In the pantheon of regional American barbecue, Santa Maria Style Barbecue tends to fly under the radar compared to other styles such as Texas, Memphis and Kansas City barbecue.
Why is this? A lot of it has to do with the size of the other regions, either geographically or in terms of population. Kansas City and Memphis are both large metropolitan areas, and Texas is the largest state in the lower 48.
By comparison, the City of Santa Maria’s population is barely more than 100,000, and the city resides in the heart of a rural valley, surrounded by ranches, vineyards, open space and shoreline.
Simply put, no matter how much we scream and shout, we’ll never be able to make as much noise as Texas or Kansas City!
But those in the know recognize Santa Maria BBQ as a culinary equal of the larger regional styles, and the latest example comes from restaurateur Rob Serritella, who just opened a new barbecue joint in Santa Monica called Holy Cow (is that an awesome name or what!?).
At Holy Cow, Serritella aims to bend the best of many regional styles, including Santa Maria tri-tip. In this article in the Santa Monica Mirror, he states: “We tried to take the best things from places that do BBQ best like Texas, Memphis, Georgia, and the Carolina’s – not necessarily stick with one particular method, just what we felt people would enjoy the best. I’ve been a tri-tip guy ever since my first trip to Santa Maria…It works stand alone, in a sandwich, or on a salad.”
Serritella says he likes to slow cook his tri-tip, making his preparation more of a hybrid compared to true open-coal Santa Maria BBQ cooking, but it sounds like that’s what his place is all about: mashing up the nation’s best styles, including Santa Maria!
Santa Maria Style Barbecue is the culinary hub of the Santa Maria Valley, but that hub has many spokes as local chefs and food purveyors add creative twists to our regional food traditions.
One example is Monkey Spit, a purveyor of spices and sauces based in the valley’s rural Tepusquet area. Founded by Santa Maria Valley native Paul Smith, Monkey Spit’s offerings are as creative as its brand name, and now find themselves in the spotlight in this recent feature story in the San Luis Obispo Tribune.
Smith started Monkey Spit in 2008, and brought on longtime friend Rudy Stowell as a business partner. Smith’s family roots in Tepusquet date back to the early 1900s.
One Monkey Spit standout is the new Wimpy Chimp seasoning. As story author Katy Budge notes, “Using his family’s longtime recipe for Santa Maria-style seasoning, he developed a slightly different twist on the dry rub, calling it a ‘Nipomo-style’ seasoning named Wimpy Chimp.”
Of course, Nipomo refers to the small town north of Santa Maria, which has its share of Santa Maria BBQ heritage. As Budge notes, Monkey Mop “proved to be such a winner that it brought home competitive awards from such venerable barbecue cities as Kansas City and Mobile, Ala.
Meanwhile, Smith’s sauces barbecue sauces such as Monkey Mop and Atomic Mop represent a departure from the local barbecue style, as Santa Maria Style BBQ is renowned for its sauce-free, dry-rub style. As Budge notes, Monkey Mop “proved to be such a winner that it brought home competitive awards from such venerable barbecue cities as Kansas City and Mobile, Ala.”
A company from Santa Maria winning awards in such saucy barbecue cities as Kansas City and Mobile? Now that’s what you might call monkey business of the highest order!
Here in California’s BBQ Capital, smoke runs through the veins of locals to such an extent that it doesn’t phase them to be asked to “cook their own.”
Such is the case at the annual Labor Day weekend “Cook Your Own” event at Cottonwood Canyon Vineyard & Winery, which is located along the picturesque Santa Maria Valley wine trail.
Happening on Saturday, August 30 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., this event asks attendees to bring their own meat or entrée plus a tasty side dish to share.
The $15 general admission includes barbecue spices, plates, napkins, utensils and one glass of wine as well as live entertainment. Wine may also be purchased by the glass or bottle. Particularly exciting is that the guest with the best side dish in tow will win a magnum bottle of wine!
Cottonwood Canyon specializes in estate-grown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, two varieties that excel amid the Santa Maria Valley’s pronounced coastal climate. Come out, cook your own and enjoy the fruits of your labors.
Bring the kids–and your appetite–to the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum on August 31 as the museum celebrates R.H. Tesene Day.
We recently wrote about how the Discovery Museum provides a creative array of educational exhibits for children, including exhibits on Santa Maria BBQ, local farming and more.
Now the museum is honoring Tesene as one of its founding donors and as a local legend of Santa Maria Style Barbecue. Tesene is also the author of the definitive book on our local barbecue style, simply titled Santa Maria Style Barbecue. This book is nothing less than a landmark record of the origins, customs and history of Santa Maria Style Barbecue.
The family-friendly R.H. Tesene Day event runs from noon to 4 p.m. at the museum. The festivities will include cake and ranching-themed activities. Admission is free!
Also, Big Joe’s Brats will be selling tri-tip lunches, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Discovery Museum. Come out and enjoy a festive afternoon with true Santa Maria style!
We are always excited to not only spread the good word about Santa Maria Style Barbecue, but to also see it take root in places near and far…
The latest such example to cross our desk is Recessions Original Santa Maria Style BBQ on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, operated by Santa Maria Valley natives Art and Joanne Diaz.
So what, exactly, is Recessions Original Santa Maria Style BBQ? As Marta Lane of the Garden Island newspaper reports, “There is no restaurant. It’s not even a food truck. It’s a $10,000 custom made grill with wheels.”
Now that’s Santa Maria Style Barbecue right there!
The Garden Island tells the story behind Recessions Original Santa Maria Style BBQ: “Art Diaz, his wife, Joanne, and their three children lived in Santa Maria, California. Art Jr. and Jared helped their father with his construction business. On Friday nights, the family went to Central City Farmers Market in the town center and danced to music, looked at art and ate legendary barbecue….Art and Joanne moved to Kauai in the early 1990s. Jared moved here in 2002, where he met and married Lenney. When the economy tanked in 2008, Art Jr. joined his family on Kauai. Missing the food of their home, the Diazes were inspired to open Recessions Original Santa Maria Style BBQ. The name is a nod toward the economic downturn and the family keeps prices low so people can enjoy filling meals.”
In the words of Art Jr.: “It’s our own style and something you can’t find anywhere else on Kauai. We’re not Texas barbecue. We’re not Memphis barbecue. We have our own sweet style.”
Kudos and aloha to the Diaz family for bringing a taste of home to Hawaii!
Enthusiasts for little British cars are revving up their engines–and their taste buds–as they prepare for “Triumphest,” a three-day auto rally bringing more than 150 Triumph cars to Santa Maria from September 25 – 27.
In addition to an action-packed itinerary of auto rallies, driving events and autocross competition, attendees are looking forward to Santa Maria’s famed barbecue and bucolic wine country. The event sponsor, the Southern California Triumph Owners Association (STOA), is organizing group outings to enjoy the region’s attractions.
The event’s home page touts Santa Maria as a “lovely city nestled in Santa Barbara County, California, approximately 120 miles northwest of Los Angeles. It is most notable for an excellent variety of barbecued meat. Santa Maria-style BBQ is usually used in reference to the seasoning of tri-tip or other meats when rubbed with salt, pepper, and spices and cooked whole on a rotisserie or grilled over local red oak wood. Sunset magazine’s August 2013 issue features a wonderful article on Santa Maria Style BBQ, crowning Santa Maria as The West’s Best BBQ Town.”
The web page even sports a logo depicting Columbus’s ship, the Santa Maria, with Union Jack-decorated sails. Wishing the Triumphest revelers a tasting good time here in California’s BBQ Capital!
Last year, the lodge was featured in Sunset Magazine’s epic spread on Santa Maria BBQ. Now the Santa Maria Elks Lodge is starring in a new episode of Man Fire Food on The Cooking Channel.
During the segment, the lodge’s “BBQ Chairman” Wayne Stahl shows host Roger Mooking the ins and outs of preparing classic Santa Maria Style Barbecue.
While the Santa Maria BBQ menu includes pinquito beans and other accoutrements, the Cooking Channel segment focuses on the main attraction: the meat and how to cook it. And the cut of choice is top block sirloin, the original Santa Maria BBQ cut that preceded the now-popular tri-tip cut that is also associated with our regional style.
During the segment, Stahl shows Mooking how the meat is seasoned with salt, pepper and granulated garlic, then skewered on rods and cooked over coals of native red oak.
The Santa Maria Elks Lodge boasts a long and illustrious history with Santa Maria Style Barbecue, and is considered a true keeper of the proverbial flame of Santa Maria Style Barbecue. The Elks team staged barbecues for President Ronald Reagan among many other public and private cookouts, including one that fed a crowd of 9,500 at a convention in San Francisco.
Click here for the Cooking Channel’s page on the segment, which includes links to two Elks recipes!