Where: 5995 Stagecoach Road (off Highway 154), 805-967-0066, coldspringtavern.com
What: A former stagecoach stop on the backside of the mountains with gourmet game and quaint coziness
How much? Breakfast $2.50-$8.50 Sat. and Sun. only; lunch $9.25-$12.75 daily; dinner $17.50-$28.50 for entrees after 5 p.m.; famous chili $3.75-$7.95
The dish: Romance runs rustic at the historic Cold Spring Tavern, an antique-laden, fireplace-heated restaurant in the oak-studded mountains behind Santa Barbara. The former 1860s stagecoach stop has been serving California comfort food – the tavern claims to have invented ranch dressing – and exotic meats like rabbit, boar, and venison to the masses since 1941. Weekend breakfast might mean wild game black bean chili omelette; lunch could be the biker friendly bar-b-q tri-tip sandwich; and dinner should be sauteed rabbit medallions, New Zealand lamb, or the latest fresh kill that they’re offering. With animal heads adorning the wooden walls and lanterns lighting your table, the place packs unbeatable charm, so it’s no wonder little has changed in more than 60 years. That reliability makes it perfect for couples, who come to reminisce over the years as their relationships grow.