Who would have thought that some of the country’s best barbecue was tucked away along the Central Coast of California? What’s a secret to most, though, is something our valley has known for years.
Santa Maria-style barbecue stems from a tradition shaped by decades of history, generations of locals, and, of course, the perfect mix of native flavors—all of which come together to create a distinct taste indicative of the Santa Maria Valley. It’s no wonder, then, that Sunset Magazine deemed Santa Maria The West’s Best BBQ Town.
The Magnificent Four
Simplicity is a beautiful thing. The understated (yet powerful) combination of these straightforward ingredients gives Santa Maria-style barbecue its irresistable authenticity.
This signature triangular cut of beef has been the mainstay of Santa Maria-style barbecue since the 1950s, when a butcher popularized it over prime rib and top block sirloin. Known for its hearty flavor and texture, tri-tip today is now regarded as the signature cut for all-things Santa Maria-style.
Santa Maria Seasoning
In this part of the country, barbecue is not so much about the sauce as it is about the seasoning. Our down-home mixture of salt, pepper and garlic salt keeps things simple, but oh-so tasty.
The method of preparation is just as important as the ingredients themselves. Enter: red oak. Our distinct Santa Maria-style flavor is a product of cooking the meat directly over the coals of local red oak—giving our barbecue an unmistakably sweet and smoky quality.
These small, pink beans are indigenous to the Santa Maria Valley and an essential component of a classic Santa Maria-style barbecue plate. They boast a firm, plump texture that pairs perfectly with tri-tip.
The origins of Santa Maria-style barbecue date back to the mid-1800s, when local rancheros would host Spanish-style barbecues every spring for their vaqueros, or cowboys. Under the trees in the picturesque valley, they would savor feasts consisting of beef barbecued over earthen pits filled with red-oak coals.
Today, Santa Maria-style barbecue is enjoyed across the region. The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce copyrighted the official menu in 1978. It consists of tri-tip served with fresh salsa, grilled French bread dipped in sweet melted butter, macaroni and cheese, and tossed green salad.
Duo in the Valley
For the most authentic experience, Santa Maria-style barbecue is best enjoyed with a Pinot Nior, Syrah, or other fine wine from the Santa Maria Valley. A fresh picking of locally grown strawberries also makes for a delicious finale to a filling barbecue meal.
Raise Your Glass
The Santa Maria Valley is recognized as one of the world’s best regions for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and other grape varietals. The Valley’s heavier reds are a perfect pairing for Santa Maria-style barbecue.
Discover Homegrown Taste
Santa Maria Valley strawberries are renowned for their flavorful character. A divine strawberry dessert is a fabulous way to top off any Santa Maria-style barbecue meal.
Visit the Santa Maria Valley and experience a regional culinary tradition rich in history and unique in flavor. It’s the greatest story ever told, and one that might not remain a hidden treasure for much longer.