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Juan Barajas Loves His Tight-Knit Community

Juan Barajas Loves His Tight-Knit Community

The Woodland restaurateur has plenty of great advice for anybody heading to this agriculture-forward Central Valley destination

Juan Barajas still remembers the first time he tried milk from a store-bought gallon container and pre-packaged tortillas. “Even as a kid, I thought, I don’t know about this…” he laughs. With a father in the crop-dusting business and a mother who made every meal from scratch, Barajas developed a love for extremely fresh and exceptional ingredients at an early age. “We’ve always been around agriculture,” he explains. “That’s one of the reasons we wanted to get into the restaurant business.” 

As the owner and operator of Savory Café in his native Woodland, Barajas has turned his passion for fresh produce into a career. “In this area, you can’t turn around without bumping into fields of food with a variety of different products,” he says. “Our wish is to have a restaurant that has a direct connection with the individuals growing our food, and also to educate people about what we use in our kitchen.” For Barajas, that means chilaquiles and huevos rancheros, just like his mother used to make with eggs fresh from a local boutique farmer, and daily specials with “whatever fresh is coming in the door.” 

Barajas says that delicious food, bucolic farmland, and a tight-knit community are only a few of the reasons he loves his hometown: “You’ll find a variety of things to do in Woodland—the only limit is figuring out what you’re looking for.” With a downtown that has boomed over the last 10 years, Barajas says there’s nightlife, architecture, museums, events, and award-winning wineries if you go a bit further afield. 

Get a taste of the Yolo County farm-to-fork lifestyle at some of Barajas’ favorite spots. For breakfast or lunch, Barajas is partial to Savory Café, where you can sit al fresco in the 270-square-foot greenhouse “under little cafe lights and among some citrus trees.” He also loves tacos from Maria’s Cantina (“my top two are their carnitas or their chile verde”); the Wednesday prime rib special from Kitchen 428; pastries from Zest Fresh (“I love their warm blueberry scones”); and wood-burning pizza from Main Street Lounge

Barajas says there’s plenty to do downtown—cocktails at Morgan’s on Main and a show at the Woodland Opera House are two of his personal favorites. But don’t leave Woodland without soaking up some beautiful views. “I would highly recommend going up to Capay Valley,” he says, explaining that you can find a trail to hike or simply enjoy the scenery along Highway 16. 

End the day with a glass of local wine. Barajas enjoys Matchbook and Turkovich in nearby Winters. Or, calendar permitting, you might be able to spend an evening at the appointment-only JDM Estate. He says, “That’s one of my particular places to go enjoy at sunset. It’s amazing sitting at their fire pit.”

Explore a few more of Barajas’ favorite spots to eat, sip, and play. 

Amazing views: “I would definitely go up to the golf club at the Cache Creek Casino Resort. They have incredible views with places to spend an evening with a glass of wine or an iced tea. It’s one of those little pockets that not a lot of people know about, but they have views of the whole Capay Valley. It’s almost majestic when you go up there to spend an evening. Everything is so green, you get a little bit of breeze in the evening, and you can see for miles.”

Awesome antiquing: “There are a couple of antique stores that you can go to downtown. One of my favorite places is The Nest where you can find anything from cookbooks to hand-crafted soaps and olive oils. There’s also Remember When Emporium and Main Street Antiques. I have an antique cream separator I bought at The Nest that we use at the restaurant when we get milk in from our cow share. It’s amazing to me that it’s 200 years old and still works great. ”

Best picnic spot: “There’s a rose garden right next to the library with a manicured landscape and little tags for people to identify the variety of roses and the different plants growing there. They have a couple of benches so you can bring a picnic and have a nice little evening.”

Grab a drink: “One of my favorite places to get a drink is Father Paddy’s, an Irish pub. For an insider tip: Do not miss their whiskey vault. Ask for Pat and he will have you in that vault tasting different things—it’s a whiskey class basically.”

Fun for kids: “Velocity Island Park has a wakeboard park and a private beach. They have a specific area that’s kid-friendly. It’s one of the largest wakeboarding parks and they are open all summer long and a couple of weekends during the fall and winter.”