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Jul 5, 2012 10:06 AM

FAR WESTERN TAVERN - Update? Chef Rick?!

We're heading out to the FWT on Saturday from Los Angeles.

It's been many years since I've been there (last visit was probably around 2004), mostly because we always go to Jocko's when in that area, which has a superior steak in their small spencer (at least compared to my 2004 FWT experience.) But with the closure of the original location (I hear it's been pushed to September now), we need to get out to pay our respects to the FWT one last time.

I understand much has changed these past few years.

Is it true that Chef Rick is now the executive chef there? (Assuming this is the same Chef Rick famous for his Orcutt bistro?) If so, this is not reflected in the video on the FWT website, which shows Barbara Abernethy as the Executive Chef. Incidentally, I got the Chef Rick info from this Chowhound post:

Out of curiosity, is Chef Rick's original restaurant still open?

Back to FWT, aside from the Bullseye steak, what are some of the post-Chef Rick most-order dishes?

Also, for you long-time FWT patrons, if you could do a brief before-and-after comparison for me of how the menu has adapted since Chef Rick took the reins, I would greatly appreciate it.

And feel free to correct me if I am wrong in my understanding of any of these changes.

Thanks in advance, central coast 'hounds. Can't wait to pay one more visit to the old gal.

Mr Taster

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  1. We went a few months ago when we learned it was closing soon too, and learned August was its last month, now you hear September. The menu has a lot more refinement and variety since the good/bad old days. More saucing and composition than the plain, large pieces of meat put on the table.

    There is still the relish tray but it is no longer just the standard Italo-American stuff with a piece of meat. It is definitely a great place to re-visit and it will be lovingly missed in this early bordello location. Don't think its present charms and idiosyncratic location can ever be duplicated, but Chef Rick continues to put our fine meals worth a drive on their own.

    I am truly sorry Guadalupe is losing this icon and hope something else can take its place and that the earthquake retrofit demands do not totally destroy this historic little town.

    Scroll down for our Feb 2012 trip report:

    2 Replies
    1. re: glbtrtr

      Thanks glbtrtr for the link to your report. (Incidentally you can use the permalink function in the future to point people directly to your post: )

      I am curious to hear about the non-traditional Santa Maria BBQ items. Ravioli? It's not something I would ever think to order at a Santa Maria BBQ place, but if they're exceptional then why not? And can you describe the corn salsa in more detail?

      Mr Taster

      1. re: Mr Taster

        Ravioli was/is part of the FWT Italo-American heritage. No, it is not great but it is traditional. DH had the corn sauce - a creamy covering sauce so it was not a "salsa".

        The old FWT had the classic Italo-Am basics: relish tray, the shrimp cocktail, the pasta course, the meat with vegetable course and the chocolate sundae in a tin dish.

        Several years ago the menu vastly changed to be more "yuppie" as well as the basic presentations of courses. Then I believe Chef Rick came in later and took even that up a few notches with more refined treatment.

        For old times sake they still put on the steak and pasta combo. It was the only way I could get a small sirloin as I recall. The other sizes are either overkill or tasteless petite filet.

        Compared to Jocko's ,which we found to be more in that old Italo-Am food and portion overkill category masking poor underlying quality, FWT has been over the top a better choice for a long time in this area. But Jocko's has its fans too. and it is a funky must visit (once).

    2. Replying to myself, here-- saw the press release on FWT's website. It is indeed the same Chef Rick. How interesting! And here I've been eating the same old (albeit amazingly delicious) steak at Jocko's for 10 years :)

      So with a restaurant menu like FWT's that is steeped in unchanging tradition, what has Chef Rick done to inject life into an old menu while still respecting the SM BBQ traditions? I'm really interested to hear from local Chowhounds on this.

      Mr Taster

        1. re: PolarBear

          Interesting. If you read between the lines, you can see that it probably wasn't a clean break. "Our family wishes Chef Rick the best in his future endeavors" is what you say when you don't want to say anything bad about someone.

          I don't know that this was a very smart decision for Far Western Tavern. During our visit, we felt the highlights of the meal were the inventive and tasty non-steak dishes. (Jocko's still reigns supreme for Santa Maria steak.) But there were some really spectacular other dishes on the menu that were leagues above, like the garlic shrimp with grits, that I imagine was Chef Rick's influence.

          Mr Taster

          1. re: Mr Taster

            We were very disappointed with our last steaks at FW prior to their move to Orcutt. Without Chef Rick we see no reason to return.

            1. re: PolarBear

              That's surprising, I made 2 special trips down from Oakland before the move and the steaks were as good as ever.

              I come down on the "what were they thinking with this hire in the first place" side of the argument.

              1. re: Pius Avocado III

                I wonder if His Savory Holiness has tried the spencer steak at Our Lady of Jocko's?

                Msr Taster

                1. re: Mr Taster

                  YES. When I go down I always go to Jocko's (always the spencer) one night & the FW the next, or at least I did before the move- with that and the chef shuffle, I may have to hit Jocko's twice next time...

                  1. re: Pius Avocado III

                    Every time I venture away from Jocko's, I'm disappointed. The crust development on Jocko's spencer steak is phenomenal. It's consistently juicier and more flavorful than anything I've had at Far Western or Hitching Post. Texture, flavor and especially price are consistently superior at Jocko's (n.b. I've only been to HPII in Buellton)

                    Mr Taster