USA Today 10Best: 10 essential food experiences to enjoy along California’s Central Coast

Brian Cicioni of USA Today 10Best recently visited Santa Maria Valley as part of his trek down the California Central Coast. We all know you can’t take such a trip without stopping in for our signature Santa Maria-Style Barbecue. Check out an excerpt of his recap:


California’s Central Coast lies roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Too many tourists just pass through this area, perhaps only stopping to take pictures of the rocky cliffs that lead down to the Pacific Ocean. But there are memorable culinary experiences waiting to be had in nearly every one of the small towns and cities that line Highway 1.

From oyster shucking and seaweed foraging to olive oil tasting and Santa Maria-style barbeque, here are 10 essential foodie experiences along California’s Central Coast.

Enjoying Santa Maria-style barbecue

Tri-tip and sweet potato fries from Moxie CafeTri-tip and sweet potato fries from Moxie Cafe — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni

Santa Maria-style barbeque is a source of pride throughout California’s Central Coast. The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce even trademarked it back in 1978. No trip to the region is complete without enjoying a tri-tip sandwich with a side of salsa. The sandwiches are typically served plain, with simply bread and a whole lot of medium-rare meat. Salsa and another sauce or two come on the side.

For a true feel of Central California cowboy country, you should also check out The Hitching Post. You may have heard of it from the movie “Sideways,” but that was The Hitching Post 2. At the Casmalia location, the Santa Maria-style barbeque pit is strategically placed next to the main dining room. It’s separated by glass, but you can watch the simple rub and season process from start to finish.

On any given day, The Hitching Post serves more people than currently live in Casmalia. Owner Bill Ostini and chef Luis recommend the New York strip or the rib eye. Both are delicious, but the Santa Maria seasoning is even more prominent on the quail.

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