Santa Maria Style Barbecue is so distinctively delicious that the official menu is actually copyrighted to protect its authenticity and integrity.

Santa Maria Style barbecue is a 150-year old Central Coast tradition that started in the 1800s in Santa Maria Valley, when local ranchers would host barbecue feasts for their vaqueros — or cowboys — as well as family, friends and neighbors. The meal consists of grilled beef, usually tri-tip or sirloin, that is seasoned with a simple mix of salt, pepper and garlic, and grilled over native red oak coals. The beef is served with pinquito beans, which also grow natively on the coast, garlic bread and a fresh green salad. It’s a delicious pastime that’s worth savoring.

To protect this authentic barbecue style, the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce requested a copyright to protect the name, concept and menu of Santa Maria Style Barbecue. In 1978, the copyright was granted by the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress in March of that year.

Bob Seavers, the secretary-manager of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce at that time, was quoted as saying that the copyright was necessary “because restaurants and organizations in other communities were beginning to advertise and serve a fare represented as ‘Santa Maria Style Barbecue,’ which, in reality, bore little resemblance to the true Santa Maria Style Barbecue. The copyright will help to preserve the tradition authentically, as the barbecue becomes more and more famous.”

It proved to be a great decision because, more than 30 years later, Santa Maria Style Barbecue continues to gain both fame and fans largely as a result of its inherent authenticity and regional roots.

As noted in the copyrighted menu: “In the early days of the huge ranchos, the rancheros, with their vaqueros, friends and neighbors, gathered frequently under the oaks of this serene little valley for Spanish barbecues. The present Santa Maria Barbecue grew out of this tradition and achieved its “style” some 50 years ago when local residents began to string their beef on skewers and cook it over the hot coals of a red oak fire…This tradition has been carried on throughout the years by the many groups and organizations in the Santa Maria Valley who have made the barbecue a specialty of all major events. Visitors to the city having the good fortune to be exposed to this gourmet’s delight return again and again to enjoy a unique experience in eating.”

Learn more about Santa Maria Style barbecue and download our official Santa Maria Style cookbook for free to get your fill of delicious Santa Maria Style barbecue.


In Santa Maria Valley, there’s so much to do from here. Hit the road and explore it all with our 24 hiking trails, 34 tasting rooms, seven unique AVAs, 13 beaches, and a growing selection of local breweries, all within a beautiful 30-minute drive. There is no need to venture far if you are looking for sand dunes, cycling and authentic Santa Maria Style dining. You’ll find it’s the perfect home base, where you can eat, drink and do more for less.