Today through June 3, a nightly Santa Maria Style Barbecue is the hot and happening place to be at the annual Santa Maria Elks Rodeo & Parade, which takes place at the Elks-Unocal Event Center in Santa Maria. A beloved tradition organized by the Elks since 1944, the event includes bulls, broncs, roping, Clydesdales, rodeo clowns, camping, a parade, live music, a mini rodeo for kids and much more.

And it just figures that Santa Maria’s own Elks Lodge would possess the largest indoor barbecue on the Central Coast. After all, what is one to expect from the birthplace of Santa Maria Style Barbecue? Indeed, the local Elks Lodge sports three massive red-oak-fired brick barbecues in their open-air pit room. The barbecues are used for weekly Friday Night “Cook Your Own” dinners enjoyed by members. They are also employed for special functions that have accommodated as many as 900 guests! The Elks Lodge even has its own woodshed stacked to the gills with cords of red oak that members haul in from their ranches and farms.

One longtime member explains that his favorite approach is to cut top sirloin into thirds and string it along metal rods, per the original Santa Maria BBQ method. These are raised and lowered over the red oak coals to control the heat. Approximately one dozen slabs of meat are threaded onto each rod with fat caps facing up and down in an alternating pattern. This way the sizzling fat runs over both sides, keeping the meat moist during its two-and-a-half-hour cooking time.

Says this Elk who’s a master at the ‘cue: “We like to keep it simple and good, and the red oak gives it one hell of a lot of flavor.”

And you could say that’s been the motto of Santa Maria BBQ for more than a 100 years!