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Aug 27, 2008 08:14 AM

Why isn't Santa Maria BBQ on the menus?

Trying to track down a place to take a group in Santa Maria for BBQ I've picked up that Hitching Post, and Far Western are top choices. However, when I look at their online menus I see steaks but no BBQ. What am I missing?

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  1. Others will need to provide the specifics, but the general answer to your question is that Santa Maria BBQ is available at BBQs on the street (e.g., in parking lots, etc.) rather than in restaurants.

    It's kind of like Texas chili. A few years ago I used to go to Texas periodically to visit family & I couldn't figure out why that famous Texas chili couldn't be found at more restaurants & take-out spots. That's when I started to realize that some regional foods aren't "restaurant foods" but are, instead, foods that locals cook at home but don't necessarily go out for (or they cook them in parking lots only, or at festivals only). I think that's kind of what Santa Maria BBQ is.

    1. I am sure someone more eloquent (sp?) than me will chime in but, places like FWT, HP and Jockos all serve Santa Maria Style BBQ. It is just not listed as such on the menu, the steaks are SM style BBQ. It is cooked open over oak, and not smoked like Texas or memphis bbq.

      12 Replies
      1. re: littlestevie

        Yes, I agree with you. I think of it as more like a local cultural phenomenon. Each of the places you cite are very colorful as well. Do you think McClintock's in Pismo would qualify here?

        1. re: samse

          Our group will be staying at the Santa Maria Inn and I was trying to avoid a longe drive to dinner. The Inn offers a SM BBQ for groups of 30+ at $30/plate. This is a car club, and these days we can't predict how many will show up so we're trying to find someplace that won't require an up-front commitment. Far Western will let us order from the normal menu on individual checks and give us the Fireplace room. Never been there, but have read here that it's pretty nice.

          1. re: Jag_Man

            It's nice in a rustic, cowboy-themed (e.g. cowhides and longhorn horns on the walls), naugahide upholstery kindof way. Unless they've changed their decor recently.

            1. re: Jag_Man

              For what the Inn wants to charge you could have one of FWT's prime hunks o beef, which would be my choice, but if you've got your heart set on tri-tip.... I guess some of us here in central CA have had tri-tip up to our ears for years and prefer other cuts.

            2. re: samse

              In front of Smart and Final this past weekend- the Fillipino Church had a huge line for their bbq. It smelled so good! Why not grab a huge togo order and enjoy it at Waller Park, or Pioneer Park- the latter being just 10 minutes from the Smart and Final on Broadway!

              1. re: samse

                I agree with the mentioning of F.McLintock's. They use oak to cook up those steaks! Several restaurants in the area use this method for cooking. If you want to bring the olfactory senses into overload, take a stroll at the Thursday evening Farmer's Market in downtown SLO (San Luis Obispo). Food servings start promptly at 6:00PM, not a minute sooner. There are several food vendors to choose from with many of them opting for the open flame oak BBQ (Santa Maria style) methods of cooking. Lots of fun.

                1. re: Big N Fat

                  Your profile lists Wm Cody burgers on the central coast as one of your favorites. A google search comes up empty, care to provide any details?

                  1. re: PolarBear

                    Wm Cody stands for William Cody's which closed down a few years ago. The place is now called AJ Spurs and its basically a wannabe McClintocks. Its right off the freeway at Oak Park Blvd in Arroyo Grande. I ate there a couple of times back when it was still Wm Codys and was not too impressed. Never had the burgers there though. Personally I'd rather stick with Village Grill for burgers in AG.

                    1. re: mliew

                      Thanks, mliew. I've avoided both AJ Spurs and the McClintocks in AG for some time, will have to try the Village Grill's burger, especially since my disappointment last visit to the Rusty Pig.

                      1. re: PolarBear

                        More of a joke than anything, however the mentioning of W.M. Codys was due to a trip I took up to the Central Coast a few years back. The place had a tacky opera house, western motif if than makes any sense. The burger I had there was wonderful. A oak BBQ flavor that was really good. Never ate there again however. Now, McLintocks. We enjoy the place. Expensive, yes but the bacon wrapped filet mignon has always been one of my favorites. And the FMC family has always treated us fantastic. I am always looking for great steaks done up Santa Maria style so anyone in CH that would like to mention places preferably on the Central Coast (i.e. Pismo, AG, SLO, etc.), I will be indebted. Thanks,

                        1. re: Big N Fat

                          The steakhouse at Madonna Inn does a pretty good SM style steak. I usually get the Rib Eye. Beef is good quality although their sides are just so so and the decor... well you either love it or hate it.

                          1. re: mliew

                            Haaa, it wouldn't be the Madonna Inn if it were decorated in earth tones. I eat breakfast in the Copper Cafe and that is pretty good. Maybe I'll try the Steakhouse next time I'm up that way. Thks, mliew.

            3. SMSBBQ is best eaten fresh off the grill. It does not keep in the way southern style smoked (BBQ) meats do. Served at medium rare and hot, rather than well done and slightly warm.

              I agree with the poster who says the way SMSBBQ is eaten, outdoors, is at least 1/2 the experience. Forget about sit-down dining for this meal. Eat it fresh off the grill and outdoors. It's not about the glamor of a dining room. It's about the flavors. Then take the group out for dinner at any place with a banquet room. I think you'd love Far Western--it's a neat old place--much more fun than Jocko's.

              If your group likes Mexican food--La Unica at the large shopping center at 2350 So Broadway is pretty authentic. Not covered in orange cheese, if you know what I mean.
              Try their breakfast burrito:.

              Also, El Toro Mexicatessan at W Main and Blosser for takeout. Tortillas so fresh they are like clouds.

              For old school burgers, try Tom's Takeout on West Main.(N/S Broadway being the divider here, not 101. West Main starts at Broadway.)

              Bring layers. Fog rolls in late afternoons and can be chilly. Don't miss the beach. Take Main St. west to Guadalupe, turn north on 1 and have the best of the best, scenic-wise, for about 15 miles as you roll up to Pismo Beach for some chowder, or lunch at McClintock's. Or stop at the small shopping center at the corner of 1 and Halcyon, and get some BBQ at JJ's Market. It's always going on the weekends. Ribs and tri tip usually. Dessert at Doc's ice cream parlor in the Village of Arroyo Grande--super-rich; antique soda fountain.

              La Unica
              2350 So, Broadway Santa Maria, CA

              10 Replies
              1. re: toodie jane

                I too like FWT, and it is kinda of a cool ride out to Guadalupe as well. I have steered clear of the roadside places after a bout of (ahem) gastric distress several years ago after eating at one of them. But it sure tasted great!

                1. re: toodie jane

                  I think our group might like an outdoor-casual BBQ, but the question is how/where to arrange it. We did somethink like that in Three Rivers about 3 years ago when we totally took over a small motel that let us bring in a caterer and set up on the lawn. Doubt the SM Inn would go for that. Another factor is we won't know what the attendance is going to be till about 1 week or 2 before the event.

                  1. re: Jag_Man

                    The whole Santa Maria Valley is pretty windy. Not a lot of sheltered outdoor places besides Preisker Park.

                    However, just east along the river is a lovely valley, with small wineries with pretty grounds. I should think, if you keep the menu simple, and give 7 days notice, they'd be able to accomodate you. It's be a rice ride, too. There are many, many able SMSBBQ caterers in the area who'd do a good job.

                    Some ideas:

                    Riverbench Winery--new facility, low-key, comfortable.

                    Rancho Sisquoc Winery--the farthest out (15 minutes) very well-kept grounds with shady pcinic/catering area. Like California in the 40's.

                    Dana Powers House in Nipomo--10 minutes north--historic 1880's house with shady, flowery grounds. Likeable hosts Judy and Ed are very easy-going, can arrange anything for you. The Barn might be too large, but the gardens/house are suitable for any size party

                    some local smsbbq caterers:

                    Also, the coffee house next to the Harley Davidson dealership just off North Broadway &101 does a Fri/Sat noon bbq right there. Nuthin formal, just a pit bbq and the fixin's. Might be fun?

                    good luck on your planning

                    1. re: toodie jane

                      And FYI- the coffee at the coffee shop is pretty darn good! I am married to and have a budding enthusiast cycler, and have to go along to the motorcycle shop if we are in Santa Maria. I thanked the gal behind the counter for finally putting in a shop that doesn't sell wheels!

                      They do have bbq out front- and lots of info on local things to do while visiting too!

                      1. re: JalamaMama

                        yes, their coffee is good! I went in the other day looking for an iced coffee--which isn't on the menu--so the gal made me an americano with double shots and charged me for a single--because I said "it's not coffee unless it's sta-rong!" it was sooo good. (I like their Illy beans)

                        1. re: toodie jane

                          Coffee house has been closed for some time now.

                  2. re: toodie jane

                    Yep, I remember my dad slicing pieces of tri-tip off as soon as they were done to his idea of perfection, literally hot off the grill...Mom making pink beans with ortega chiles in them, and massive hunks of garlic bread swimming in butter before anyone thought about carbs and fats...

                    1. re: Snackish

                      oh got me drooling at this early hour!

                      Nuthin' better about SMSBBQ than super-buttery crusty garlic bread dipped into the meat juices pan..Hoo doggies!

                    2. re: toodie jane

                      Funny, I prefer Jocko's over the roadside stands specifically because I get the meat fresh off the grill.

                      Those roadside stands tend to suck you in with the giant smokey bbq trailer in front, but in reality you get the stuff from inside the trailer that's been sitting around for a while.

                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        Jocko's is the best.
                        All meat is hand cut on the premises.
                        Funny thing is they don't serve tri-tip at all......the owner's grandson told me not enough fat on it.
                        Large steak sandwich (1 pound rib eye) and pork ribs are my favorites.

                        Jocko's Steak House
                        Old Hwy 101, Nipomo, CA 93444

                    3. I used to live in Santa Barbara and you'd always find Santa Maria style BBQ at all the big festivals. It's grilled and not smoked like they do in the south but to be Santa Maria style it has to be cooked on a fire made of California coast red oak which is a dense hard wood which burns low and slow yield a lot of smoke so you do get a smoky flavor though no smoke ring. Usually you'd get a huge slab of top sirloin or tri tip but people in Santa Barbara will bbq just about anything and things like local halibut & lobster, pork ribs, goat or wild boar, or even pismo clams are popular.

                      Make sure you get those Santa Maria pink beans as they are part of any Santa Maria BBQ as is the mac & cheese. Finally to drink pick a nice Santa Ynez valley wine.

                      1. I grew up in SB, and have great food memories of SMSBBQ up in Santa Ynez at the Midland school and in town in SB. The best was always catered by Gene aka "The Chicken Man." I can't find him on the internet, but I do believe he's still in business. The classic: grilled juicy tri-tip, garlic bread, salsa fresca, and a simple green salad. The restaurant SB Chicken Ranch will do plates in their dining room, but that's in SB.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: SaltyRaisins

                          I was back in Santa Barbara last weekend for a friend's birthday where we went wine tasting in the Santa Ynez. There were places selling SMSBBQ all over the place and the tri tip was great though honestly I think I prefer honest to goodness smoked meats to SMSBBQ. Still those beans are great while the mac & cheese hits the spot.