This French Bistro Is the Reason You Should Visit Los Alamos, California

This is Highly Recommend, a column dedicated to our very opinionated editors’ favorite things to eat, drink, and buy.

Driving through Los Alamos, California, is like watching an old Western film. There’s 1880 Union Hotel, where it looks like a bar fight could break out at any moment. There’s the tiny post office straight out of a set designer’s dream. It’s essentially the kind of town where you wouldn’t blink an eye if you saw a tumbleweed roll through the main (and only) street. Which is why I was so surprised to find Bell’s, an extremely charming and ultra delicious French bistro, smack in the middle of it.

So, uh, why open a French restaurant on a one-street town in California? Well, for starters, chef and co-owner Daisy Ryan is originally from the Santa Ynez Valley, where Los Alamos is located. She and her husband Greg Ryan (also a co-owner) recently moved back to the area after working together at Per Se to open Bell’s. Plus, thanks to other spots like natural wine bar Bodega and renovated motel Skyview Los Alamos, the area is quickly becoming a vacation spot for chill-seeking Los Angeles folks. And one New Yorker (me!).

When I visited Bell’s this past summer, I was blown away by it all (vibes, check; food, check; bathroom, check—really!). Here, in no particular order, are all the reasons I love it:

  1. The perfect appetizer DOES exist. And it’s tinned Spanish sardines (from La Brújula) with homemade saltines sprinkled with chives. *chef’s kiss*

  2. There’s a vintage French sardine recipe book by the bathroom. That’s a reason to visit.

  3. Okay, wait. Another perfect appetizer exists. We’re talking a sliver of crepe cake layered with crème fraîche and topped with caviar AND Santa Barbara uni. Decadent.

  4. The salads here aren’t afterthoughts. When I was there, the stone fruit salad had scarlet runner beans, aged cheddar, crunchy pistachios, and a tangy whole-grain mustard vinaigrette.

  5. Then there’s the moules frites. It’s a humble dish, that even if you’ve had it a thousand times, just tastes so much better at Bell’s. Maybe it’s the fresh Santa Barbara Hope Ranch mussels. Or the perfect garlicky, saffron-y broth. Or maybe it’s the freakin’ cute dish it comes in that says “Moules.” Either way, you’re ordering it.

  6. The fries are salty and McDonald’s-esque in the best way.

  7. The dense and super buttery gâteau Breton cake is the only way I’d like to end meals from here on out.

And, and, and!

Okay, I am pretty sure I’ve exceeded the word count allowed for this column, so here you go: Head to Los Alamos for the saloon vibes, stay for the moules frites (and all the things!) at Bell’s.

Go there: Bell’s

Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit