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Jan 14, 2007 10:22 PM

Far Western Tavern and F. McClintock's--California Central Coast

I thought I'd report on the meat eating portion of my recent visit to the central coast. On our first night we ate at McClintock's and on the last at Far Western, which provided a great opportunity for comparison. Both places are serving steak "Santa Maria style", with western/cowboy themed decor, and a menu heavily focussed on meat and potatoes. Both places had friendly and helpful service without significant glitches.

At McClintock's, in Shell Beach, I ordered the 15 oz rib-eye, medium-rare (29.99 is what it says on their online menu, but I think it cost over 30.00). There is a clear attempt to boggle you with the shear quantity of food served to you here, which they did successfully. The steak comes with salsa, onion rings, "trail camp" beans, garlic bread, all you can eat ranch fried potatoes, and either dessert or after dinner liqueur.

The onion rings were entirely forgettable, though since I was hungry I ate more than a couple. The salsa was bland. The salad was fine but dull, with not entirely fresh greens and a lot of croutons. I don't think there was any tomato, onion or anything else on the salad that I can recall. My steak was cooked perhaps a shade more than medium-rare, closer to medium, but the meat was tasty and reasonably tender. I enjoyed it, but I wouldn't rave about it. I don't really care for beans, so won't critique the "trail camp" beans they make there (though my partner loved them). The skillet of ranch fried potatoes was incredibly salty and oily, but they were crispy and oniony, and I confess that I think they'd be great alongside some eggs for breakfast. The ice cream I had for dessert was also forgettable, and I should have passed on it--there's something about it seeming to be "free" that kept me from saying no.

All in all, the dinner was fine but not great. If it were a restaurant in the San Francisco/Bay Area I wouldn't go back, but I liked it just fine in the context of a vacation spot.

Far better, however, was the rib-eye I ordered at Far Western Tavern in Guadalupe. The steak was cooked perfectly, very tender and well marbled, and I really liked the seasoning they used on it. I ordered "a la carte", which meant that my steak came with a choice of potato/onion rings/polenta, and I ordered a small side salad. My partner ordered his steak as a full meal, which included beans, a shrimp cocktail, soup or salad, the above mentioned potato/polenta/onion ring choices, pinquinto beans, and grilled french bread. They served a plate of carrots/celery/olives with a bowl of salsa when we sat down. So they too suffer from the idea of boggling you with too much food, but I liked having a choice about whether or not to pay for all those extras. This a la carte steak cost ( think) about $22.00.

My partner liked his beans a lot, and seemed to enjoy his shrimp cocktail, but I didn't miss those things. My salad was just some lettuce, a sliced beet, and some croutons, so it wasn't much different than the salad at McClintock's. I ordered a baked potato, which came loaded up with sour cream and chives, and I enjoyed it more than the ranch fried potatoes of McClintock's. Their salsa did seem just as bland as McClintock's.

For cost, ambiance, and flavor I'd pick Far Western hands down over McClintock's, and it had the added benefit of being in Guadalupe, which feels like a town that time forgot.

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  1. Just a note" It is F. McLintocks, not McClintocks.

    I grew up out in the wilds of Santa Barbara county. Our special occasion restaurant was the Far Western. Do they still have cowhide curtains?

    1. howdy, we liked our visit to the Far Western,as well; if you tried their version of the deep fried onion blossom, that too would probably be in their favor, it's a gigantic sweet onion enough for four people to share. The house wine is central coast stuff with their own label, and the cab was very quaffable at a friendly price. snackish, the decor still features preserved steer parts. cheers

      1. I've always thought of McLintocks as a tourist trap with overrated food. If I want a nice Santa Maria style BBQ dinner the steakhouse at Madonna Inn is my choice. For good food minus the ambiance Jockos is also a good pick.

        1. I did read on the boards that Jockos was a good bet, so I guess that will be the place to try next time. Unfortunately, I thought I read about McLintocks on this board as well--but I could be wrong about that. I would agree with mliew's description of the place, now that I've been there.

          And I wish I could edit the original post to correct the spelling, but I don't seem to be able to.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jillyju

            hello, even with the help of c.coast hounds we didn't have many leads for lighter/healthier fare on our last trip so we trekked to Jocko's and compared it to our Far W.T. experience. Though they serve very similar fare, they're quite different in ambience--Jocko's more like a social club from the 50s, a little brighter and livelier. Somewhat surprised to find less of a wine/beer selection at Jocko's, but I'd inquired and knew the corkage was a mere $5 and we had a good red in the car. Overall, Jocko's prices seemed a little better for very close to the same quality, with our bias to having good wine to chase red meat,we're probably going to J's again. I'm sure others favor FWT's funky vintage building and decor; both places are thoroughly enjoyable. cheers

          2. I ate at the McLintock's in Arroyo Grande recently. My sister who lives here also thinks the one in Shell Beach is more a tourist trap, and that the Arroyo one is a little better, but you'd think the food is basically the same. With 3 resto's in the area, I'd think they would need regulars too. It's a plain unremarkable place. I had a tri tip sandwich which was super smokey but flavorful. Dry as usual with all the tri tip I've had around here. The salad was as you said...just edible but unremarkable. I liked the side of pinquito beans, they were smokey and had a bit of meat in them.

            She had a Top Sirloin (which she likes as much as anything) and opted for a baked potato with it.

            I don't expect much from this area, so I just order sandwiches. It was a weeknight dinner and we were just fine to going anywhere.

            I should mention that one place I have been very happy with the salad was at the Custom House in Avila Beach. I've only been for lunch a couple times. Once I wanted something light and ordered the House salad ($4.50) with bay shrimp added on ($4.00). The salad was great with a nice mix of super fresh romaine and baby lettuces, chick peas, grape tomatoes and fresh cucumber and red onions in nice viniagrette. They topped it with about 10 2-inch long super fresh perfectly cooked shrimp. Another time I had salad on the side of the sandwich and it was a huge pile of greens (half a plateful), and all the add ons. This time I ordered blue cheese dressing. Not only was it good, they sprinkled blue cheese on my salad too.

            3 Replies
            1. re: coconutz

              There are a lot of good places to eat on the Central Coast, the problem is that most of them aren't in Arroyo Grande. To get a good meal you usually have to go up to SLO although there are a few decent places in Pismo/Avila/Shell Beach.

              1. re: mliew

                please do share on what those decent places might be, thanks

                1. re: coconutz

                  Couple of my favorites in the Pismo/Avila/Shell Beach area:

                  Rosas (Italian) - Although it seems to be fairly popular and well known by the tourists the food here is quite good. I especially like the Veal Scallopini and asapargus wrapped in proscuitto appetizer.

                  Mei's (Chinese) - Normally when I'm at home on the Central Coast I avoid all asian food since what the area has to offer pales in comparison to anything in SoCal. However, Mei's is definitely an exception and is probably the best Chinese restaurant in the area IMO.