The roots of this barbecue style date back to the 1800s, when vaqueros would grill beef over pits filled with charcoal from local red oak trees. Add salsa and native pinquito beans, and you have the foundations of the style you see today. Eventually, tri-tip became the standard cut of meat, and the grills evolved into a specialized type called, you guessed it, the Santa Maria grill.
You can find the delicious, dry-rub (typically garlic powder, salt, and black pepper) barbecue throughout the area, and we highlight a few restaurants below. However, if you can only visit one restaurant, we recommend Jocko’s Steakhouse, located just north of Santa Maria in Nipomo.
Any getaway focused on food needs active options to counterbalance the calories. The coastal area near Santa Maria is known for its sand dunes, which provide beautiful, unique vistas and a workout bonus. And the nearby Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve is an excellent place to climb the dunes for a peaceful yet active hike.
Bring your appetite and experience a native California culinary tradition.
Arrive on Friday in time for dinner at Shaw’s Steakhouse in downtown Santa Maria or Far Western Tavern in Orcutt. On Saturday, walk the dunes at the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve. In the evening, drive out to Jocko’s Steakhouse or The Hitching Post for dinner.
Things to Do
- Sample Santa Maria-style Barbecue at restaurants like Jocko’s Steakhouse, The Hitching Post, Shaw’s Steakhouse, and Far Western Tavern.
- Discover even more restaurants via this Santa Maria-style barbecue map.
- Work up an appetite and burn some calories by hiking at the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve.
When to Go
You can visit any time of the year you have a craving for barbecue, but the warmest and driest months are April through November.
A typical barbecue dinner entree starts around $25-35 per person and goes up from there. It’s free to visit the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve.