“What is a reata?” is the first question Bruce Pollock hears from many of his patrons walking through the door of the Ranch & Reata Roadhouse in Santa Ynez. As proprietor and general manager, as well as the host and deejay of the Range Radio country-music station, he’s happy to explain, over and over, because his passion is sharing the art and culture of the American West. Over a frosty pint of Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. Pilsner (made special for the restaurant and poured from a sterling silver tap), Pollock tells me the reata is a symbol of the vaquero, our own Central Coast brand of cowboy.
The vaqueros rode the mountainous ranges of the old Spanish land grants that made up Santa Barbara County. Combining Spanish cavalry training with rough-and-ready ranch riding, they crafted their own style of horsemanship and their own tack: hand-tooled saddles, bridles, and braided rawhide reatas, which are long ropes. Coiled reatas decorate Roadhouse’s walls next to silver-studded bridles and etchings by Edward Borein, a turn-of-the-century cowboy and artist who made his home in Santa Barbara. Lunchtime doubles as a lesson in Western art and craftsmanship.
Sitting at the 32-foot solid mahogany bar (inspired by the century-old bar at Oregon’s Hamley Saloon) two local men casually sip premium rum and high-quality whiskey while leaning back into brown-and-white cowhide barstools. They trade Santa Ynez Valley gossip and tell me they’ve come here for their midday drink every day since Ranch & Reata opened in mid August. The Roadhouse is already attracting regulars.
Denim-clad valley residents and visitors alike beat a path to the bar for bourbon, whiskey, and rye, cowboy-inspired cocktails, wine and craft beers on tap, and the 150-bottle wine list composed by sommelier and bartender Billy Dim. In true Western spirit, the featured winemakers are those who push the boundaries of their regions and varietals, like Dragonette Cellars, L’Aventure, Sea Smoke, and Tablas Creek. Dining is similarly adventurous, with entrées like the elk burger, buffalo ribeye with cheese grits, and smoked alligator tenderloin, all expertly barbecued by Chef Brian Anderson and other Mattei’s Tavern alumni.
In a small town with limited nightlife, Ranch & Reata Roadhouse is poised to shine — its 13-by-23-foot stage hosts classic country-music performers three nights out of the week, and Pollack streams each performance live from the Range Radio studio room just inside the front door. Every facet of this pioneering multimedia venture revolves around one goal: preserving the quickly disappearing heritage of the West. Restaurant, bar, live music venue, and country-music radio station, the Ranch & Reata Roadhouse wears many hats — most of them Stetson. n
Ride on up to Ranch & Reata Roadhouse at 3569 Sagunto Street, Santa Ynez. Call 805-691-9663, see ranchandreataroadhouse.com, and listen to classic country crooners in person or on Range Radio at AM 1410 (rangeradio.com).