Serving up classic barbecue and seasonal produce with a side of coastal vibes, a California smokehouse gives low and slow a whole new meaning.

Pork Ribs and Big Sur Smokehouse Brisket recipes
Thomas J. Story

A massive smoker sits on the back porch of a little red homestead cabin at the base of the hill that’s home to the Alila Ventana Big Sur. Oak smoke perfumes the air, rays of sun cutting through it at dramatic angles as hawks whirl overhead. Folks sit on the porch soaking in the Big Sur vibes, tucking into plates of tender brisket and collard greens, fueling up as they make their way along this iconic stretch of the California coast.

This is Big Sur Smokehouse, just the kind of picture-perfect spot you’d want to while away a leisurely lunch in this part of California where time stands still.

When it opened in 2019, Big Sur Smokehouse was big news. Alila Ventana painstakingly restored the 1887 cabin, installed an open kitchen, and developed a menu that paid homage to both ‘cue and the coast. Not only did it mark the restoration of the cabin, but it was the first time real old-school low and slow barbecue would be served regularly in this hamlet where new restaurants don’t open very often. Yes, you can get pulled pork, tri-tip, and brisket influenced by the great barbecue traditions of Texas, the Carolinas, and Kansas City, but this is boho hippie luxe California after all, so peak-season produce appears on the menu, too, in a little gem salad topped with green goddess dressing and soup made with kabocha squash.

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On a recent trip to Big Sur, we had the pleasure of sitting on the porch, ordering up trays of barbecue and savoring the intersection of smoke and the sea. We brought back a few of the recipes that are the essence of summer and elemental in their simplicity.

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