Where to go in California, according to the woman behind some of the state's coolest places to stay.
Although she has opened several uber-hip motels and inns throughout California, Kenny Osehan wouldn’t call herself a hotelier, per se. She’s more like a preservationist, rehabbing old properties and giving them a new lease on life. Her first co-venture was The Presidio motel in Santa Barbara; now her Shelter Social Club portfolio includes the Ojai Rancho Inn and Chief’s Peak bar in Ojai, The Alamo Motel in Los Alamos, Hamlet Inn in Solvang, and the Agave Inn and Sama Sama Kitchen in Santa Barbara. Wherever she goes, a wave of creativity follows; that strong sense of community is what keeps Osehan plugging away. She’s also inspired by the state itself: “We are definitely privileged in California, having so many beautiful places at our fingertips.” What follows are some favorite destinations she always keeps top of mind.
“Los Alamos is a town [in the Central Coast] of about three blocks, but the food is great. I love going to Full of Life Flatbread for dinner. They change their menu weekly, everything is local, and a lot of it is from their own garden. The soup and flatbread pizzas are seasonal. When I go with my boyfriend, we order one of everything.
“Bob’s Well Bread Bakery [also in Los Alamos] is great for breakfast. I always get the Egg-in-a-Frame #1: an egg in the middle of a piece of bread with herb-roasted tomatoes and dry-aged goat cheese. I really like it with his delicious gluten-free Centennial bread.
“Further down the coast, I’ll stop at SY Kitchen in Santa Ynez for fresh pea salad or a salad made with octopus. And when we want to make our own meals, we go to Cookbook in Echo Park [Los Angeles]. It’s tiny but it’s got all the finest ingredients from California, like Kukuho Rose organic heirloom rice. The texture is fluffy and perfect; it’s the best I’ve ever had.”
Where to Drink
“I often find myself at the cocktail bar attached to the front of Cafe Stella [in Los Angeles]. I like to get the Norteño, a mezcal drink made with lime, jalapeño, cold-pressed cucumber juice, and orgeat. There’s also a cozy wine bar in the back of the restaurant, with an extensive wine list and a good mix of traditional and new producers. For natural wines, you can find a huge list at Botanica in L.A., which serves super-fresh Mediterranean-Israeli cuisine.”
Where to See (and Buy) Art
“I love going to Hauser & Wirth in Los Angeles. It’s a small gallery, but it has a nice outdoor courtyard, restaurant, and bar. I saw a Louise Bourgeois exhibition recently and discovered another inspiring artist named Geta Bratescu. Schindler House is another gallery I saw recently; they were having an exhibition of current L.A. artists, all really lovely. The building itself is an architecturally significant home, built in 1921. The intelligent design blends right in with the landscape.
“Ceramic art and brass sculptures are popular in Los Angeles right now. For brass, I love Alma Allen. He used to make bowls and candle holders, but now he’s doing big sculptures. For ceramics, Rebekah Miles is a dear friend of mine. She grew up in Carpinteria and lives in Ojai and comes from five generations of farmers. She makes bowls and other usable ceramics, sold exclusively at Nicky Kehoe in Los Angeles.”
Where to Unwind
“People go to a lot of yoga retreats in Ojai because there’s not much to do out there other than relax. Arrow Heart is an excellent yoga studio. There’s good biking and hiking trails, too, but nothing too challenging. Our hotel offers complimentary bikes, or you can rent them from The Mob Shop.”
“I love going north to Big Sur. It feels so lush out there, with such big and dramatic land. All you have to do is breathe the air in the redwoods to feel like everything’s going to be okay. It’s very healing. The Henry Miller Memorial Library is also up there, and sometimes it has live music. It’s so special to see shows under the stars, surrounded by redwood trees. I also like Big Sur Bakery. Get a breakfast pizza or some delicious pastries. It’s so authentic, you can tell someone has put a lot of love into that place.”