Food + Wine

America's Best Barbecue

by Jane and Michael Stern

CASMALIA, CALIFORNIA

Unlike barbecue in the South and Southwest, where meat is cooked for hours in hardwood coals, barbecue in the Santa Barbara area is always done in the open, on a grate over flaming oak logs. It's a legacy of the Golden State's bygone culture of the Spanish cowboys, known as vaqueros, who used to reign over the bucolic ranchland northwest of Los Angeles. The most popular cut of beef here is the tri tip, which, although not as supple as filet mignon or as succulent as prime rib, delivers resounding flavor and robust character. The meat at Hitching Post seems to almost glow with the flavor of the fire, and there's also a piquant smack of a wine vinegar and oil marinade, which is applied as it cooks. "The trick is in how the steaks are handled," owner Bill Ostini says. "You've got to know how to cook which steak which way. It depends on the marbling, and how much age they have. It takes two to three years to train a cook to do it the right way." Who says cowboys are dead?

Hitching Post
Tel: 805 937 6151

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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