Barbeque and Wine: Putting Santa Maria on the Map - Celebrations 2
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Barbeque and Wine: Putting Santa Maria on the Map

The central coast of California is known for it’s dramatic coastline, beautiful weather and… Barbecue! Santa Maria has staked its claim as a foodie destination with its unique style of barbeque derived from the Argentinian asado. The style is simple, with meat cooked on an iron grill that can be raised or lowered onto a fire. In order to be Santa Maria authentic, there are a few characteristics that have to be met.


Only local oak will do. Moving from a traditional fire pit to the giant iron skewer parilla grills of today, all fueled by red or live oak.

Dry Rub

Santa Maria style BBQ is not saucy! The rubs consist of simple staples like salt, pepper and garlic.

Where’s the beef (or pork, chicken and veggies?)

Move over tri-tip, SM BBQ is moving to an all-inclusive repertoire including sausages and even veggies infused with the famous flavor profile.

Best Enjoyed with Friends

Santa Maria barbeque is great in restaurants but better enjoyed around a fire with friends. And with summer in full blast, you can expect a lot of opportunity for grilling coming up.

Bring on the Sides

Along with your BBQ enjoy local pinquinto beans. While you’re at it heap on some mac-n-cheese, buttery garlic bread, mild salsa and don’t forget your greens with a salad.

Local Favorites as seen in Sunset Magazine:
Far Western Tavern

In its spiffy new location off the 101 freeway, the Tavern serves up the same peerless barbecue it has for decades—plus sophisticated dishes like oak-grilled polenta and wild salmon salad. $$$$; 300 E. Clark Ave., Orcutt;


The locals’ hangout, with terrific steaks and views of the oak pit from the dining room. There’s a big old bar too, with an over-the-top snack: chunks of grilled beef and garlic bread, with toothpicks and salsa. $$$; 125 N. Thompson Ave., Nipomo; (805) 929-3565.

Filipino Community Center Food Truck

One of the few remaining fund-raising outfits on Santa Maria’s main street serves a delectable soy-marinated take on tri-tip. $; 9–4 Sat–Sun; 1721 S. Broadway, Santa Maria; (805) 264-5608.

The Hitching Post (I & II)

Open since 1952, Hitching Post I is the oldest barbecue restaurant in the area, with a light-filled dining room. The food is simple and perfect. Hitching Post II, made world-famous by Sideways, has the classics and more—including grilled artichokes, a knockout chocolate tart, and a fine wine list, with many bottles under $30. I: $$$$; 3325 Point Sal Rd., Casmalia; II: $$$$; 406 E. State 246, Buellton;

Garey Store & Deli

Head to the town of Garey (pop. 68) on Santa Maria’s outskirts for this deli’s incredible tri-tip sandwich, Fridays only, from 10 to 2. A favorite with the vineyard workers, it’s just juicy, thin-sliced meat piled high on a French roll, with salsa and jalapeños on the side. Call ahead to get one saved for you—owner Shawn Rees makes only about 150 per Friday. $; 3798 Foxen Canyon Rd., Santa Maria; (805) 937-3361.


A huge, old-timey elegant place, filled with shining wood, brass, and historic local barbecue photos. The whole range of Santa Maria barbecue tradition shows up here, from tri-tip to spicy oak-grilled linguiça sausage, a gift from the Portuguese who immigrated to the area in the ’30s and ’40s. $$$; 714 S. Broadway, Santa Maria; (805) 925-5862.

McPhee’s Grill

Go at dinnertime, when the pit’s lit, for red oak–grilled artichokes and steaks. You can’t miss with the rib-eye, which comes with three homemade salsas as well as jalapeño-cheese mashed potatoes and roasted poblano chiles stuffed with goat cheese. $$$$; 416 S. Main St., Templeton;

Rancho Nipomo BBQ & Cal-Mex

Bright and cheerful, with an inspired melding of Santa Maria barbecue and Mexican food. Meats are smoked—not grilled—over red oak, and used in inventions like a smoked tri-tip burrito and a tri-tip sandwich made with garlicky Mexican-style torta bread. $; 108 Cuyama Lane, Nipomo;