It all began with asado. Served to crowds big and small, this style of grilling vast quantities of meat over an open flame is based on the traditions of the gauchos, or cattle herders, who once roamed the grasslands of Central Argentina. The asado soon became an important cultural standby, which quickly spread throughout South America. Importantly, these cookouts never centered around individual steaks; instead, they always featured large cuts of rich, slowly cooked meat, perfect for sharing amongst friends and family.
With the eventual establishment of California ranchos, and subsequent influx of immigrants from South America and Mexico during the late eighteenth century, the further spread of the asado tradition was inevitable. Here on the Central Coast, rancheros often centered their barbeques on large cuts of sirloin, cooked on a large spit over local coastal red oak, accompanied by salsa, tortillas and local pinquito beans. Today, the same basic parts still comprise Santa Maria-style barbeque. The food is so simple, so straightforward, that its deliciousness and complexity depend entirely on having exactly the right ingredients–including the wood and the grill–cooked by grillers who intuitively understand how to bring out the best flavor in the meat.
Originally, Santa Maria style grilling was often done in pits dug in the ground, or on slanted grates, which was cumbersome. The Santa Maria-style solved that problem. This tool allowed grillers to precisely control the heat applied to the meat by raising and lowering the grate with a turn wheel. Whenever the flames erupt, grillers can crank the grate loaded with tri-tips, ribs, or sausages up a couple of notches so nothing will scorch. The grill is very simple, extremely effective, but oddly only common here on the Central Coast. By the mid-twentieth century, the Santa Maria grill became a mainstay of the region. Santa Maria’s main drag, Broadway, used to be one long corridor of white smoke every Friday and Saturday night, with residents hauling their grills out to cook for the the community.
With its communal nature, great design, and connection to history, the Santa Maria grill is one of the foundations of Central Coast cuisine. Our grill, which also includes a smoker, serves as the centerpiece of our outdoor seating area. We can’t wait to break it out and share the smokey, delicious food that comes from its flames with all of you.