By Kenneth Harwood

Economist, Solvang Chamber of Commerce

Locals and visitors today have a wider choice of restaurants inspected and listed by American Automobile Association than they did nine years ago. Here is a record of changes.

Total restaurant listings in the four places grew by eight in nine years, or nearly one a year on average. Solvang gained 6, Buellton 2, and Santa Ynez 2, while Los Olivos lost 2.

Other eating places included restaurants, fast-food establishments, coffee houses, bakeries, and groceries. Some hotel bars served snacks and meals. Tasting rooms served snacks.

Two listed restaurants were ranked as four diamond in 2010, and two were so ranked in 2019. The two in 2019 were The Gathering Table at the Ballard Inn (listed in Solvang), and The Willows at the Chumash Casino Resort, listed in Santa Ynez. The other 24 listed restaurants of 2019 were ranked as two diamond or three diamond, None was one diamond or five diamond. 

Seven restaurants were listed in the four communities by AAA in 1988, 31 years ago. Buellton had 3, Solvang 3, Los Olivos 1, and Santa Ynez 0. More than three times as many were listed in the four places in 2019.

Dining away from home nearly recovered from the great recession of 2007-09 in recent years. About 39 percent of average household expenditures was for food away from home in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Such expenditures were 41 percent of spending in 2005, before the recession. Dining away from home seemed to have potential to increase, as the economy continued to grow.

Please see AAA TourBook of Southern California 2019 for details of current listings, and  AAA TourBook 2010 for listings then. Listings in 1988 were in that year’s Santa Barbara County guide by Automobile Club of Southern California. See U. S. Department of Agriculture’s online newsletter, Amber Waves, Sept. 27, 2018, for household spending on food away from home.