USA Today Uncovers Our “Secret” BBQ Style

The secret is out, thanks to USA Today!

Indeed, in a story published last week, this national newspaper uncovers “the secret fifth major style of American barbecue,” which is, of course, our very own Santa Maria Style Barbecue.

USAToday_LogoAs USA Today writer Larry Olmstead reports, our nation is traditionally known for four major types of regional barbecue, specifically Memphis, Texas, Kansas City and Carolina-style.

But as Olmstead confirms, there’s more to the American barbecue story!

He explains that it’s not the necessarily the meat, but rather the cooking method (open flame over coals of local red oak) and traditional side dishes (such as homegrown pinquito beans) that make Santa Maria barbecue distinctive.

He writes, “Santa Maria barbecue is always cooked over a fire of red oak logs, using meats heavily seasoned with salt, pepper and dry spices, then marinated or basted with a mixture of vinegar and oil while cooking. Side dishes almost always include fire-grilled then buttered bread, tossed green salad, fresh tomato salsa and beans. Because the area is known for growing sweet strawberries, berry pie or strawberry shortcake is often paired with the main course as dessert.”

He goes on to tout some of the Santa Maria Valley’s barbecue stars, including the Hitching Post Casmalia; Shaw’s Steakhouse; Far Western Tavern, Dino’s Deli; Old Town Market; Hitching Post II; A.J. Spur’s; Jocko’s Steakhouse; and F. McLintock’s Saloon.

In the words of Olmstead, “Very few barbecue fans know about the ‘secret’ fifth major style of American barbecue, the one that has spread the least from its home turf and remains the hardest to find – outside of California that is.”

Word is definitely spreading thanks to stories like these, but if you really want to enjoy Santa Maria Style Barbecue at its finest, we invite you to come enjoy it right here in the Santa Maria Valley.

June 30, 2015 at 10:15 pm Leave a comment

Special Olympic Athletes to be Feted ‘Santa Maria Style’

Here in the Santa Maria Valley, we are perhaps most known for two things: our world-famous barbecue and small-town hospitality.

Now, both will be on full display as Santa Maria has been chosen as an official Host Town to entertain 100 international delegates in advance of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games to be held in Los Angeles July 25 – August 2.

On July 21, a group of athletes and coaches from France, Mauritius and the Republic of Congo will arrive in Santa Maria to enjoy cultural activities distinctive to the region while they train for the games. Entertainments will include an outing to Santa Maria’s famed Pacific Conservatory Theatre; a day at Boomer’s arcade and fun park; evening dance parties; and special lunches and dinners featuring local fare such as Santa Maria Style Barbecue, hosted by community leaders.

Well wishers will be cheering on the athletes when they arrive at the Santa Maria Inn and Radisson Hotel on July 21. Santa Maria also has its own local athletes competing in the Special Olympics World Games. These include a softball team as well as a golfer. The public is invited to register for free tickets to any of the Special Olympics sporting events.

It’s all just another example of how our homegrown cuisine can help bring people together in amazing ways!

June 30, 2015 at 9:29 pm Leave a comment

The OC Embraces Santa Maria Style

We like to keep tabs on Santa Maria Style Barbecue ambassadors outside of our region, and the latest is located in Southern California’s Orange County (a.k.a. The OC).

Indeed, a new restaurant opening in Huntington Beach in the fall is focusing its entire concept on Santa Maria Style Barbecue. According to The Orange County Register, the SeaSalt Woodfire Grill will invite guests to observe the chef’s grilling over an open fire.

The restaurant scene is now calling this “live fire” cooking, which, the article says, “Focuses on authentic Santa Maria-style barbecue, with seasoned meat cooked over red oak coals on an iron grill.”

The restaurant will serve a variety of traditional barbecue dishes including tri-tip, lamb chops and bone-in ribeye steak—all seasoned with a house-made rub composed of garlic, lemon, salt and bacon. Weekend brunch will offer open-fire grilled organic eggs, sausage and pork belly.

Even wines from the Santa Maria region will be featured, all amid a rustic, “farmhouse” ambience. Says the owner, “The resulting taste is unbelievable and nothing Orange County restaurants offer now.”

It’s just another confirmation that our local flavors are gaining fans far and wide!

June 11, 2015 at 6:44 pm Leave a comment

Rodeo Time in BBQ Country

Santa Maria Elks RodeoLate May in  the Santa Maria Valley is not only barbecue season, but also “rodeo time.”

Indeed, for the last 72 years, the Santa Maria Elks Club has hosted a series of professional and community rodeo events that offer four days of bone-crushing, action-packed thrills.

On this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Rodeo features the ever popular Wild Horse Race, barrel racing, bronc riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, team roping and more, all emceed by top professional rodeo announcers. The festivities include a wine bar and tasting tent, a western marketplace and “silver dollar digs” for kids.

Be sure to also catch the annual Elks Rodeo Parade on May 30 at 9 a.m. More than 200 entries will strut their stuff along South Broadway. It’s no coincidence that California’s barbecue country is home to such a magnificent rodeo tradition, as our local cowboys and ranchers have been a driving force behind Santa Maria Style Barbecue since its earliest days.

For more information, contact (805) 925-4125 or visit

May 29, 2015 at 8:03 pm Leave a comment

Bovine Heritage Goes Beyond Beef

Purple_CowWhen you think of cattle in the Santa Maria Valley, it’s hard not to think about Santa Maria Style BBQ!

But a new book published by a valley native celebrates another local bovine industry: dairy cows.

The Purple Cow: A Dairy Daughter’s Heritage is a compilation of family stories gathered and retold by Laura Lee Tognazzini Dias, a direct descendent of one of the region’s earliest dairy pioneers and the daughter of a Guadalupe dairyman. Published by Janaway Publishing, Inc., the book’s 244-pages tell the story of the local industry’s historic course, as well as lighthearted anecdotes related to more than 80 dairies and creameries that were once located in Guadalupe, Lompoc, Los Alamos, Santa Maria, Sisquoc, Oso Flaco and Nipomo. It also includes a scrapbook-style collection of dairy photographs, recipes, songs and more.

The book’s foreward, written by Santa Maria Valley historian Shirley Contreras, sets the table for the story, explaining that many of the early Central Coast dairymen were young Europeans who came to California in the mid-1800s seeking new opportunities. While the majority of them were Italian-Swiss dairymen from the Canton Ticino region in Switzerland, the book also tells the stories of American, Portuguese, English and Danish dairymen who played a part in the industry. Most of the descendants of these pioneers eventually quit the business by 1986 because the cost of transporting milk to production plants had become cost prohibitive. The DeBernardi Brothers, the last dairy family in Santa Maria Valley, closed shop in 2005.

The Purple Cow: A Dairy Daughter’s Heritage is available in soft cover only for $38 (includes shipping). It is available exclusively through the Santa Maria Historical Society Museum, which may be contacted via phone: (805) 922-3130.

May 22, 2015 at 4:07 pm Leave a comment

It Ain’t Santa Maria BBQ without The Berries

Any Santa Maria Style Barbecue aficionado knows that the traditional dessert to pair with the local barbecue is strawberry pie, shortcake or some sort of strawberry delicacy. This is largely because Santa Maria Valley is famed for its acres upon acres of sweet, juicy strawberries that are shipped the world over. The area’s strawberries bring more money per acre than any other area crop, including wine grapes.

In the last few years, however, the supremacy of strawberries and grapes as the royalty of local agriculture is being challenged by a growing crop of newcomers — raspberries, blackberries and blueberries.

Word has it that berry production that used to be heavy around Oxnard and Ventura is being pushed out by urban growth and the high cost of water, and so berries are now moving north throughout Santa Barbara County, with pockets of heavier production in the Santa Maria Valley. Prices remain high for blueberries, blackberries and raspberries giving some growers an incentive to make room for “the other berries.”

Enter U-Pick Blueberries, a farm located at 3607 Dominion Road in Santa Maria that’s open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The farm says that its bushes are loaded with berries this season.

But when it comes to a dessert to pair with Santa Maria Style Barbecue, can strawberries and blueberries happily co-exist? A recipe from says “yes”:

Fresh Strawberry and Blueberry Pie

2 cups fresh blueberries

2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

The zest of one medium orange

2 tablespoons butter

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

1 unbaked pie crust plus enough pie crust scraps to make decorative cutouts for top

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Stir together the blueberries, strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, and orange  zest in a large bowl.  Pour into an  unbaked 9-inch pie crust.  Cut butter into small pieces and dot the top of the fruit.

Roll out the remaining pie crust scraps and cut shapes using cookie cutters dipped in flour.  (I used different sized star shaped cutters.)  Place the shapes on top of the pie in a decorative pattern.

Beat together the egg and water.  Lightly brush the mixture onto the pie crust shapes and around the perimeter of the crust.  Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake for 50-55 minutes or until  bubbly and golden brown.  Let cool on wire rack completely before cutting.

May 11, 2015 at 3:23 pm Leave a comment

Three Questions with Santa Maria BBQ Outfitters

Santa_Maria_GrillsIn recent years Santa Maria BBQ Outfitters, makers of grills and accessories for Santa Maria Style Barbecue, has enjoyed booming sales and, in turn, expanded its showroom, production facility and number of employees. We checked in with these local “Q experts” for a refresher on their philosophy and latest news:

For the layperson, what is a ‘Santa Maria Grill’ and what makes it different than traditional backyard barbecues?

A: “With our adjustable grills, you can always have the intensity of heat that you want. You can adjust the distance of the grate from the heat source with an installed hand crank. This enables you to sear the meat and seal in the flavorful juices of the top sirloin or tri-tip at higher heat, then cook the meat at a lower heat, depending on your preferences.”

What else is different or key to Santa Maria Style Barbecue?

A: “Hands down, it’s the use of red oak. There’s nothing like that flavor.”

Do you have any new products or news you’d like to share?

A: “We have two new exciting products that are doing really well. The first is the Golf Club Meat Hook, which offers an extra-long handle, complete with leather grip, so that you can hook your meat and flip it more easily. The golf club shape is decorative, of course, and makes a great Father’s Day gift! The other items are Meat Skewers crafted from stainless steel cables. They feature a helpful point and flexibility.”

The Golf Club Meat Hooks retail for $89.99, while the Meat Skewers sell for $14.99 (24-inch) and $19.99 (36-inch). The new Santa Maria BBQ Outfitters sales office and showroom is located at 2936 Industrial Parkway in Santa Maria.

The company’s grills are also available at Costco, Albertson’s and elsewhere. You can also purchase Santa Maria-style barbecue grills from Cowboy Flavor in Los Alamos and Old Town Market in Orcutt.

May 6, 2015 at 5:43 pm Leave a comment

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