The Nichols brothers, Matt & Jeff, grew up in Ames, Iowa where their love of cooking, good food and a sense of family and community was nurtured. In the summer of 1996, they opened the original Brothers Restaurant in Solvang, which they soon outgrew. In 2002, the brothers brought fine dining to Mattei’s Tavern and are proud to have been the caretakers of that venerable spot until they opened Sides Hardware & Shoes - a Brothers Restaurant in Los Olivos in 2012.
The 2013 opening of their second Santa Barbara Wine Country restaurant, Brothers Restaurant at the Red Barn in Santa Ynez, allows them to offer visitors and locals alike great food, wine and hospitality. The brothers strive to have legendary service, innovative “made from scratch” cuisine, and a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere that causes you to return time and again.
As brothers, family is important to Matt & Jeff, and with their restaurants they want to evoke that same feeling. Their staff feels the same, and they are proud that many of this extended family have been with them since they opened the first restaurant. History and a feeling of comfortable permanence is also a component to their philosophy – they want you to feel like you are coming to a favorite relative’s house for a celebration or a meal.
As chefs, the brothers continue to experiment with new dishes and cuisine, but always with that “from scratch”, homemade element. Fresh ingredients from local producers, a wine list that showcases the region’s award-winning wines and a comfortable and historically interesting atmosphere that takes you back to the romance of the old west. They want you to feel at home, and experience all the best of Santa Barbara’s Wine Country.
THE RED BARN
Matt and Jeff, along with Matt’s wife, Marta, collaborated in the refurbishing and interior design of Brothers Restaurant at the Red Barn with the assistance of local firms RPM Architects and Urquidez Building Corporation, utilizing artisans from Santa Ynez Valley.
With a fresh, de rigueur exterior of barn-red paint, the interior expresses the warmth of a local tavern, using clean lines and a rustic feel. Accented with oak, restored branded wood beams, a white paneled ceiling and wrought iron lighting, the L-shaped room is refreshed, with higher ceilings and massive glass windows that open the space. As before, there is an open display kitchen observing the chefs at work. Newly created for the restaurant is a glass-enclosed wine room flanking the dining room that co-exists with two wood-burning fireplaces preserved from the original Red Barn.
Firewood is supplied by the Agin Brothers, the family that has serviced the Nichols family with seasoned wood for ten years. Two wrought iron and rope chandeliers, hand crafted by local blacksmith Hans Duus, illuminate the room and are lighted with replicas of vintage Edison light bulbs, with more of the Edison-styled glass globes accenting the room. The walls are decorated with historical photographs of Los Rancheros Visitores, the club of local horsemen and ranchers dating back to 1929.
Salvaged during the construction was wallpaper discovered under layers of paint and paneling, beautifully illustrated with dancing girls, pistols, playing cards and saloons, now preserved, framed, and gracing the dining room walls. JC’s handsome bar was created by locals Scott and Chris Bruhn who used a felled pine tree salvaged from Figueroa Mountain to form the expansive bar top.
Originally built as a private residence, The Red Barn had a life as a Santa Ynez dance hall before becoming a restaurant. In its prime, The Red Barn was one of the two most famous restaurants in the Valley. The most well known of its owners were Lloyd and Clara Borkman who ran the restaurant as The Red Barn for 50 years before selling it and retiring. During the Borkman’s ownership, The Red Barn had a loyal following and was the defacto meeting place for the Valley’s ranchers.
In tribute to their parents’ history and memory, son Tom Borkman and his wife Judy presented Matt and Jeff Nichols with a painting of The Red Barn by Santa Ynez artist Deanna Jacobsen which is on permanent loan.