A Weekend in San Juan Bautista, California

Delight in history and new eats.

A display outside Artsy Chica Boutique in San Juan Boutista, CA.
Browse the Artsy Chica Boutique.
Helynn Ospina

September/October 2021 Issue

Steeped in history and immortalized in Hitchcock’s Vertigo, the small frontier town centered around its 224-year-old namesake mission steps out with present-day diversions.

At first glance, Artsy Chica Boutique might look like a traditional Mexican folk art gallery. Yet peer closer, and you’ll discover artist-owner Monica Shearer cleverly melds her cultural heritage with American pop culture in fun, vibrant artworks such as pan dulce ornaments and paintings that merge Día de los Muertos  and Star Wars themes.

In a downtown tasting room dotted with local relics—old restaurant signs, antique mission benches—Brewery Twenty Five pours farmhouse beers crafted in their nearby brewery. (The tasting room is currently open on Saturdays from 1p.m. to 5 p.m.) Don’t miss the bright Citrinitas Fresas kettle sour made with strawberries from neighboring Coke Farm. This fall, a secondary locale will feature an outdoor beer garden with food trucks and a mini farmers’ market.

For dinner, most locals will point you to Inaka, a fetching Japanese restaurant helmed by beloved restaurant vets Janet and Yasuo “Chief” Sakaguchi. Regulars travel from across the region for hand-wrapped gyozas and hamachi-and-avocado-topped San Juan rolls served by three generations of the Sakaguchi family.

The gardens at San Juan Bautista Historic State Park.

Mission San Juan Bautista is California's 15th Spanish era mission.

Zack Frank / Shutterstock

Stroll three distinct eras at San Juan Bautista Historic State Park where restored buildings and gardens reflect California’s Spanish, Mexican, and Gold Rush years. During monthly Living History Days, the grounds come alive with costumed docents and cooking demos. Each September, enjoy an outdoor screening of Vertigo surrounded by structures featured in the film.

Named for owner Sarah Griss’s tabby cat, Lolla is a lunchtime fave thanks to from-scratch soups and hearty sandwiches such as the Mission Melt, with toasted ciabatta, oozy mozzarella, and a kalamata olive dipping sauce. Ask for a loaner blanket, and dig in at one of many adjacent parks.

Brisket, ribs, and baked beans on the table at Smoke Point BBQ & Provisions.

Fare from Smoke Point BBQ & Provisions.

Helynn Ospina

At his new restaurant, The Smoke Point BBQ & Provisions, Michelin-starred chef Jarad Gallagher dishes up down-to-earth hospitality alongside stellar smoked meats and veggies. The hopping dining space extends onto a yard dotted with two patio areas with picnic tables and chairs. On the menu, find crowd-pleasers such as a hard-shredded pork sandwich, smoky Brussels sprouts, and a bourbon old-fashioned with smoked okinawa kokuto sugar.

Freshly roasted pour-overs and house-made pastries draw a morning crowd to Vertigo Coffee Roasters whose machinery-filled space opens onto a verdant garden courtyard. The lively café stays buzzing into the night with wood-fired pizzas, sought-after local beers, and regular artist events.