Highway 101, Stowell Road exit, Santa Maria

Kathy McPike remembers selling strawberries out of the back of her Volvo when her children were really young. It wasn’t until 2013 when The Berry Stop made its debut that she began selling produce from her stand. McPike sells a variety of blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries. The best thing about her stand, aside from the berries, is the people who stop by. 

“A lot of locals come once a week to get what they need,” she said. “And then you get travelers and you get so much conversation by asking, ‘Where you’re going or what are you doing with the berries today?’” McPike said. 

Runner-up: Darensberries, DB Speciality Farms 



Best Grocery Store 

Spencer’s Fresh Market 

Race to the freshest
Locals know to clear out the trunk of their car when they go to Spencer’s Fresh Market, which won Best Grocery Store this year. The locally owned market carries everything to feed a family or throw a killer backyard barbecue.

3580 Orcutt Road, Santa Maria 

This isn’t the first time John Spencer’s grocery store has been named the best in the area. Spencer’s Fresh Market has won Best Grocery Store for many a year of Best Of. He told the Sun the recognition wasn’t necessarily just validation for good business practices in place since the store first opened its doors in 1996.

“You know who it’s a validation for? It’s validation to my team,” he said. “I can’t run the deli, produce, and meat departments. We have a group of great people and they’re all locals, serving locals. It’s a true neighborhood grocery store.”

Runner-up: Old Town Market 



Best Hispanic Market

Vallarta Supermarket

1482 S. Broadway and 1875 N. Broadway, Santa Maria

You can find plenty of carnicerias in the Santa Maria, but when locals think of one place where they can get everything they expect from a Hispanic market, it’s Vallarta Supermarket. The locally owned chain has two locations in Santa Maria that each boast fresh produce, a wide selection of authentic ingredients for everything from pozole to tamales, a bakery, food court, and one of the most extensive meat counters in town.

“Especially here in Santa Maria, there’s a lot of barbecues and parties, so everybody wants to have the best meat,” said Martha Maldonado, the third assistant store director at the South Broadway location. “We’re just here to serve our people here in town and give them excellent customer service.”

Runner-up: La Mia Mercado Y Carniceria



Best Chinese Food

North China Restaurant

113 N. Broadway, Santa Maria

North China owner and manager Michael Sun knows why his food is so beloved, year after year, by Sun readers. 

“It’s quality,” Sun said. “After all these years, we still love what we do and we still work hard to have the freshest and best ingredients around.”

Another big key is that every dish is made to order. Sun and his team genuinely care about being the best, too. 

“It’s a labor of love,” he said. “We enjoy what we’re doing and really care about the product we’re putting out there. We have a real passion for it.”

Runner-up: Ming Dynasty



Best Japanese Food

Atari-Ya Japanese Restaurant

1551 Stowell Center Plaza, Santa Maria

The longstanding winner of the Sun’s Best Japanese Food category, Atari-Ya Japanese Restaurant, may seem unassuming on its face, tucked into the back of the Stowell Center Plaza, but don’t judge a restaurant by its facade. Inside you will find the most dedicated staff of cooks, servers, and of course sushi chefs preparing and serving some of the best Japanese food on the Central Coast. If you want to go all the way for a special event, reserve one of the paper-paneled shoji rooms, and enjoy a hot bowl of miso soup before a round of traditional sashimi or the more modern California-style sushi rolls.

Runner-up: Niya



Best Italian Food 

Trattoria Uliveto

285 Broadway St., Orcutt 

Mama mia! The partnership between businessman Jim Spallino and chef Alfonso Curti, which ultimately led to the creation of Trattoria Uliveto’s delicious food and chic interior, is more than molto bene. Both Spallino and Curti had always dreamed of owning a restaurant, according to Trattoria Uliveto’s website, and when the opportunity to take over the Wine Cottage Bistro presented itself, the partners put the pedal to the metal. Trattoria Uliveto is now a well-established favorite, famous for its outstanding Italian menu, lengthy wine list, and craft cocktails. And the pasta is always freshly made, so you’ll never want to say ciao!

Runner-up: Pizzeria Bella Forno



Best Authentic Mexican Food

Local favorite
Santa Maria has more Mexican restaurants than you can visit in a day, even if you break the speed limit, but locals chose El Herradero as the place with the Best Authentic Mexican Food this year. The restaurant makes everything from scratch, from the perfectly refried beans to the freshly grilled asada.

El Herradero

214 N. Blosser Road, Santa Maria

If you’re cruising down Main Street heading West, don’t leave Santa Maria proper without turning right on Blosser Road and stopping in at El Herradero. Long touted as Santa Maria’s best kept secret, the word is out on this Mexican restaurant, which the Sun’s readers have rightly voted as the place in town to get the Best Authentic Mexican Food. From the simplest of dishes, like their burritos (breakfast burritos too) to the chile relleno, El Herradero’s food tastes like the quintessential dish straight from your abuelita’s recipe book. But don’t stop there. They also have more complicated but just as authentic dishes, like their shrimp cocktails (coctel de camaron) or the Mar y Tierra, a surf and turf platter with beef fajitas and shrimp done five ways that can feed the whole family, even your cousin Flaco.

Runner-up: Casa Mañana Mexican Restaurant



Best Outdoor Dining

Moxie Cafe

1317 W. McCoy Lane, Santa Maria

When Moxie Cafe first opened, it was designed as a place to enjoy some healthy food and relax, both indoors and out. The patio area has been popular, winning Best Outdoor Dining several years in a row now, as a shady spot to escape the Santa Maria wind and even enjoy some live music. General Manager Robert Grimmesen said regulars appreciate that the patio is dog friendly (there are treats and water bowls out there) and that the landscaping includes drought-tolerant plants.

“They’ve almost adopted it as their own,” Grimmesen said. “If they have half a cup of water left, on the way out they dump it out into a succulent. They frequently ask questions, ‘what kind of plant is that,’ so I think it’s really part of the ambiance.”

Runner-up: Rancho Nipomo BBQ




Best Winery for Red

One-stop winery
Presqu’ile Winery left the competition breathing their exhaust this year, taking Best Winery for Red, Best Winery for White, Best Winery for Sparkling, and Best Tasting Room.

Presqu’ile Winery

5391 Presquile Drive, Santa Maria

If you’re firing up the old T-Bird for a jaunt down Highway 101, make sure to check out  Presqu’ile Winery, located just off the main drag. Estates Manager Cameron Porter said the sprawling vineyard and tasting room is successful because they know where they come from. 

“With all of our wines, capturing a sense of place is our No. 1 priority,” Porter said. “We want to let the earth speak. In the case of our reds, this manifests itself in the form of wines that are spicy and bright, with a sense of elegance that is rare to find in California.”

Runner-up: Rancho Sisquoc Winery

—Rebecca Rose


Best Winery for White

Presqu’ile Winery

5391 Presquile Drive, Santa Maria

It’s not just red wines that Presqu’ile Winery in Santa Maria is famous for. Wines such as the Santa Maria Valley chardonnay and the Santa Barbara County sauvignon blanc are hard to keep on the shelves, thanks to demand from the public. 

“Our white wines are so popular because they capture the distinctive character of our vineyard—deep, sandy soils in a transverse valley just a few miles from the Pacific,” Estates Manager Cameron Porter said. “As a result, they possess a mouthwatering freshness. This, coupled with our minimal use of new oak, makes them very food-friendly.”

Runner-up: Cambria Winery 



Best Sparkling Wine

Presqu’ile Winery

5391 Presquile Drive, Santa Maria

Estates Manager for Presqu’ile Winery Cameron Porter said a good sparkling wine will tell people something about where it was grown, like any great wine. 

“Our sparkling wines speak to the unique character of western Santa Maria, and in their minerality and vibrant nature, one tastes the nearby Pacific, the pummeling wind, and the oceanic soils of our estate,” Porter said. “They also possess the three-dimensional palate presence found in the great bubblies of the world—taut acidity, a fine mousse, and a depth of character that can only come from many years of aging before release.”

Runner-up: Riverbench Winery



Best Brewery

Cruise for brews
Stephen Kitts offers up a Chela Mexican lager at the Orcutt location of Naughty Oak Brewing Company, which won Best Brewery this year. You can taste at the popular Old Orcutt spot or cruise down Highway 101 with the top down to the brewery’s newer location in Santa Ynez.

Naughty Oak Brewing Company

165 S. Broadway St., suite 102, Orcutt

3569 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez

Gearheads who love classic cars like to tinker under the hood, but beerheads who love craft beer like to tinker in a brewery. Stephen Kitts, the beermaker behind Naughty Oak Brewing Company, spends a lot of his time tinkering with recipes and flavor combinations. Since opening Naughty Oak Brewing Company in Orcutt in 2016, the venue has become a local favorite, featuring beers such as the Standard Issue saison, Uncle Red red rye ale, and Fog Monster, a New England IPA. 

“We’re just so happy we can be here and serve our customers,” Kitts said. “They make all the difference.”

Runner-up: Santa Maria Brewing Company



Best Tasting Room

Presqu’ile Winery

5391 Presquile Drive, Santa Maria

Classic cars always look beautiful, but they look even more stunning when they’re parked by Presqu’ile Winery’s award-winning tasting room. Estates Manager Cameron Porter said the key to the venue’s success is hospitality. 

“From the warm greeting of our hosts to the enlightened and empathetic service provided by our team behind the bar, we want you to feel like you’re being welcomed into our home to relax and enjoy great wine,” Porter said. “We have also created numerous additional experiences—tours, concerts, food pairings—to explore Presqu’ile in greater depth and learn more about what makes our estate special.”

Runner-up: Naughty Oak Brewing Company



Best Winery or Brewery Tasting Transportation

Santa Maria Wine Trolley

Santa Maria Valley

It’s an Uber! It’s a bus! No—it’s the Santa Maria Wine Trolley! After fewer than two years driving wine connoisseurs to and from their favorite wineries in the Santa Maria Valley, the Santa Maria Wine Trolley has become the area’s favorite designated driver. 

“I really think people chose it based purely on convenience and cost,” Jennifer Harrison, director of the Santa Maria Valley Visitors Bureau told the Sun, adding that for only $10, participants can responsibly taste their favorite drinks at the Radisson Hotel, Presqu’ile Winery, Cottonwood Canyon Winery, and tasting rooms in Old Orcutt—all in one day. 

“It’s been amazing,” Harrison said. “It’s been really supported and well received, and it’s been a great opportunity to pair a local need with the tourism component.”

Runner-up: Hop On Beer Tours

—Kasey Bubnash


Best Margarita

Pepper Garcia’s

3301 Terminal Drive, Santa Maria

Why do so many Santa Marians pull up their hot rods, lowriders, and muscle cars to the Santa Maria Airport even though they aren’t hoping to catch a flight? Well, for Sun readers, it’s to get the margaritas at Pepper Garcia’s. The restaurant has a little cantina-style underground bar where beer and mixed drinks are available but take a back seat to their famed tequila-infused cocktail. It all comes down to the mix, Pepper Garcia’s owners tell the Sun, the recipe of which is a secret they keep locked under the hood. And when summertime rolls around, the icy, mixed beverage is the perfect way to beat the heat while enjoying a flavorful drink.

Runner-up: Dos Carlitos Restaurant & Tequila Bar

—Joe Payne

Best Fancy Cocktail

Far Western Tavern 

300 E. Clark Ave., Orcutt

For three generations, the Minetti family has brought Central Coasters ranch-style cooking and, most importantly, Santa Maria- style barbecue. Founded in 1958, the restaurant is settled nicely on Clark Avenue in Old Town Orcutt. The tavern has earned widespread acclaim over the years, but good food is nothing without good libations. That’s why this year’s winner of the Best Fancy Cocktail has plenty of reasons to celebrate. With a fully stocked bar and skilled bartenders, The Far Western is one of the best places in the state for a thick cut of steak paired with a perfectly blended beverage.

Runner-up: The Tap Room, Santa Maria Inn

—Spencer Cole


Best Themed Bar 

Chido Bar

221 N. Broadway, Santa Maria

When it comes to themes, Chido’s has got ya covered. The Santa Maria-based bar serves as both a dance and night club and offers weekly party themes for patrons. Popular events this year included the annual Dia De Los Muertos party, where masks were donned and the dead were celebrated. Each week, Chido’s hosts its “House Thursday,” which features live DJ performances focussing on the electronic dance music genre. A short survey of regulars who attend the bar found that the margaritas are a must for first-time partygoers. 

Runner-up: Cool Hand Luke’s



Best Happy Hour

Santa Maria Inn Tap Room

801 S. Broadway, Santa Maria

Right on the side of the historic Santa Maria Inn, the Tap Room includes much of the original construction from 1917, General Manager Ryan Swack told the Sun. That’s why it’s a favorite place among locals to enjoy happy hour at, he said, from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.

“It’s a great atmosphere to unwind at after a hard day at work,” Swack said. “The discounts that are available for our happy hour—for everything from your beer, wine, and alcohol—it’s a great way to save a few bucks to come in during that time.”

Runner-up: Pepper Garcia’s



Best Place to Have a Cup of Coffee

Gas up
Cubanissimo Cuban Coffee House & Cafe is well known for the delicious food served there, but locals are absolutely hooked on the variety of coffee drinks they offer. It’s the perfect high-octane fuel to get your pistons firing first thing in the morning.

Cubanissimo Cuban Coffee House & Cafe

4869 S. Bradley Road, suite 118, Orcutt

Chrystal Trenado, who co-owns Cubanissimo Cuban Coffee House & Cafe with her husband, Arqui Trenado, said they spent a lot of time sourcing the roaster of their Cubanissimo Coffee. Chrystal said that what makes Cuban coffee distinctive is its dark look and strong taste. 

“We work specifically with a Cuban family whose heritage dates back to the 19th century developing Cuba’s famous coffee on the island,” she said. “Our cafe is designed and decorated to bring you to a piece of the forbidden Caribbean isle. It’s a great escape, and there’s nothing like us on the Central Coast. From authentic Cuban coffee and cuisine to our Cuban decor and music, we want our customers to get a complete Cuban experience when visiting us.”

Runner-up: Coffee Time




Best Live Music Venue

Presqu’ile Winery

5391 Presquile Drive, Santa Maria

Your engine will hum along to the tunes being played at the concerts at Presqu’ile Winery. Estates Manager Cameron Porter attributes the popularity of the live venue to the intimacy of the space. 

“To see such nationally known acts as Steel Pulse, Ozomatli, and White Buffalo in such a small setting is rare, and makes for an unforgettable experience,” Porter said. “We have Cody Canada and The Departed, The California Honeydrops, and a very special concert for Mission Hope all planned for the remainder of the season.” 

Plus, the venue is on the acres of beautiful vineyards that produce grapes for Presqu’ile’s wines, making it a strong standout.

Runner-up: Moxie Cafe

—Rebecca Rose


Best Local Band or Musician

The Molly Ringwald Project

Santa Ynez

You’ve probably seen them jamming out at one of the many live music venues in North County with their signature 1980s sound. If you haven’t, you’ll understand why locals voted The Molly Ringwald Project the Best Local Band or Musician when you do hear the group. The band has grown in popularity, bassist Rob Cantrell said, and is now expanding its reach to shows in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, but they’ll never be too busy for their local fans.

“It’s home,” Cantrell said. “The Santa Barbara County community has embraced us wholeheartedly as we’ve embraced them, and so when we get to play live anywhere on the Central Coast, it’s just such a connection. ... It’s a connection you can’t replace.”

Runner-up: Pryor Baird

—Joe Payne


Best Shop for Musicians

Coelho Academy of Music

325 E. Betteravia Road, Santa Maria

Not everyone’s engines are revved by muscle cars or chrome—some need cutaways, mother of pearl inlays, and shiny steel strings. That’s what the guitars at Coelho Academy of Music are like, along with the other instruments and supplies that local musicians need. Even when a beginner comes in looking for lessons or their first guitar, it’s going to be quality, owner Jerry Coelho explained.

“If you’re going to get a $100 guitar, you’re going to get the best $100 guitar,” Coelho said. “Because I’ve personally been around to all the vendors and tried to get the best one I can, the best quality.”

Runner-up: Owens Music



Best Photographer

Caleb Marmolejo 

Santa Maria 

Caleb Marmolejo was just a teenager when he picked up his first camera and started helping out at his cousin’s wedding photography business. With the help of his parents and a close mentor, Carl Ostapiuk, Marmolejo said his skills improved and he was soon able to shift gears and put the keys in the ignition of his own business. He shoots weddings, engagements, family portraits, and even does some commercial work, including a recent promo starring motocross superstar Chad Reed. 

“I think people underestimate how valuable the relationship and personality is when it comes to photographing,” Marmolejo told the Sun. “A lot of people base entire decisions on the final product, but so much of you being yourself in front of the camera is being comfortable with the photographer.” 

Runner-up: Alexandra Wallace

—Kasey Bubnash


Best Artist

Dale Kreiter 

Santa Maria 

Dale Kreiter wrote in an email to the Sun: 

“I sincerely believe that every person, young or old, who has the Passion, Courage, and Devotion to Draw or Paint, to Write or Sing, who works and plays with their Hearts and Minds, in any way imaginable, deserves to have their name placed here as well. You are all Beautiful, Wondrous, and Amazing, just the way you are! And you absolutely do change the World with everything you Think and Say, Feel and Do! So, Please, be True to yourself, and be Kind to one another. I Love you all, very much!” 

Runner-up: McHarry Cuevas 



Best Place to View Art

Driven to create
The Ann Foxworthy Gallery at Allan Hancock College was voted Best Place to View Art by Sun readers this year. The gallery serves as an inspiration for students who get to view rotating art shows, but also drives those studying fine arts to create pieces for the student art show.

Ann Foxworthy Gallery, Allan Hancock College

800 S. College Drive, Santa Maria

A classic car such as a 1967 Ford Mustang is indeed a work of art, and if you’re looking for more, the Ann Foxworthy Gallery is the spot that gets art fans’ wheels turning. Marti Fast, who recently retired after 21 years as gallery director, said, “The Foxworthy is a beautiful, accessible, welcoming space with good visiting hours. 

“Besides showing traditional media in the annual fine arts faculty and student shows, the gallery has featured terrific group shows, large-scale bronze sculptures, original animation cells of Marvel superheroes, masks, handmade brushes, sacred sand mandalas created by the Tibetan monks, and remarkable one-person shows,” she added. 

Fast said the media featured at the gallery has a lot of variety and make viewers “think, wonder, and see the world with fresh eyes.”

Runner-up: Valley Art Gallery



Best Community Event

Santa Maria Elks Rodeo and Parade

4040 Highway 101, Santa Maria

The wheels of the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo and Parade have been turning for 75 years, according to Elks Rodeo Chief Operations Officer Tina Tonascia. 

“It’s good, wholesome family entertainment,” Tonascia told the Sun, adding that it’s not unusual to see families with three or four generations in attendance. “It’s like a huge family reunion for everyone.”

Family fun aside, Tonascia said the rodeo’s associated fundraisers have major horsepower. This year’s rodeo queen contest raised nearly $700,000 alone, she said, all of which stays right here in the community. And none of it would be possible without the hardworking volunteers that help out each year, Tonascia said. Can we get a yeehaw? 

Runner-up: Vivid Financial Management Shred Day



Best Theater Group 

Pacific Conservatory Theatre, PCPA 

800 S. College Drive, Santa Maria

Park your cruiser and spend some time at Pacific Conservatory Theater (PCPA). After more than five decades, the theater is going strong with rousing productions of musicals and dramas such as Mamma Mia and The Crucible this season. Marketing Director Maria Centrella said PCPA is thankful for the support they get, year after year, by the Sun’s readers. 

“PCPA strives to provide top quality theater that recognizes our diverse community,” Centrella said. “We really appreciate the community support in naming us Best Theater Group. This is our 54th season, so we’ve had an opportunity to develop the kind of quality programming our community has come to expect.”

Runner-up: Santa Maria Civic Theatre



Best Learning Center/Museum

Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum

705 S. McClelland St., Santa Maria

Three, two, one, blast off! The Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum’s newest exhibit is all about space, and Executive Director Nancy Gastelum said the museum’s partnership with Vandenberg Air Force Base has really brought the vision to life. 

“I think the kids are having a terrific amount of fun pretending to be launch people,” Gastelum said with a laugh, “not astronauts yet.”

Discovery Museum staff have put hard work, long hours, and passion into bringing makerspaces and other innovative learning experiences to local families. 

“So this is a real validation of all their dreaming, and their hard work, and their brainstorming of ideas,” Gastelum told the Sun. “There are lots of things happening here that I think our visitors love and want to see more of.” 

Runner-up: The Dunes Center 



Best Radio Station

Sunny Country 102.5

Sunny Country 102.5

Santa Maria

When cruising through the rolling, rural hills of Santa Barbara County, it’s only fitting to switch the radio to Sunny Country 102.5, which was voted Best Radio Station by Sun readers this year. But Sunny Country, part of American General Media, hasn’t earned the distinction just on the station’s tailored playlists, General Manager Rich Watson explained.

“I think the things that make Sunny Country unique to this area is the involvement in the community, our involvement with St. Jude’s, all the different things we support in the community,” he said. “And it’s nice to be recognized by readers, that they see us out there and enjoy what we bring to the table.”

Runner-up: 95.7 The Beat



Best Media Personality

Cruising to country
Locals love to switch their car radio dials during their morning commute to listen to Sunny Country 102.5, which won Best Radio Station, and listen to Jay Turner (pictured right), who won Best Media Personality this year, and Jessie Chavez (left), who was runner-up in the same category, spin country music favorites.

Jay Turner (Sunny Country 102.5)

Santa Maria

Jay Turner loves spinning country music at Sunny Country 102.5, but more than that, he loves the Santa Maria Valley. Turner has lived all over the U.S., he told the Sun, but there’s a reason why he’s stayed put on the Central Coast—the people. That’s why he’s involved in local charities and is a regular fixture at community events. 

“I think there’s a reason why certain personalities stand out from the rest … some people choose to just do their shift, unplug their headphones and go home and live their life … and others choose to unplug their headphones and be on the advisory council for CALM and the Boys & Girls Club,” Turner said. “I don’t do that for brownie points, I do it because it makes me feel good.”

Runner-up: Jessie Chavez (Sunny Country 102.5)



Best New Business of 2017

Cubanissimo Cuban Coffee House & Cafe

4869 S. Bradley Road, suite 118, Orcutt

There were a lot of new faces in the local business world this year, and Sun readers chose Cubanissimo Cuban Coffee House & Cafe as their favorite. Co-owner Chrystal Trenado said the cafe brings a unique environment as well as a new culture to the community. 

“We’re so honored that the community voted for us with this award,” Trenado said. “It’s so amazing people have enjoyed our food, drink, and experience to vote us the Best New Business. We hope to continue to exceed their expectations as we have fun, new things coming with our expansion in the next few months.” 

Runner-up: Lidos

—Rebecca Rose


Best Clothing Store 

New upholstery
When locals want to look fresh with some nice clothes that aren’t the box store usual, they park the roadster out in front of Deasee’s Designs Boutique for a curated wardrobe selection, which won Best Clothing Store.

Deasee’s Designs Boutique 

115 W. Clark Ave., Orcutt; 101 N. H St., Lompoc 

Honk if you love Deasee’s Designs Boutique! With locations in Orcutt and Lompoc, and brands like Free People, Miss Me, and Kut from the Kloth, owner Terri Deasee said Deasee’s gives residents all over the Central Coast the high maintenance, full-service shopping experience. 

“We give old fashioned service,” Deasee told the Sun, adding that Deasee’s employees help customers in the dressing room, put outfits together, and are always willing to grab different sizes. Perhaps that’s why Deasee’s has gotten the green light from our readers so many years in a row. 

“We want people to feel good while they’re here,” she said, “and pretty when they leave.” 

Runner-up: One Way Board Shop

—Kasey Bubnash


Best Eyewear

Lens Masters of Orcutt 

1140 E. Clark Ave., suite 160, Santa Maria

When it comes to eyewear of all kinds, the best place in town to pull up the hotrod at is Lens Masters of Orcutt, at least according to Sun readers, who could see clearly that the business deserved the Best Eyewear award.

The local optical shop has been at its current location in Santa Maria for 19 years and has its own lab on-site where prescription lenses are made to order for customers with varying needs. 

“It’s in the quality of our customer service,” owner Eric Bartell said of the store’s continued popularity. “Other optical locations in town send people to us when they can’t get stuff done.”

Runner-up: Shepard Eye Center 

—Ryah Cooley


Best Place to Buy Kids Clothes

Sandbox Kids

142 Town Center East, A-25, Santa Maria

It has been a decade since Sandbox Kids first opened in the Santa Maria Town Center, and once again it’s the winner of Best Place to Buy Kid’s Clothes. The shop carries attire for youngsters appropriate for all occasions, whether it’s school, sports, sleep, or a formal event. Sandbox Kids offers fashions and various accessories for children of all ages and body types. The store is located within Wildflower Women, a women’s clothing boutique that shares Sandbox’s emphasis on providing quality clothes and exceptional customer service. Since 2008, the combination of the two stores gives moms even more of an incentive to stop in.

Runner-up: Young’s Clothing

—Caleb Wiseblood


Best Thrift Store

New Image Thrift Store 

2512 S. Broadway, Santa Maria 

Friendly employees and low-cost, local donations are the fuel that have kept New Image Thrift Store running for more than 30 years. Although its name and partnerships have changed throughout the years, manager Becky Figgins said its dedication to the community has always been the same. Since the store hit the road as New Image Thrift Store roughly 16 years ago, Figgins said it’s been working with Domestic Violence Solutions to provide victims of domestic violence and their children with clean clothes, toys, furniture, and kitchen appliances. 

“They leave with nothing basically,” Figgins told the Sun. “We’re here to help them and get something back and start fresh.” 

The store, which employs about 25 staffers and puts out roughly 5,000 items a day, can always be counted on for clean, high-quality merchandise. “And our employees rock,” Figgins said.

Runner-up: Rad Thrift Store 



Best Antique Store

Vintage Veranda Antiques & Mall

225 Union Ave., Orcutt

In 2013, Vintage Veranda was established from the creative eye of owner Merry Feliz, a graduate of Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and a former custom home designer. 

“After decades of designing custom homes I decided to have some fun and open this store where I could still work with people and play with furniture,” Feliz said. 

With 18 vendors in her store, Feliz has gathered a treasure trove of furniture, china, vintage glassware, art, and yard art. The building is as interesting as the merchandise inside it; once a community Presbyterian church, the building was also a hardware store year ago. 

“I am hoping that we make enough of an impression to be remembered,” she said.

Runner-up: Deja Vu Antique Mall

—Karen Garcia


Best Bookstore

The Bookworm

230 E. Betteravia Road, suite K, Santa Maria

It’s not a good idea to read while driving, but when the 1963 Corvette is in the shop, look to The Bookworm in Santa Maria to pass the time while you wait. Darin Gabler, the owner who took over from founder Sheila Butterworth, said that a lot of communities don’t have small independent booksellers anymore. 

“With a bookstore like this, you want something that encourages you to look at something you may not have thought of,” Gabler said. “Everything here is good quality, it’s worth paying for. We’re in business to provide something of value to the community.”

Runner-up: The Book Loft, Solvang 



Best Place to Geek Out 

Local favorite
Pull up to downtown Santa Maria, park in the cool, shady parking garage, and walk into the Santa Maria Public Library for every book, movie, or piece of music to satisfy your obsession. Locals voted the library as the Best Place to Geek Out, and with a wide selection of everything from graphic novels and anime to U.S. and world history, it’s easy to see why.

Santa Maria Public Library 

421 S. McClelland St., Santa Maria 

“‘Geeking out’ is defined as getting excited or enthused about a favorite subject or activity,” wrote Mary Housel, director of the Santa Maria Public Library, in an email to the Sun. “The library is the perfect place to indulge oneself on a subject or to get together with others who enjoy the same activities.” 

Whether it’s getting a video or book series to take home and binge watch or read, joining one of the library’s many programs (including Teen Anime Club), meeting others to play games, discuss books, or make things in the library makerspace, Housel said the library offers activities for all kinds of geeks at each of its five branches in Northern Santa Barbara County. The best part? It’s all free! 

Runner-up: World 1-1



Best Medical Marijuana Delivery Service


Santa Maria, Lompoc, Solvang, SLO County

One look at the Weedmaps app and it becomes clear that there’s no shortage of medical marijuana delivery services in North Santa Barbara County. There’s so many that trying to find one to meet your needs might seem overwhelming. That’s where MSLLC comes in.

MSLLC stands out from the pack by providing a wide selection of high quality flower, edibles, and other products at low prices. Couple that with drivers who are reliable, friendly, and knowledgable, and you’ve got a delivery service that puts the patients they serve first. If you’re a patient in Santa Maria, Solvang, or even Lompoc and are looking for some herbal relief, MSLLC has got you covered.

Runner-up: Cooper’s Collective

—Chris McGuinness


Best Smoke Shop 

Lounge and fume
The winner of Best Smoke Shop this year is the Amsterdam Lounge & Smoke Shop in Santa Maria, where locals can get smokes and supplies or smoke hookah in the lounge on Broadway. Pictured: Manager Noura Kurdi exudes a plume of hookah smoke at her family’s business.

Amsterdam Lounge & Smoke Shop 

437 S. Broadway, Santa Maria 

When you’re living life in the fast lane, it’s always nice to have a place to slow down and relax. At Amsterdam Lounge & Smoke Shop—where customers can purchase various products or chill out and smoke hookah in the lounge—manager Noura Kurdi said relaxation is inevitable. Kurdi, whose mom owns Amsterdam Lounge, said she’s been to hookah lounges all over the world, but none are quite like her family’s. Amsterdam’s premium hookahs and wide variety of tobacco flavors keep customers blowing through all week. 

“People love it because you can do it without getting super drunk,” Kurdi told the Sun. “It’s just kind of a happy medium.”

Runner-up: Smoke 4 Less



Best Financial Planner/Accountant

Vivid Financial Management

340 E. Clark Ave., Orcutt

Vivid Financial Management formed in Orcutt in 2015 to offer comprehensive tax preparation, investment management, and financial planning to locals. President, owner, CEO, and founder Julie Darrah said she and her partners are always working to provide the “best fit” for locals looking to maximize their finances.

“They come into our firm getting a holistic approach,” Darrah said. “Our tagline is, ‘Clarity in your plan, confidence in your future.’ The word Vivid came from the word clarity, and so they go hand in hand, and clients feel very clear about what they’re doing with us and that we’re helping them and that we’re integral in their life.” 

Runner-up: Glenn Burdette

—Joe Payne


Best Lawyer/Attorney

Harris Personal Injury Lawyers 


On a roadtrip through all of California, you could find Harris Personal Injury Lawyers offices in 11 cities. But each office is unique to the community it serves, according to Jared Salter, managing director for the Central Coast’s offices. Harris lawyers live where they work, Salter said, so their clients are neighbors and friends. 

“I think we’re a larger law firm in that we have offices throughout California, but we try to be as local as possible in how we deal with clients and our participation in the community,” Salter told the Sun. “So we have the resources of large law firm with the mentality of a local law firm.”

Runner-up: Andre, Morris, & Buttery 



Best Local Bank or Credit Union


Santa Maria, Guadalupe, Lompoc, Buellton, Santa Ynez

Whether you need a loan for a shiny new roadster or just want to deposit your check without getting out of the car, Rabobank is the place locals drive through or pull up to for their banking needs. Rabobank opened its doors across the Central Coast in 2007 when it acquired Mid-State Bank & Trust, according to Angelica Gutierrez, Rabobank’s senior vice president and Central Coast marketing manager, and has aimed to serve the range of needs in Santa Barbara County with “an amazing blend of urban and rural assets.”

“I’m proud to work with so many great people here in the valley and across the tri-counties,” Gutierrez told the Sun via email. “We love what we do.”

Runner-up: CoastHills Credit Union, Santa Maria



Best Auto Maintenance/Repair

Pat’s Automotive

391 S. Blosser Road, Santa Maria

There’s nothing worse than the feeling you get when that little check engine light makes an appearance on your dashboard. That means it’s time to drive, tow, or push your car over to Pat’s Automotive. For the last 33 years, Pat’s Automotive has been the go-to shop for quality maintenance and repair services for automobiles, light trucks, and RVs. Founded in 1985, owners Pat and Patricia Nicoll pride themselves on a clean, well-equipped shop staffed by technicians who are Automotive Service Excellence certified. The shop also prides itself on excellent customer service, so whether your whip just needs an oil change or a whole new engine, Pat’s has you covered.

Runner-up: Rizzoli’s Automotive



Best Car Audio/Security

Lombards Stereo

2128 S. Broadway, Santa Maria

Whether you’re looking to put the pedal to the metal, pop, rock, jazz, rap, or all of the above, Lombards Stereo is the best place in Northern Santa Barbara County to go to for vehicle audio and video. 

“Selling the product isn’t enough. We take the time to educate consumers and make sure they’re not walking away with the wrong thing,” owner Dave Joy told the Sun

Joy’s philosophy when it comes to service is to pretend the internet doesn’t exist, meaning that customers won’t have Google to rely on when questions arise. 

“You can expect good old-fashioned look-you-in-the-eye customer service,” he said. “We’re here to make things as easy as possible.”

Runner-up: Atlas Custom Sound



Best Auto Dealership

Honda of Santa Maria

2175 S. Bradley Road, Santa Maria

Buying a new car is a big commitment, but many locals agree that the best place in town to score some wheels is Honda of Santa Maria. The dealership is full service and sells new, certified, and pre-owned cars, sales manager Alex Gomez said. They accept trade-ins to go toward your new ride like the newly redesigned Honda Accord, which Gomez said has been “really hot” this year. Customers also appreciate the safety features on Hondas, he said.

“Whether it’s a $20,000 Civic or a $45,000 Pilot, they have the same safety features, which is great so everybody across the board is going to be in a safe car,” he said. “That’s a major thing, so people really trust these cars.”

Runner-up: Toyota of Santa Maria



Best Place to Buy Tires

Wheels and deals
North County residents burn a lot of rubber, and when they need a quick set of new or used tires, they turn to Calderon Tires and Service to get the job done quick at a reasonable price. Pictured left to right: Hector Valencia, owner Daniel Calderon, Joe Flores, Jason Hernandez, Pepe Ornelas, and Jesus Medina.

Calderon Tires and Service

333 S. Blosser Road, Santa Maria

When locals have burned up all their rubber, they head to Calderon Tires and Service. The family-owned tire shop has provided cars, vans, and trucks with new and used tires for 30 years now, owner Daniel Calderon told the Sun, and has always focused on quality customer service paired with affordable tires. 

Calderon Tires gets services done fast, including changing and rotating tires, brakes replacement, and oil changes. You don’t need to make an appointment, just show up and drop your car off, Calderon explained.

“We don’t do advertisement, to be honest,” he said. “People just come on recommendations. And we’re always busy, and we try to do the best.”

Runner-up: Sousa Tire Service



Best Car Wash/Detail

Splash n’ Dash Car Wash

Orcutt, Santa Maria

Splish splash! Take that car in for a bath! Bobby Darin references aside, if you’re looking for the best place to get your vehicle washed in Northern Santa Barbara County, there are three Splash n’ Dash locations to choose from (one in Orcutt and two in Santa Maria). Whether you go in for a basic wash or the full monty, you’ll be movin’ and a-groovin’ through Splash in no time. 

“We strive to be as fast and efficient as possible, but we also make sure to be friendly,” Orcutt store manager Allyson Grose told the Sun. “We want to put a smile on every guest’s face.” 

Runner-up: Santa Maria Car Wash



Best Place to Fill Up Your Car

Orcutt 76

100 E. Clark Ave., Orcutt

Food. Art. Wine Tasting. Antique shopping. There’s always a good reason to drive to historic Old Orcutt. While you’re there, why not fill up at a little corner gas station that, like old town, exudes the same kind of small town-charm.

Paul Enstad has owned Orcutt 76 since the early to mid 1990s and has been selling gasoline in Orcutt since 1983. He said part of the reason people keep coming to gas up their cars or get services at the station is that many of his employees are familiar faces: Some have even worked for him for between 25 and 30 years.

“It’s the longevity of our employees,” he said. “People come in and see the same faces, and they recognize them.”

Runner-up: Chevron, Santa Maria Way



Best Mover 

Meathead Movers 

3600 South Higuera, San Luis Obispo

When Meathead Movers started in 1997, manager Dawn Mead said it was just two brothers trading moving services for a few dollars or pizza. Now, with 400 employees in four different offices, and servicing the entire Central Coast, Meathead Movers is the largest independent moving company in California, and one of the fastest-growing companies in the country. And while it’s won various prestigious awards and gained national attention for providing free and emergency moving services to victims of domestic violence, Mead said it’s really community awards like Best Of that mean the most to Meathead Movers. “Because these are our customers,” she said. 

Runner-up: ASAP Movers



Best Veterinarian 

Evergreen Animal Clinic

3389 Orcutt Road, suite 101, Santa Maria

It’s the excellent support staff, quality medicine, and highly trained veterinarians that have kept Evergreen Animal Clinic in mint condition since 1969. Evergreen Animal doctors see hundreds of patients each year—7,361 in 2016 alone—and still manage to treat each pet as if it were their own. Evergreen’s quality of care is equal to that of medical care for humans, its doctors told the Sun, and doctors and staff are always keeping up to date on the latest technology and practices, while working to cultivate tight-knit relationship with clients and specialists alike. 

Runner-up: Dr. Ruth’s Vet2Pet Mobile Holistic Veterinary Services



Best Place to Pamper Your Pet 

Doggie Parlour 

Wind in your face
Local pet parents love that they can cruise on by the Doggie Parlour and put their fur babies in good hands. Pictured: Doggie Parlour owner Kathleen Iliff gives Carley a blow dry.

125 Chapel St., Santa Maria 

What has pink ears, a green mohawk, and green and red legs? A Doggie Parlour pet! Whether you’d like to spice it up and get your pet a dye job (which is completely pet safe) or you’re looking for traditional grooming services, the Doggie Parlour can help you out, according to owner Kathleen Iliff. Each pooch that trots into the Doggie Parlour is treated like a four-legged member of the family, Iliff said, and a blueberry puppy facial comes with every wash. Along with its typical customers, Iliff said the Doggie Parlour grooms pets available for adoption through Santa Barbara County Animal Services—a simple service that helps some pups find long-term homes. Iliff said it’s a great place to go if your dog is looking a little ruff. 

Runner-up: That’s FETCH!



Best Place to Get a Tattoo/Piercing

Copper Coffin Tattoo

104 Chapel St., Santa Maria

Getting fresh ink on your body can be fun or intimidating, but the artists at Copper Coffin Tattoo work to make their clients feel comfortable. 

“We’re pretty laid-back people. We like to joke around because getting a tattoo puts stress on the mind and the body, so we like to help people feel at ease and enjoy the experience,” manager Daisy Franko said. 

Franko said the artists never turn down any idea or sketch that comes through the door; instead they work with their clients to figure out placement and detail. Walk in the shop any given day and while everyone is working and talking, the music genre can vary from country, jazz, or rock, so everybody has a good time during their appointment. 

Runner-up: Upper Room Tattoo Company



Best Jewelry Store 

Melby’s Jewelers

1140 E. Clark Ave., Orcutt

Mark Melby is 67 years old and he’s carried on his grandfather’s business of what he calls celebrating people’s events. 

“I had a guy come in to buy a 50th anniversary gift, because when a customer comes in to shop, it’s for their special occasion,” Melby said. 

Currently, he and his two sons work in the shop, which would make it four generations of Melby’s taking care of the gem. Aside from providing a unique selection of rings, bracelets, and earrings to choose from, the shop prides itself on customer service. Melby said that if someone needs a delivery or their item gift-wrapped, Melby’s Jewelers is the place to go. 

Runner-up: Fischer’s Fine Jewelry



Best Place for Gifts

Company’s Coming

1108 E. Clark Ave., suite 140, Orcutt

Marty Willey opened Company’s Coming on Cinco de Mayo in 1978, and since that day, she’s never looked too far down the road or in the rearview mirror. 

“I was going to do this for five years,” she said. “Then I was going to do it five more, and then five more. I think it’s the support of the community that’s allowed me to be in business this long.”

From birthdays to weddings, Company’s Coming has something interesting and thoughtful for any occasion. Willey carefully selects her offerings to keep the store fresh and diverse. 

“I carry some main brands, and I also have exclusives—so you’re not going to see it everywhere you go,” she said. “I think people like that. They know they’ll find something unique.”

Runner-up: A La Carte

—Peter Johnson


Best Hardware Store

Oak Knolls Hardware

1155 E. Clark Ave., Orcutt

The ability to make a pit stop at a quality, independent hardware store is something every town appreciates. It’s about that combination of great products and caring customer service to help with enhancing your home or fixing that broken something. It’s what Oak Knolls Hardware in Orcutt provides for residents of Northern Santa Barbara County, earning the loyalty of Sun readers. “As an independent dealer, we can provide many services that the big box chain stores just can’t match,” the store’s website states. Equipment comes fully assembled and ready to use. If you’re a beginner, staff can do a safety demonstration so you don’t chop a finger off with that new chainsaw!

Runner-up: Guadalupe Hardware Co.



Best Home and Garden Store 

Old Town Garden Center

125 S. Broadway St., Orcutt 

Thinking about redoing the landscape of your home or just redecorating your backyard to entertain family and friends? Sun readers agree that Old Town Garden Center is the place to go. Veronica and David Curiel are the proud owners of the retail gift shop and nursery since 2008. Veronica said their staff offers design consulting to customers looking to spruce up their living space with some greenery. 

“My husband is a landscape contractor, so he’s always had a passion for plants,” she said. “That’s what inspired us to open up a retail location, and we felt like it was needed in old Orcutt.”

Runner-up: Whispering Tree Nursery



Best Real Estate Company

Berkshire Hathaway, Santa Maria

2605 Miller St., suite 101, Santa Maria

In 2014, Berkshire Hathaway came to Santa Maria after it purchased the real estate division of Prudential, and it’s helped locals buy houses and tracks of land big and small ever since. Part of Warren Buffet’s multinational holding company, the staff at Berkshire Hathaway, Santa Maria, is much of the same team that has served locals for decades, Branch Manager Pat O’Brien told the Sun.

“A lot of the agents here in the office have been here for years, they haven’t moved, they’ve stayed in one place,” she said. “They’re serious about their job and about helping people find their lifelong dream home.”

Runner-up: Mint Properties, Santa Maria



Best Customer Service 

Central Coast Orthodontics 

1311 Miller St., suite 201, Santa Maria

Central Coast Orthodontics first viewed their patients’ teeth under a dental lamp in August of 1995. Today there are 18 people running the show including the orthodontists. Angie Hess is in charge of human resources for the practice, and she said working in orthodontics is really rewarding because it’s a fun, fast-paced, technically and artistically challenging line of work.

“The best thing about going to work and the real reason why we love our jobs is the excitement that comes from seeing changed smiles, changed lives, and new opportunities that develop for our patients through this process,” Hess said. 

Runner-up: Vivid Financial Management



Best Electrician

Ever-Ready Electric

1010 W. Betteravia Road, suite F, Santa Maria

When there’s an issue with the electricity in your home, it’s not an problem to be taken lightly. The team at Ever-Ready Electric knows that full well, which is why they train literally every day, owner Frank Culley told the Sun.

“I would venture to say electricity is the most dangerous thing in anybody’s home,” Culley said. “We specialize in residential and commercial repair and service … and we’re really good at troubleshooting and finding problems.”

Ever-Ready Electric has been in business in the Santa Maria Valley for nearly 40 years and is family owned, Culley said, with his wife, Pat. He said that local customers are their “most important asset,” and that all of Ever-Ready’s work comes with a five-year warranty.

“That’s how proud of our work we are,” he said.

Runner-up: Smith Electric Service



Best Landscaper 

Cullen Landscaping


Craig Cullen doesn’t advertise, and throughout his 25 years owning Cullen Landscaping, nearly all of his clients have discovered his business through the grapevine. Because his livelihood depends on referrals, Cullen said, “my No. 1 thing is communication.” Whether customers reach out via email, text, call, or social media, Cullen said he always tries to respond within a half hour. And he’s not picky about the job. It could be commercial, residential, irrigation, a cleanup, a fencing repair, concrete—he’ll take it, and he’ll give seniors and members of the military a discount, too. 

“No job is too small or too big,” Cullen told the Sun. 

Runner-up: Nishimori Landscape & Design 



Best Contractor

Diani Companies

351 N. Blosser Road, Santa Maria

When you look around the Santa Maria Valley and the greater Central Coast, it might not dawn on you how much of it was built by a group of companies owned by the Diani family. A.J. Diani Construction Co. and the Diani Building Corp., collectively known as Diani Companies, haven’t just made history in the area, they’ve built it. From the parking garage at Santa Maria’s library to launch facilities on Vandenberg Air Force Base, Diani Companies build nothing but solid, quality structures.

“We are honored to have been selected,” Jason Diani told the Sun via email. “As we enter our 70th year in business on the Central Coast, this is most certainly a wonderful momentum builder to begin our celebration.”

Runner-up: Vernon Edwards Constructors



Best Plumber

Jack’s All-American Plumbing

2011 Preisker Lane, suite A, Santa Maria

Cars are meant to go VROOM. Pipes on the other hand … not so much. That’s where Jack’s All-American Plumbing comes in. This year marks the 12th in a row that Jack’s has snagged the award for Best Plumber in Northern Santa Barbara County. 

“The most important part of our business is our team. We have the best group of plumbers,” Jack Bingham told the Sun, who co-owns the company with his wife, Becky. 

The Binghams have been combatting backed-up sewer lines, drain stoppages, slab leaks, and other atrocities in Santa Maria since 1991. 

“We’re not leaving anytime soon,” Jack said. “We’re long-term, and we’re here to stay!”

Runner-up: Curt’s Plumbing & Heating Repair



Best Furniture/Décor Store

Sergio’s Furniture

708 S. Broadway, Santa Maria

After a nine-year stint in Las Vegas, Sergio’s Furniture is back in town! Sergio, the owner, decided last year to race back to the city where he grew up and had opened a furniture store back in 1990.

“I got a little 6-year-old and I wanted him to be raised around here. I’m related to like half the town,” he joked. 

And it’s as if he never left. Sergio is once again the local favorite offering the latest trends in furniture, stocking East Coast pieces that “nobody has in the area.” He likes to make sure customers are “always taken care of and finding what they need.”

“Thank you for remembering who I am,” Sergio told Sun readers.

Runner-up: A La Carte



Best Carpet/Flooring Company

G & S Carpet

222 E. Donovan Road, Santa Maria

G & S Carpet’s nearly 70 years of business longevity and team of career sales people combine to make one hell of a carpet and flooring juggernaut in Northern Santa Barbara County. With its 25,000 square-feet of store space, diverse options, and next-day installation offers, G & S can make just about anything happen—including free measuring and estimates. 

“The attraction is you can come in, pick something, and get it installed in the next day or so. We’re really accommodating,” said owner Sharon Hamblan, who added that luxury vinyl tile is what’s flying off the shelves this year. “It’s the new thing right now.”

Runner-up: Abbey Carpet & Floor




Best Day Trip 

Cruising Copenhagen
For Northern Santa Barbara County residents, Solvang is just a quick drive away to enjoy a full day of food, drink, and artful attractions all within a picturesque, walkable downtown. A world-renowned tourist destination, Solvang was voted Best Day Trip by Sun readers this year.


Solvang, California

Between traveling for fun and commuting to work, Tracy Farhad said people spend too much time in their cars these days. Fortunately, Farhad, executive director of the Solvang Conference and Visitors Bureau, said Solvang is totally walkable. With 35 restaurants, five museums, five bakeries, and several tasting rooms all within a five-block radius, Farhad said Solvang provides the perfect opportunity to just park your car, get out, and walk around. 

“Especially for the Santa Maria area, we’re so close but we feel like a world away,” Farhad said. “So it feels good to get away from the norm. And Solvang is a great escape.”

Runner-up: Los Olivos 

—Kasey Bubnash


Best Place To Go On A First Date

Presqu’ile Winery

5391 Presquile Drive, Santa Maria

Before taking that special someone out for a cruise to Lover’s Lane, stop by Presqu’ile Winery for a great first date adventure. 

“Wine is inherently romantic,” Estates Manager Cameron Porter said. “When it’s coupled with ocean views and perfect weather, it’s hard to go wrong. Presqu’ile has a variety of spaces as well, so whether you want to be part of the crowd or enjoy an intimate tasting on our outdoor patio, we have a lot of great options to build a date around. We also feature live music every Friday, adding to the ambience.”

Runner-up: Rancho Bowl

—Rebecca Rose


Best Place for a Big Bash

Party at the Elks
Whether it’s an intimate sendoff or a party with several hundred heads, the Santa Maria Elks Lodge 1538 is the place that locals turn to for their celebration, earning it the top spot for Best Place for a Big Bash.

Santa Maria Elks Lodge 1538

1309 N. Bradley Road, Santa Maria

Looking for a place to host your dream wedding? Searching for some space for your next high school reunion? Maybe you want to host a big business meeting? Whatever kind of shindig you’ve got in mind, the Santa Maria Elks Lodge 1538 is the place to have it.

The lodge in Santa Maria, which is one of more than 2,000 nationwide, has got facilities to accommodate any type or size of get-together. One large room can host up to 500 people and is dividable. Another room can host up to 125. The place has a private bar where your guests can sip on beer, wine, and cocktails as well as a dance floor where partygoers can get their boogie on.

Elks members can rent the facilities, and they are also open to the public, but only by sponsorship of an Elks member, according to the lodge’s website.

Runner-up: Santa Maria Inn

—Chris McGuinness


Best Place to Have a Kids Party

Rockin’ Jump

215 Town Center East, Santa Maria

Santa Maria’s Rockin’ Jump Trampoline Park, is home to 17,000 square-feet of bouncing, climbing, and rollicking fun. The business, founded by Craig Smith and Casey Klajbor, has barely been open a year and already netted accolades and high praise from parents and kids. 

“Seeing the look on these kids’ faces and how much fun they are having really makes it worthwhile,” Casey Klajbor told the Sun. “Especially here in Santa Maria, because there really isn’t much else in this town for kids to do with their families, so being able to bring something like this to the area is awesome.”


Boomer’s Santa Maria

—Spencer Cole


Best Quinceañera Resource 

Angelita’s Fashion & Jewelry 

1130 E. Clark Ave., Santa Maria

The fiesta de quince años, or a quinceañera, is a celebration in the Latin culture that not only commemorates a girl’s 15th birthday, but it also signifies a rite of passage—womanhood. Being a young woman on the brink of entering the adult world is powerful. Angelita’s Fashion & Jewelry is the place to visit to make that statement, to command the room with a beautiful coral strapless ball gown. Or maybe you’re a more traditional, elegant female and you’d rather opt for a white dress with sky blue trimmings. The boutique has it all, from the dress to the tuxedos for the chambelanes. Even if you’re just looking for a last-minute alteration, Angelita’s has you covered so you can rock this world.

Runner-up: Casa Blanca Bridal

—Karen Garcia


Best Place for Formal Attire

Just married
Whether you’re driving off into the sunset or pulling up to your first prom, Casa Blanca Bridal is the place locals choose to look their spiffiest on the big day. The family owned and operated business in Santa Maria won Best Place for Formal Attire from Sun readers this year.

Casa Blanca Bridal

901 N. Broadway, Santa Maria

Casa Blanca Bridal’s staff is always busy, and even though owner Maria Martinez was in the middle of fitting a pair of tuxedos, she told the Sun that her family owned and operated business is always focused on the customer. That’s why Casa Blanca won Best Place for Formal Attire this year—locals know they can rely on Martinez and her family to make them look their best for a quinceañera, prom, wedding, or baptism ceremony.

“We try to help them the best way we can and make sure their tuxedos and dresses fit the best way they can,” Martinez said. “We give them the time they deserve.” 

Runner-up: Angelita’s Fashion & Jewelry

—Joe Payne


Best Flower Shop

Back Porch Flowers

4850 S. Bradley Road, Orcutt

Sometimes the best things are hidden a little beneath the surface. At least, that’s certainly the case for Owner Huong Hopp of Back Porch Flowers. 

“Most people don’t know about us, we’re kind of tucked away,” she said. “We’re known for customer service and our designs, and we love our regulars.”

Hopp said the store had been named best flower shop before, but this year’s distinction is special after 13 years of being in the business. They help out with arrangements big and small, from bouquets to services for weddings or funerals.

“We love our community,” she told the Sun, “so it’s always an honor to be recognized.” 

Runner-up: Flower Carriage 



Best Car Show/Club

West Coast Kustoms Cruisin’ Nationals

937 S. Thornburg St., Santa Maria

Vroom, vroom! Listen to the rumble of big engines as a parade of chromed out and candy-colored classic cars rolls into Santa Maria in late May for the West Coast Kustoms Cruisin’ Nationals car show.

The three-day event is a celebration of classic, pre-1961 American-made automobiles. Festivities include a Friday night cruise on Broadway, a “show and shine” car show, and a Sunday swap meet. While you are there checking out all the cool cars, hard-core gearheads can meet legends of the Kustom Kar world and check out a huge variety of vendors.

Santa Maria has been home to the show for the last 10 years, and it will return to the city in 2019, according to West Coast Kustoms Co-President Penny Pichette.

“We will definitely be back,” she said. “Santa Maria is our home.”

Runner-up: Santa Maria A’s All Ford Car Show



Best DJ

Jay Turner

Santa Maria

You might know Jay Turner from Sunny Country 102.5, or as the winner of Best Media Personality this year, but he is also available as a live DJ for weddings and other events. It’s something he’s done for decades as a supplement to his radio career, Turner told the Sun, and he’s known more for providing quality music with a professional flair than mashups and beat matching.

“I play really good music, and I segue it like I do on the radio,” he said. “I’m tasteful and classy, and I don’t mean to sound full of myself, but I’m a bit of a high-end guy, which I think you’d expect because I’m on the radio.”

Runner-up: DJ Sol



Best Caterer

Testa Catering 

2218 S. Thornburg St., Santa Maria

Testa Catering, established in 1983, stands on the foundation of Martin and Debi Testa’s combined 75 years of experience in the restaurant and catering worlds. 

“Using red oak indigenous to the Central Coast, Testa Catering has a proprietary style for splitting the whole top sirloin, making our barbecue the best on the Central Coast,” Debi said. “You meet so many people from all over that you would otherwise never know, and wonderful relationships have been formed.”

Runner-up: Field to Table Catering & Events



Best Place to Put Up 

Visiting Family

Santa Maria Inn

801 S. Broadway, Santa Maria

Whether they’re cruising into town for a car show, or just popping in for a visit, the Santa Maria Inn is just about the best place you could buy a room in town. At least, that’s what the Sun’s readers believe. The iconic inn turned 100 years old last year, General Manager Ryan Swack said, and also includes a full restaurant, bar, wine cellar, and rooms decked out with flat screen TVs and high-speed internet.

“I think we provide world-class hospitality,” Swack said. “We’re a historic property with modern amenities and just outstanding customer service.”

Runner-up: Radisson Santa Maria



Best Pet Sitter or Boarding

Polished Pet 

3850 Highway 101, Santa Maria

For 24 years, the names Benita Dale and Nancy Smith have been synonymous with animal care. Their company is right on the east side of Highway 101 and provides overnights, daily visits, grooming, and even adoptions.

Polished Pet has won runner-up for this award several times, but this marks their first year being voted best in North County. 

“We are actually thrilled to pieces that we won,” Dale told the Sun. “We’re happy people enjoy bringing their pets to us. We think of them [the animals] like they are ours when they are here. We are kind of small potatoes—a mom- and-pop operation—we don’t have a computer, we just take care of animals.”

Runner-up: Lucky Dog



Best Health Club/Gym

Western Village Health Club 

2015 S. Broadway, suite B, Santa Maria 

For fitness on a budget with plenty of amenities to boot, gym enthusiasts should look no further than Western Village Health Club in Santa Maria. With nine years in the business of health under its belt, the local gym only charges $23 to $35 a month for membership fees but makes sure all the essentials are provided for their clients.

“It’s the largest, cleanest health club with the most equipment available,” gym manager Ryan Bush told the Sun, so it’s no wonder why Western Village really revs the engines of locals who voted the business Best Health Club/Gym. 

Runner-up: Anytime Fitness

—Ryah Cooley


Best Martial Arts Gym 

Rolling and tumbling
Paragon of Santa Maria teaches Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and other combat styles, earning the business the title of Best Martial Arts Gym this year. Pictured: Instructor John Letters, center right, and student Tony Soto, center left, demonstrate grappling moves at Paragon.

Paragon of Santa Maria 

2349 A St., Santa Maria 

While many talented and hardworking adults attend Paragon of Santa Maria, owner Lance Glynn said he works hard to keep his programs open and affordable for local kids of all ages. 

“I think one of the main reasons we stand out is we put most of our effort into our kids program here,” Glynn told the Sun

Kids in Santa Maria, Glynn said, are up against a lot—drugs, gangs, bullies—and he said keeping them active and busy often steers them out of trouble. More than 130 kids ages 4 to 13 are enrolled at Paragon of Santa Maria, and Glynn said they take regular classes and participate in various competitions. And the best part? His classes are cheap. 

“I didn’t start this for the money,” Glynn said, “it’s my passion.”

Runner-up: Rising Sun Martial Arts Academy 

—Kasey Bubnash


Best Health Food/Vitamin Store

For high performance
Locals who want to really fire on all cylinders take a spin to Lassen’s Natural Food & Vitamins to stock up their favorite fuel.

Lassens Natural Food & Vitamins 

1790 S. Broadway, Santa Maria 

Options may seem limited for the health conscious shopper in Santa Maria, but thankfully there’s Lassens Natural Food & Vitamins to help fill the gap.

“We offer some unique items, stuff you don’t see in conventional grocery stores,” store manager Kyle Staley said.

In addition to the usual crunchy staples like organic kale, tofu, and quinoa, shoppers can also enjoy locally made Whalebird Kombucha and can chow down on vegan, gluten-free baked goods from the LA-based Karma Baker.

“They offer these cupcakes that taste just like Hostess cupcakes,” Staley said.

Runner-up: Vitamin & Herb Store



Best Place for Skin Care 

Get the treatment
Cruising down Highway 101 all day can leave you sun-kissed and windswept, but InSPArations, winner of Best Skin Care, will leave you feeling refreshed and replenished. They also won Best Place to Get a Massage, so don’t leave without a good back rub.


130 E. Clark Ave., Orcutt

At InSPArations, customers can feel comfortable knowing that only the most experienced and highly trained staff are providing skin care. Owner Sheila Gibilisco said she provides her staff with continuous training and and education to keep them up to date on the latest and best techniques for skin care. 

“Our reputation is really good,” Gibilisco told the Sun.

InSPArations offers a variety of skin treatments, including chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and several types of facials. A crowd favorite, Gibilisco said, is InSPArations’ teen facial, which is a specialized treatment aimed at helping teens who are struggling with acne.

Runner-up: Dr. Michael W. Moats, Moats Laser and Skin Care 



Best Place to Get A Massage 


130 E. Clark Ave., Orcutt

InSPArations has been providing Orcutt residents with full spa services for about 15 years, but owner Sheila Gibilisco said the company wins Best Massage nearly every year. “Which is awesome,” she told the Sun. It’s her highly trained and experienced massage therapy staff that Gibilisco said keeps her business ahead of the pack. InSPArations offers a variety of relaxing custom massages. Whether it’s hot rock or cupping, for a half hour or an hour and a half, Gibilisco said her employees know how to keep customers happy and relaxed.

“It feels awesome to know that we can help the community out with the services we offer and that we’re consistent,” she said.

Runner-up: Orcutt Massage 



Best Yoga Studio 

Yoga 4 Mankind 

130 N. Broadway St., suite B, Orcutt 

While other studios offer hard-core workouts, Yoga 4 Mankind is all about promoting health and wellness at a pace you’re comfortable with. Owner Vicki Forman said the studio offers private sessions, yoga school for beginners, hot yoga, and yoga on the ball. 

“We really mix it up,” Forman told the Sun, adding that the studio’s variety of classes brings in customers from all over Northern Santa Barbara County. “We’re trying to offer as many classes as we can, and we have awesome teachers.”

Classes aside, Yoga 4 Mankind also works to give back to the community. Forman said she’s taught yoga classes at Marian Regional Medical Center, Mission Hope Cancer Center, and she offers cat yoga—a class in which shelter cats stretch out with human clients and often get adopted in the process. 

“It’s really great,” Forman said. “It brings us closer to the community.”

Runner-up: Treetop Yoga 



Best Hike or Bike Trail

Orcutt Trails 


From sun up to sun down, seven days a week, walkers, joggers, hikers, bikers, horses, and (leashed) dogs can hit the Orcutt Trails to feel that endorphin rush and enjoy spending some time in nature. The 3.1-mile loop trail offers scenic views and is good for all skill levels. 

Bring a hat, water, plenty of poop bags for Rover, and prepare to enjoy a day out on the Orcutt Trails. Be sure to leave no traces and take only memories. 

Runner-up: Oso Flaco Natural Lake Area



Best Barbershop 

Old Orcutt Barber Shop 

156 S. Broadway St., suite A, Orcutt 

When customers pull up to the Old Orcutt Barber Shop, they get so much more than just a quality haircut. 

“The one thing we try to do is treat everybody as if they were family,” owner Alberto Licerio said. “People don’t come here just because we give a good haircut, it’s kind of like visiting family.” 

Customers might get a complimentary coffee, water, or beer, and along with it, a low-cost, high-quality new do or a fresh shave from a passionate and friendly barber.

“I didn’t become a barber to make a million,” Licerio said. “I just enjoy what I do.”

Runner-up: Beacon Barber Shop 



Best Hair Salon

The Hair Lounge

3420 Orcutt Road, suite 102, Santa Maria

Getting a cut or color can be a huge decision that ultimately gives you the boost of confidence you’ve been looking for. Stylist Chantel Ortega said the owner of The Hair Lounge, Ana Cheadle, is the leading lady who created just the space for women and men to keep up with the latest trends in beauty. She has built a great team that specializes in cuts and styling, color, and extensions. 

“There are 10 of us that work together,” Ortega said. “It’s really the family that we have created that makes us to excited to walk through that door every day and keep our clients current on the latest fashion and beauty trends.”

Runner-up: Trends Salon 

—Karen Garcia


Best Nail Salon

Tips and Toes

104 N. Concepcion, Santa Maria

There’s nothing like a bottle of Go For Gold or Pink Punk to let the world know you’re ready for some fun. The perfect place to get fun colors that match your personality, special occasion, or the new paint job on your hot rod is Tips and Toes in Santa Maria. With a vast selection of colors and design services, this nail salon will meet your manicure desires in a relaxing and full service environment. C’mon, who doesn’t like getting pampered and having a new set of clean, fresh, and funky nails? Nail color can mirror the feelings of the person wearing them to show off their most vibrant self, like all those who voted Tips and Toes as Best Nail Salon this year. 

Runner-up: Queen Nails & Spa



Best Tanning Salon 

Bikini’s Optional 

2043 S. Broadway, Santa Maria 

Whether you’re a man or woman, clothed or not, Bikini’s Optional staffers strive to make Santa Maria’s favorite tanning salon a clean and comfortable place for all, according to owner Alexandra Rosario. And although Bikini’s Optional has high-powered beds, Rosario said a tan at Bikini’s Optional is affordable, too. Though Rosario said her tanning salon has only been open for a little more than year, Bikini’s Optional has gained major local attention for its Mystic HD spray tan machine, which allows tanners to choose from a variety of shades and bronzers. While most spray tans take about 30 minutes, Rosario said the Mystic HD is done in five! 

Runner-up: Tanner’s Cove 



Best Dentist

Dr. Douglas Ng

195 N. Thompson Ave., Nipomo

Santa Maria-area residents love Dr. Douglas Ng’s dental practice so much they’re willing to vroom across the Santa Maria River bridge to Nipomo for it! The Southern California native is celebrating his 10th year serving the Central Coast this year, and he has multiple Best Of accolades to show for it. Dr. Ng says he utilizes state-of-the-art equipment to “ensure your experience will leave you with a beautiful, bright, clean, and healthy smile,” per his website. He also has a philanthropic streak: Dr. Ng has traveled to Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America to provide dental care to the underserved.

Runner-up: Dr. Vilma Sams

—Peter Johnson


Best Orthodontist 

Central Coast Orthodontics

1311 Miller St., suite 201, Santa Maria

Central Coast Orthodontics is in the business of changing lives one smile at a time. What makes business and its team so sought after is the way they tend to their patients, said Angie Hess, head of human resources. 

“It’s the personalized way we treat people from start to finish and that we genuinely care,” she said. 

Aside from the services and the 23 years of experience, it’s also the atmosphere that the orthodontists at this practice bring to the table. 

“We often hear our people say, ‘Wow, we’ve never been in an office like this before,’” Hess said. 

Runner-up: Dr. Kalfred G.S. Chun



Best Doctor 

Dr. John Okerblom

915 E. Stowell Road, Santa Maria 

Dr. John Okerblom has been in practice in Santa Maria since 1982. Okerblom, who now works at one of five Central Coast Family Care offices in Santa Maria, is highly trained and experienced. He once served as Marian Regional Medical Center’s chief of staff, according to his website, and is board certified in family practice. He is married, has two children, and enjoys hiking, biking, and skiing, and obviously, helping locals with their health needs. 

Runner-up: Dr. Robert Okerblom



Best Chiropractor 

He’s got your back
If your back is super stiff after a long drive, locals recommend a visit to Dr. Aaron Anaya and his business Anaya Chiropractic and Sports Injury, which won Best Chiropractor in this year’s Best Of.

Dr. Aaron Anaya, Anaya Chiropractic & Sports Injury 

338 E. Betteravia Road, Santa Maria 

It’s just Dr. Aaron Anaya and two other employees at Anaya Chiropractic & Sports Injury, and it’s been that way since 2006, so it’s easy to see how Anaya’s doctor-patient relationships have become intimate. 

“They’re treated as family,” Anaya told the Sun. “Our practice is based on trust.” 

Whether he’s helping patients with sports physicals, nutritional advice, or chiropractic services himself, or steering patients toward another specialist, Anaya said he and his employees always try to focus on what’s best for the patients. 

“It feels so nice,” Anaya said. “It feels like a blessing to be able to give the community what they want.”

Runner-up: Dr. Wayne Miller, Miller Chiropractic




Dr. Mitchell Adler 

1300 E. Cypress St., suite B1, Santa Maria 

As one of the few remaining independent OB-GYNs—and the only in Santa Maria—Dr. Mitchell Adler’s services have a personal feel. It’s not easy to operate without the help of a large clinic or hospital—hours are long and money can be tight—but Adler said it’s really the only way he knows how to do business. He sees every patient himself, delivers each and every baby himself, and that, he said, is vital to his practice. 

“I think that’s important to have a personal touch,” Adler told the Sun. “I think patients benefit from that, especially with something as personal as having a baby.”

Runner-up Dr. Elaine Yin 



Best Pediatrician

Dr. Robert Barry

1420 Miller St., suite A, Santa Maria

I’m proud to say that Dr. Robert Barry, this year’s winner of Best Pediatrician, was my pediatrician growing up. Childhood memories can be hazy, but I still remember the periodic visits to his office. From my experience, which I’m sure many Sun readers or their children share based on the win, Barry and his staff know kids. Aren’t waiting rooms stereotypically supposed to be either dreadful, boring, or both? All I remember were the toys! Pediatricians are required to adapt to the unique needs of various patients, that’s necessary. But giving kids something to look forward to when they visit, that’s pure class.

Runner-up: Dr. George Robertson

—Caleb Wiseblood


Best Alternative Healer

Santa Maria Valley Healing Rooms

3010 Skyway Drive, suite C, Santa Maria

Rick and Lori Taylor are the directors of the Santa Maria Valley Healing Rooms, a regional and global resource center where people come to receive healing, to pray, and be equipped for spiritual growth and personal ministry. The Taylors have been married since 1978 and they serve as the divisional directors for North America as well as the national directors of the United States for the International Association of Healing Rooms. Upon visiting the center, you’ll find personal prayer ministries providing more intimate care and counsel. It’s a nonprofit organization that specializes in healing, prayer, and equipping ministries that provide unique training opportunities for people from all denominations. 

Runner-up: Dr. Herb Kandel



Best Counselor/Therapist 

CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation) 

Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Lompoc

CALM first opened its Santa Maria Valley location in 2010, and since then, CEO Alana Walczak said the organization has built strong relationships with community members and other service providers in the area. CALM provides nationally recognized, evidence-based treatment that has proven effectiveness in improving the lives of traumatized children, Walczak said, or in preventing abuse from occurring. 

“We really use evidence-based treatment modalities,” Walczak told the Sun, “so in the work we do with children and adults, we’re really using the gold standard for those who have experienced trauma.” 

That plus a tremendously passionate staff led by Walczak, and you’ve got a winning treatment provider.

Runner-up: E.W. Skip Purper, LMFT 



Best Senior Living Community

Country Oaks Care Center

830 E. Chapel St., Santa Maria

Finding the right place for an aging family member who needs constant care can be a daunting prospect, but many locals trust the kindhearted caregivers at Country Oaks Care Center in Santa Maria. Founded 27 years ago by owners John Henning, a Ph.D. psychologist, and his wife Sharon, who has a degree in recreational therapy, Country Oaks overflows with positivity. Residents listen to music, dance, play table games, and feed birds in a small menagerie in the sunlit lobby, all while receiving daily care tailored to their specific needs and abilities.

"We strive to provide residence-centered care for all of our residents to help them reach their highest level of functioning and help them maintain that," John Henning said. "It's important to keep their minds activated and their bodies functioning. The whole person needs to be involved."

Runner-up: Merrill Gardens

—Joe Payne



Best Eco-Friendly Business

Go green
Hardy Diagnostics in Santa Maria won Best Eco-Friendly Business this year for a number of reasons, from programs that give incentives to employees to ride their bikes to work to solar panels to a window tinting that reduces energy use.

Hardy Diagnostics

1430 McCoy Lane, Santa Maria

Some businesses go the extra mile, and Sun readers recognize that Hardy Diagnostics does just that to make its operations as green as possible. The medical and microbiology supply company is certified by the county as a green business, founder Jay Hardy explained, for a number of reasons, from LED lights to low-flow toilets to solar panels.

The company also gives its employees incentives to use re-usable cups and even gives monetary credits for doing things like riding their bikes to work. There are also improvements to the company’s buildings that cut back on energy consumption.

“It makes good sense financially, but it’s good for the planet,” Hardy said. “We just have that philosophy of doing what’s right for the environment.”

Runner-up: Natural Cafe

—Joe Payne


Best Community Center/Nonprofit

Midas touch
There’s something for every senior citizen at the Oasis Senior Center in Orcutt, which won Best Community Center/Nonprofit and Best Place to Volunteer. There are health-minded activities like Tai Chi, led by Linda Laham (pictured center, back) to leisurely pursuits like card games and a ukulele band.

Oasis Senior Center

420 Soares Ave., Orcutt

The Oasis Senior Center’s members are so happy with the place, it’s all the nonprofit’s staff can do just to keep them from doing doughnuts in the parking lot! There are a ton of activities for the seniors including classes, music groups, games, support groups, and more. Community Engagement Coordinator Alicia Fails said that the selection by Sun readers as Best Community Center/Nonprofit is a welcome boost of support as the organization raises money for a new facility in Orcutt.

“We’re humbled,” Fails said. “We’re just a small nonprofit that’s growing. It’s great we got it last year, and to get it again this year, it just really surprised us.”

Runner-up: Rotary Club of Santa Maria



Best Man or Woman Behind the Badge 

Sheriff Bill Brown

Santa Barbara County 

Although Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown is the engine of the Sheriff’s Office, his deputies provide the fuel. Without his large group of staff and partners in crime (stopping), Brown said there’s no way the Sheriff’s Office could provide the multitude of community services it currently offers, including traditional law service, investigations, coroner reports, jail operations, and search and rescue services. 

“I’m very proud of the men and women in our agency and the great job they do,” Brown said. “It’s a team effort and I want to acknowledge them certainly as well.”

Runner-up: Rob Wallace, CHP

—Kasey Bubnash


Best News Source


Central Coast

When locals have finally cruised home at the end of the day and want an update on their community, they switch on KSBY News. The most watched local news station in Santa Barbara and SLO counties, KSBY broadcasts local reporting on weekday mornings and on the weekends during the evening.

“Our newsroom works hard every day to keep viewers in the Santa Maria Valley informed on what’s going on in the community, as well as everywhere around the world,” Brandon Downing, KSBY’s director of marketing, said via email. “This award is a testament of the 65 years of service KSBY has provided to the Santa Maria Valley and the outstanding local news coverage viewers have come to trust and expect.”

Runner-up: The Sun



Best Social Media Presence

Cubanissimo Cuban Coffee House & Cafe

4869 S. Bradley Road, suite 118, Orcutt

Cubanissimo Cuban Coffee House & Cafe co-owners Chrystal and Arqui Trenado spend a lot of time working on their social media presence on Facebook (facebook.com/CubanissimoCafe) and Instagram (@CubanissimoFoodTruck).

“Our most up-to-date cafe and food truck information is on Instagram and Facebook, including the location for the food truck, special events we are having, and the specials of the day,” Chrystal said. “We try to provide them with a personal experience. We make a point to be real on Instagram and make sure that our pictures are of real food just as we serve it. It’s a great way to see what we do.” 

Just remember not to scroll through their timeline when you’re driving in your classic drop-top.

Runner-up: DJ E Wreck

—Rebecca Rose


Best Kids After-School Program 

Honk for the Boys & Girls Club
No place feels as safe and nurturing as the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Maria Valley for parents who want to drop their kids off somewhere that gives activities, friends, and mentorship from a dedicated staff, all of which earned the organization Best Kids After-School Program.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Maria Valley 

Santa Maria, Guadalupe 

It’s no secret that the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Maria Valley offers quality kids programs at lower costs than anywhere else in Northern Santa Barbara County, according to CEO Jeremy Deming. Program fees are kept nominal, Deming said, and $100 gets each kid year-round, total access to Boys & Girls Club services. “That’s unheard of,” Deming told the Sun. Its unmatched costs, 10 club sites, and passionate staff are what draw roughly 7,000 kids to the organization each year. 

“What really makes us unique and what drives people to us is the staff members,” Deming said, “who are trained youth development professionals, who we invest heavily in, and who genuinely care about the kids and their futures.”

Runner-up: Santa Maria Valley YMCA 



Best Place to Volunteer

Oasis Senior Center

420 Soares Ave., Orcutt

The Oasis Senior Center is a beloved nonprofit in Orcutt (see Best Community Center/Nonprofit) that offers a ton of activities for local seniors, from dance or music lessons to classes. The center gets it all done with the help of a team of dedicated volunteers. Some are fellow seniors, Oasis Community Engagement Coordinator Alicia Fails explained, and other volunteers are younger, including high school-aged youth that bridge the generational gap to lend a hand. 

“We could always use more volunteers,” Fails said. “We have so many generous people here, but we could always use more volunteers. We always try to put that out there.”

Runner-up: Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)



Best Take-it-to-the-Man Local Activist

Ken McCalip

Santa Maria

Ken McCalip doesn’t necessarily see himself as a sign-waving activist. Really, McCalip  is a retired educator who was the principal at Casmalia Elementary School “during the toxic dump years,” he told the Sun. But while there, and ever since, he’s done what he can to raise awareness of environmental issues in Northern Santa Barbara County, especially in regards to Casmalia, including on the Opinion page of local papers like the Sun.

“I am way over three or four hundred  [op-eds] over the years, so it’s been a hobby for me,” he said. “I read, continuously, news and occasionally it strikes a nerve and I have to write a commentary. I research it carefully online, and read everything on the subject before I start.”

Runner-up: Andy Caldwell


Weekly Poll
How do you feel about Santa Maria's drive-in potentially closing for affordable housing?

I think it's a great option—no one goes to the drive-in anymore.
I'm fine with the closure because we need more affordable housing.
We need more affordable housing, but I don't want to lose the drive-in.
The drive-in is a staple in our community and it shouldn't be considered for a housing location.

| Poll Results

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