3400 E. Highway 246
Santa Ynez, CA
“Spectacular food in a comfortable, friendly atmosphere.” That’s how John Blair, Director of Fine Dining & Catering at the Chumash Casino, eloquently describes The Willows, the casino’s premiere restaurant.
Opened in July 2004 with the completion of the casino, The Willows serves up prime steaks, chops and seafood in a relaxing and elegantly appointed setting. Central Coast landscapes from local artists adorn the faux-painted walls. A fluted crystal vase brimming with fresh cut orchids creates a stunning centerpiece. Arched windows with expansive views of rolling hills, oak groves and grazing cattle offer appreciative views of Santa Ynez Valley. But it’s not just the scenery that entices visitors.
“All of our cuisine highlights the finest and freshest ingredients of the Central Coast,” says Executive Chef Anthony Minniti. “It is my continuing goal to consistently exceed guests’ expectation in relation to flavors, food, wine pairings and quality.” With the aid of John Blair, Minniti has created a distinctive menu that is sure to please. Sumptuous appetizers include roasted prawns with garlic Dijon scented maitre d’ butter, Santa Ynez Valley chardonnay and bread crumbs, pasta pillows filled with roasted butternut squash puree, and perfectly steamed clams in white wine, toasted garlic and shallots.
“Our exquisite fare can be easily paired with the perfect wine,” adds Blair, who has 20 years experience in casino dining. “We have an extensive selection of wine that is as impressive as the dinner menu.” The Willows has over 2,000 bottles on hand with eighty-five percent coming from local vintners. A full-service bar – the only bar on the premises – offers patrons the extra enjoyment of a pre-dinner martini or a fine cognac after dessert.
Second courses at The Willows range from a rich lobster bisque finished with chunks of sweet lobster, roasted onion soup topped with provolone and parmesan cheese, and a candied walnut salad with Santa Ynez onions, aged sherry vinaigrette and Point Rayes Blue Cheese.
“We can be a free-standing restaurant,” says Blair, who is proud of The Willows’ accomplishments in the fifteen months they’ve been open. “We’re that good…and so is Chef Minniti.” Arriving at The Willows from Fess Parker’s Vintage Room in Los Olivos late last year, Minniti introduced a new line of appetizers, entrees and desserts – espresso cheesecake from Carnegie Deli, crème brulee, and Chef Minniti's very own chocolate wedges with wild berry coulis – and upgraded the existing items on the original menu. The notable chef also makes a point to interact with guests. Whether they are seated in the main dining room, outside on the heated veranda, or nestled in one of the restaurant’s three private rooms, Minniti enjoys getting feedback, whether it’s on his prime filet mignon served with horseradish cream, chippolini relish and red wine reduction, his double bone-in pork chop grilled with a dried fruit compote and port wine, or his seafood lasagnette hand stuffed with lobster, scallops and prawns then braised in tomato broth, wrapped in spinach pasta and finished with a rich saffron buerre blanc.
Equipped with a state-of-the-art kitchen and a talented team of six chefs led by the veteran Minniti, The Willows invites you to experience culinary bliss inside the hottest casino in California.