Santa Maria Barbecue

Sara Schneider

More great 'cue in Southern California

While issues of sauce and smoke ignite arguments across the South, there's a Western tradition that inspires as much passion — Santa Maria barbecue. What started in the mid-1800s on Southern California's huge ranchos as a means of feeding a large number of vaqueros continues every weekend on portable barbecues along Santa Maria's main street, Broadway. Beef sirloin is simply rubbed with garlic salt and pepper and grilled to medium-rare over red-oak coals. The beef is sliced and served with salsa, salad, and tangy-sweet pinquito beans. Stroll along Broadway on a Saturday and choose your feast. Or visit these restaurants: Far Western Tavern ($$; 899 Guadalupe St., Guadalupe; 805/ 343-2211); the Hitching Post I ($$; 3325 Point Sal Rd., Casmalia; 805/ 937-6151) and II ($$; 406 E. State 246, Buellton; 805/688-0676); Jocko's ($$; 125 N. Thompson Ave., Nipomo; 805/929-3686). Contact the Santa Maria Valley Visitor & Convention Bureau (800/ 331-3779) for more information.