Far Western Tavern, Home of Graciousness
& Tri-Tip Santa Maria BBQ
Article by guest author Linda Milks
What is Tri-Tip? You have to be from or have visited the West Coast to know about this special cut of beef. Tri-Tip became famous when a butcher, Bob Schutz of Santa Maria, perfected the steak. The Far Western Tavern in Orcutt, California (just outside Santa Maria) has mastered the art of the Santa Maria BBQ with the Tri-Tip as well as other delicious and locally grown steaks. These steaks are grilled directly over red oak wood with special seasonings, a method first used by the 19th century rancheros. In fact, when Bobby Flay came to the Santa Maria area for his Food Network show, he chose the Minetti family who own the Far Western Tavern to demonstrate how to prepare the Santa Maria style of barbecue.
I can witness this method brings mouth-watering goodness to a steak because I was lucky enough to visit this amazing and iconic restaurant with a group of fellow writers. Susan Righetti, one of the owners of the Far Western Tavern, greeted us at the door and immediately welcomed us into what is more than just a restaurant. (We immediately knew we liked her when we saw that huge smile and amazing cowboy boots!) Her family established the Far Western Tavern in 1958 in the historic Palace Hotel building in the town of Guadalupe. Today the restaurant can be found in Orcutt with much of the interior transplanted from the original location. The family history and photos are displayed throughout the restaurant, and Susan’s love for this place exudes joy in telling guests about her family’s involvement in this fine establishment.
Ambiance is part of what makes a restaurant superb, but the food must also be special to make a restaurant outstanding. That is what I found at the Far Western Tavern. The food represents the area with its pinquito beans (small red beans grown only in the Santa Maria Valley) and salsa, but it also echoes roots of the family’s Swiss-Italian background. Her brother is a cattle rancher which supports the family knowledge of the beef they serve. In fact, all of her family has some connection to the restaurant.
Susan suggested special appetizers representative of the area and her restaurant. We tried the Puff Pastry Wrapped Linguica (a popular sausage of the area); Mac N’Cheese Relleno, made of roasted pasilla and three cheeses; Sweetbreads, which I never thought I would try, but as the saying goes, “When in Rome…”; and an Oak Grilled Artichoke with Siracha Remoulade. What a start to what was going to be an epic meal!
We chose a variety of entrees, perfect for food writers, so that we could sample several. My choice was the Boneless Ribeye Steak, grilled Santa Maria style over red oak, and sitting atop grilled polenta. I added an enhancement of Whiskey Peppercorn Sauce. This was truly one of the most flavorful and tender steaks I have ever eaten. When I looked around the table, I summarized that you could not go wrong with any choice on the menu. The Oak Pit Roasted Rack of Lamb was plated beautifully and done to perfection. Of course another wonderful choice was the Oak Grilled Tri-Tip accompanied with corn & pinquito bean salsa, garlic mashed potatoes, shishito peppers, and an avocado verde sauce.
Any good steak needs to have a wonderful wine to accompany it, and the Santa Maria Valley is a utopia for wonderful wines. The Riverbench Pinot Noir, a Santa Maria winery owned by Susan’s sister, proved to be an excellent choice.
No meal is complete without dessert. The Far Western Tavern’s new pastry chef offered up a variety of delectable desserts. We just had to sample the Deep Dish Apple Pie, Cheesecake, and Three Crème Brulee Sampler. They could not have been any tastier.
Susan Righetti shared with us that she offers her authentic Santa Maria style barbecue spices online as well as red oak chips, and the dried pinquito beans that are only from this region. All of this can be found at Suzy Q’s Brand website: http://susieqbrand.com/
No future trip to the central part of California will be complete for me without a stop at the Far Western Tavern, open for lunch and dinner during the week, as well as brunch and dinner on Saturdays and Sundays. Information can be found at: http://www.farwesterntavern.com/