Posts filed under ‘Visiting The Valley’

Santa Maria’s Central City Market

Once upon a time in the 1870s, the young little town of Santa Maria was called “Central City” because of its location halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The name was eventually changed to “Santa Maria,” because the mail was often mistakenly sent to Central City, Colorado.

In honor of this tidbit of history, an increasingly popular bistro in downtown Santa Maria sports the name Central City Market. Specializing in comforting classics that are innovatively prepared, Central City Market is inspired by the farming, ranching and vineyards of the Santa Maria Valley. It has a wine and beer list that is fun to peruse as well.

Perhaps this is why the bistro has introduced “Wine Down Wednesdays,” when patrons may enjoy 50 percent off bottles of wine from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Delectable appetizer specials also abound during these hours. And, of course, the bistro has not forgotten Santa Maria’s famed barbecue.

The traditional Santa Maria BBQ is featured as “The Daily Hot Plate” dish each Thursday. This $14 meal consists of sliced tri-tip, pinquito beans, mac ‘n cheese, salsa and a garlic roll.

September 3, 2013 at 2:27 pm Leave a comment

Melodrama in BBQ Country

Great American MelodramaJust as our region’s famous red oak barbecued beef hearkens back to the days of rancheros and cowboys, so too can our local entertainment draw inspiration from our wild west history.

Take the famed Great American Melodrama & Vaudeville in Oceano. Known for its old-time revue of song, dance and comedy, the theater is currently performing “How the West was Really Won” and “Death at Devil’s Cave” through September 22.

Poking fun in typical form, the theater invites audiences to “take a look at how the West might have… uh, could have… well, maybe even should have been won…but probably wasn’t. Guns will be blazin’ and laughs will be snortin’ as you come hear our tales…maybe slightly tall tales… of the West.”

Fans love the theater’s folksy piano tunes, cabaret tables and sawdust-covered floors that have been around for more than 36 years. The in-house pub is always a hit and the colorful performers still work the counter! And, yes, barbecued beef is on the menu…

So come to the Santa Maria Valley for our world-famous barbecue, and stay for a little melodrama, too!

August 28, 2013 at 12:07 pm Leave a comment

A BBQ Country Salute to Huell Howser


Huell Howser

In the Santa Maria Valley, our famed Santa Maria Barbecue shares the spotlight with another local treasure, the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Complex, a breathtaking coastal preserve spanning 22,000 acres and 18 miles.

The popular PBS television host Huell Howser knew all about the Guadalupe Dunes and filmed several episodes there for his “California’s Golden Coast” series.

Now, in honor of Howser’s recent passing, the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center, which oversees an education center and guided hikes promoting the Dunes, invites the public to a “Huell Howser Memorial Hike” on February 9 at 10 a.m. Attendees are encouraged to share stories about Howser on the three-mile hike along a boardwalk at Oso Flaco Lake, a seaside estuary. The hike will last about two hours and is free to the public; a $2 donation to the center is suggested. Participants will gather at the parking lot at Oso Flaco Lake Road in Nipomo off of California Highway 1 ($5 for parking).

One of only two remaining coastal dunes complexes in California—and by far the largest—the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Complex unfolds with awe-inspiring mountains of shifting sands that are teeming with biological diversity. The preserve stretches from Pismo Beach to Point Sal.

Howser, who died of prostate cancer on January 7 at age 67, was one of the region’s biggest fans and helped organize a number of fundraisers that led to the establishment of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center in 1999. Mr. Howser was a true California classic, and he will be missed!

February 1, 2013 at 9:35 pm Leave a comment

A Local Classic Unveils Fresh Flavors

Santa Maria Valley barbecue country is home to a number of iconic landmarks steeped in local lore and beloved by the ranchers and farmers who’ve put the region on the map. The Historic Santa Maria Inn is one such establishment. Since 1917 the inn has proven a welcome respite to motorists traveling along Highway 101 and to tourists seeking to experience the charms of the Central Coast.

This year, the inn has all kinds of news. With renovated dining areas in place along with a state-of-the-art kitchen, the inn has unveiled a complete revision of its menus, beverages and customer service standards within its food and beverage department. The weekly Sunday Grand Buffet has been replaced with a modernized a la carte brunch that features creative entrees such as Prime Rib Hash, Chilaquiles, Cuban French Toast with Plantains and Crema; Southern Crispy Buttermilk Chicken and Waffles; and the Santa Maria Barbecue Panini offering grilled tri-tip and linguica sausage on a garlic bread French roll with smoked Gouda cheese, caramelized onions and pico de gallo. This format is ideal for those who appreciate smaller portions and want to spend less. There’s good news, too, for those who pine for the old days as the classic buffet-style brunch is resurrected for a number of major holidays throughout the year including Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and Mother’s Day. Of course the inn’s famous “bottomless mimosas” will continue to be offered for both styles of brunch.

In other news the inn’s Garden Room Restaurant is also sporting a new menu featuring entrees such as Santa Maria Mix Grill, Soy Rum Braised Pork Shoulder, Cedar Plank Salmon and Red Chili Hanger Steak. The property’s Olde English Tap Room has also undergone an interior redesign to emphasize its cozy, friendly European pub-style atmosphere. Meanwhile guests enjoy an intimate corner at the Wine Cellar & Martini Bar. The cellar offers an extensive selection of Central Coast wines as well as signature martinis and complimentary hors d’oeuvres. Coffee lovers are also in luck as the inn’s 801 Café brews up Starbuck’s specialty drinks and Italian Sodas, as well as snacks and desserts. To top it all off, the inn’s new piano lounge invites guests to soak up the melodies of a player baby grand while they relax with appetizers and beverages.

The historic Santa Maria Inn, like Santa Maria BBQ, proves that good taste never goes out of style!

November 20, 2012 at 5:04 pm Leave a comment

Kids Discover BBQ at Children’s Museum

R.H. Tesene was not only legendary for his Santa Maria Style Barbecue skills, but also his generous spirit and community involvement. Today, his legend lives on at the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum, where he donated a “Barbecue Hall of Fame” exhibit that teaches children and parents alike about our local culinary tradition.

As noted in a recent feature in the Santa Maria Sun, “The BBQ Hall of Fame” exhibit was donated by Tesene, who originally showcased them proudly at The Beacon Outpost Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge, a joint he built, owned, and opened in June of 1949. The brands you see in the exhibit have a fun story, too. Back when The Beacon Outpost was booming, Tesene noticed that his Sunday nights were slow so he decided to invite guest barbecuers (who were Santa Maria’s finest) who would by nature spread the word and invite their friends, who then invited their friends, and thus a thriving Sunday night was born from then on out. It was tradition for any guest barbecuer to “bring their own branding irons, heat them in the barbecue pit, and burn their brands in the block.”…These historical brands now hang in the Discovery Museum, and always will, as all Tesene wanted was a worthy and lifelong home for his treasured memories.”

Mr. Tesene was also the author of the book Santa Maria Style Barbecue, which is recognized as the authoritative guide to the history and methods of Santa Maria BBQ.

The Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum is Santa Barbara County’s only children’s museum, and it features numerous exhibits that delve into our local wonders, such as agriculture (pictured here), barbecue, aerospace and nature. One new attraction is the second phase of the “Belly of The Whale” exhibit, which includes a new kiosk that houses a highly interactive educational video that teaches about whale species, their habitats and migratory patterns.

Another exciting development this fall is the October 1 arrival of the highly anticipated Mobile Oil Field Learning Unit (MOLU), a $1.2 million traveling exhibit that teaches children about how energy is created through oil exploration, natural gas and geology. The installation makes its California debut at the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum before touring through Southern California schools and other museums in November.

August 31, 2012 at 4:20 pm Leave a comment

BBQ & Baseball: Two Local Pastimes

Barbecue is so tightly woven into the Santa Maria Valley community that it is even commemorated at the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society Museum.

Here, an entire corner of the museum is devoted to photographs and information highlighting the region’s old-time families and individuals known for their role in local barbecue lore. Some of the most comprehensive books on the history of Santa Maria Style Barbecue are also available for sale.

Of course, hand in hand with barbecue is another favorite American pastime . . . baseball. And now through the end of September, the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society Museum is featuring an exhibition on the rich history of baseball in the Santa Maria Valley. Displaying many artifacts from the personal collection of longtime local Eddie Navarro, the exhibit includes items from little league teams, school and city leagues, vegetable grower company teams and women’s teams.

“Santa Maria has a vibrant baseball history,” said Shirley Contreras, a museum staffer. “A few of our local guys went to the majors including Robin Ventura and Bryn Smith, and many of them went to the minor leagues, too. When World War II broke out, many of our budding stars went off to war and by the time they came home, it was too late for them to pursue careers as baseball players.”

She adds that the display includes photographs of teams from 1903 to the recent past as well as memorabilia including gloves, equipment and uniforms.

Since 1955, the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society Museum has collected, preserved and presented the history of the peoples of the Santa Maria Valley. In 1972, the Society opened the museum at its present location at 616 S. Broadway in Santa Maria. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m.

August 23, 2012 at 7:58 pm Leave a comment

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Wine…

In the Santa Maria Valley, the arrival of warmer spring weather not only intensifies our community focus on barbecue, it inspires us to pull corks, too.

Indeed, the spring season brings out the grills in full force while heralding the annual Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Festival. Happening this year on Saturday, April 21 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., this signature wine event features the fare of more than 100 Santa Barbara County wineries, caterers, specialty food purveyors and restaurants, many of whom display a serious passion for the ‘cue.

They will all converge at The Carranza, a picturesque creekside meadow tucked into a valley just outside of Los Olivos in Northern Santa Barbara County. Two live bands, wine related exhibits and a silent auction to benefit local charities will round out the day. In addition to the festival, many wineries will be offering special tastings, winemaker dinners and library tastings throughout the weekend.

Click here for tickets and information or call (805) 688-0881. And for more information on touring the Santa Maria Valley wine country, visit and

Of course, your culinary tour doesn’t have to end at the festival. Once your appetite returns, you can pick up right where you left off with local wines and Santa Maria Style Barbecue served by numerous local restaurants. Cheers!

April 18, 2012 at 7:56 pm Leave a comment

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