Visiting the Santa Maria Valley is a feast for the senses with its lush rolling hills and fragrant fields of strawberries. But cruise down Broadway on any given weekend, and it’s the mouth-watering smell of barbecue that will greet you. In fact, Santa Maria is known nation-wide as the "Barbecue Capital of the World."
Santa Maria Style Barbecue is truly the authentic taste experience of Santa Maria. This sumptuous feast of barbecued sirloin, salsa, Pinquito beans, toasted French bread, and green salad has been called by Sunset Magazine, the "best barbecue in the world" and the California’s Visitor’s Guide raves this the "number one food not to miss while visiting California." It is the featured cuisine at all festive occasions, both public and private, and so thoroughly ingrained in local culture that it truly has become a way of life.
Santa Maria Barbecue has its roots in the mid-19th century, when the rancheros gathered to help each other brand their calves each spring. The host would prepare a Spanish style barbecue as a thank you for his vaqueros (America’s first cowboys), family and friends. Under the oaks of this serene little coastal valley they would enjoy a traditional feast that included beef barbecued over a red oak fire, served with Pinquito beans, bread, salsa and homemade desserts.
The present Santa Maria Style Barbecue grew out of this tradition, and achieved its "style" some 60 years ago when local residents began to string their beef on skewers and cook it over the hot coals of a red oak fire. The meat, either top block sirloin or the triangular-shaped bottom sirloin known as "tri tip," is rolled in a mixture of salt, pepper and garlic salt just prior to cooking. It is then barbecued over red oak coals, giving the meat a hearty, smoky flavor.
The traditional Santa Maria Barbecue menu features, of course, the barbecued sirloin, trimmed, sliced, and laid out in metal pans so that the diner may select the desired doneness. The only condiment for this tender and flavorful meat is a fresh salsa. With it is served grilled French bread dipped in sweet melted butter, perfect for soaking up every last bit of the flavorful meat juices. Also served on the side is a tossed green salad, and slow-cooked pinquito beans. For the most authentic Santa Maria Barbecue experience, select a robust Santa Maria Valley wine to accompany your meal. This tasty feast is finished with coffee and a simple dessert.
Once a well-kept local secret, word of Santa Maria Style Barbecue has spread around the world, enticing travelers to come by the thousands, seeking a taste of this local specialty, and it’s not difficult to find. On a typical Saturday, you will see clouds of fragrant smoke billowing through the air, leading you to numerous barbecues throughout the city. They range from outdoor feasts along Broadway sponsored by schools and local charities, to restaurants offering a more formal dining experience, to backyard cookouts where families enjoy their own recipes that have been passed down through the generations. It’s no wonder Santa Maria is called the "Barbecue Capital of the World."
When traveling to the area enjoy the taste and style of Santa Maria by dining at one of our legendary barbecue houses:
SHAW’S STEAK HOUSE & TAVERN
714 S. Broadway, Santa Maria
FAR WESTERN TAVERN
899 Guadalupe Street (Highway 1), Guadalupe
HITCHING POST OF CASMALIA
3325 Point Sal Road, Casmalia
If a quick bite is more your speed, grab a tri-tip sandwich lunch from the deli's at Old Town Market or Central City Market.
Bring the history and tradition of California's Central Coast to your family and friends with Susie Q's Brand Santa Maria Style Specialty Foods, BBQ2YOU, or Cowboy Flavor, LLC. Interested in having your party catered featuring Santa Maria Style Barbecue? These local caterers are ready to help:
COWBOY FLAVOR, INC.
ELKS LODGE #1538
FAR WESTERN TAVERN
HITCHING POST OF CASMALIA
Proving the importance of barbecue to Santa Maria, a hardcover book and a video are available on the Santa Maria Style Barbecue. Details on the history of this great tradition includes numerous anecdotes about great veteran barbecuers, famous local restaurants and even Ronald Reagan's passion for this tradition. Complementing the book, a "how-to" video is available demonstrating the techniques of preparing the traditional recipe. To order the book or videos, click here.
Visit the Official Santa Maria Style Barbecue Blog for the latest news, restaurant specials and recipe tips.