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California's top-ranked barbecue shows off Santa Maria Style during National Barbecue Month

And, just to rub it in, the annual Santa Maria Barbecue Festival returns for a smokin' good time May 14, 2022

While the grills are always fired up in Santa Maria Valley, home to Santa Maria-Style barbecue, this May marks the return of the Santa Maria Barbecue Festival, now in its fourth year. Formerly known as Brews & Cues, this cornerstone event will take place from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 14, right in the midst of National Barbecue Month.

National Barbecue Month.

After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the event will once again showcase the flavorful and distinctive Santa Maria-Style barbecue. Attendees will sample the barbecue fare and vote for their favorite "cuers," while enjoying live music, games and a variety of beers from local brewery, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company. The festival will take place at Pioneer Park in Santa Maria and tickets are available, yet sell out quickly.

"The best barbecue in the world" Santa Maria-Style barbecue started in the mid-19th century when the rancheros gathered to help each other brand their calves each spring. As a thank-you to fellow vaqueros – America's first cowboys – the host would prepare a Spanish-style barbecue, consisting of beef barbecued over a red-oak fire, served with Pinquito beans, bread, salsa and homemade desserts.

The present-day Santa Maria-Style barbecue grew out of this tradition when locals began to string their beef on skewers and cook it over the hot coals of a red-oak fire. The meat, either top-block sirloin or tri-tip, is rolled in a mixture of salt, pepper, and garlic powder and slow roasted over native red oak, giving it a hearty, smoky flavor. Sunset Magazine named this classic feast the best barbecue in the world, and the California Visitor's Guide dubbed it the number one food not to miss while visiting California. Even The New York Times came in search of Santa Maria Valley's storied tri-tip.

In addition to the Santa Maria Barbecue Festival, there are several ways for people to dig into National Barbecue Month this May and indulge in Santa Maria-Style barbecue:

May you always be surrounded by good friends and great barbecue. Visitors to Santa Maria Valley can follow this complimentary map of scrumptious barbecue pit stops along their Central California Coast road trip excursion.

Highlights include:

  • The Hitching Post – The Casmalia location is one of the Valley's most famous and a true local's favorite.

  • Far Western Tavern – The menu celebrates the tried and true dishes from the restaurant's original location, which opened in the Palace Hotel building in Guadalupe in 1958. California ranch-inspired cuisine includes multiple cuts of beef, pork, ribs and chicken.

  • Shaw's Steakhouse and Tavern – A true gem in Santa Maria, this is as authentic as it gets for Santa Maria-Style barbecue.

Tempted yet? Keep dreaming about California's Central Coast and season your imagination with this video to see what all the fuss is all about. It's a simple, yet delicious, tradition.

Grill with a local Jaime Flores, local pit master and founder of the Santa Maria Valley Barbecue Festival, shares how to make a bountiful meal worthy of the Santa Maria-Style title. In this video, he demonstrates how to make Santa Maria-Style barbecue using ingredients from a local grocery store so anyone can bring the iconic taste of Santa Maria Valley to their very own home.

Download the free Santa Maria-Style barbecue Cookbook Next, order those Instacart ingredients to make a hearty and filling Santa Maria-Style barbecue family recipe at home. Download this free cookbook to access the Santa Maria-Style tradition. You can use many types of beef, including tri-tip or top sirloin. If you are a pescatarian or vegetarian, Santa Maria-Style seasoning can top seafood or vegetables to make your meal memorable. Susie Q's Santa Maria-Style seasoning, salsa, Pinquito beans and California red oak chips can be ordered online and shipped right to you.

Barbecue & wine pairings Santa Maria-Style barbecue and locally-produced wines are the perfect pairing. Typically, Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir and Rhone-style varietals like Syrah will hold up to the bold flavors of barbecue. The Santa Maria Valley soil, climate and other native local conditions shape the wine's character. With the marine climate and dry sandy-loam soils, it's not hard to find wines that exhibit a strong sense of place. Wines from Riverbench, Foxen and cnagy complement such a meal and can be purchased online. If dessert is on the menu, strawberries are the ideal finale. As one of North America's most prolific strawberry producers, Santa Maria Valley berries are abundant this time of year.

With 15 beaches and 34 tasting rooms all within a 30-minute drive, Santa Maria Valley is the perfect home base to do more for less. Explore all you can do in and around the valley. For more information, visit

About Santa Maria Valley: Serving the greater Santa Maria Valley in the heart of California's Central Coast, the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau is a nonprofit association that facilitates local tourism and provides information on the region's many attractions and visitor services. Famed for its fine wines, natural wonders, agricultural heritage and flavorful barbecue, the Santa Maria Valley offers a broad range of cultural, sporting and historical experiences. For details on Santa Maria Valley lodging, wine tasting, travel deals and e-newsletter alerts, visit or call (800) 331-3779.

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