UPDATE: The Far Western Tavern that I wrote about in the original post below moved in October, 2012 to Orcutt, California. I have not been to the new location, but from the pictures it looks like they did a pretty good job, especially on the bar. They actually moved the historic mahogany bar, cowhide upholstery, and many of the mounted heads, artworks, photos, and artifacts to the new location.
Along the central California coast just south of San Luis Obispo lies the Santa Maria valley, famous for its style of barbecue that originated in the 19th century with cattle ranchers in the valley. Santa Maria Style BBQ (as it’s often called) is usually well-seasoned beef (traditionally boneless top-block sirloin and more recently tri-tip, though many other cuts are also popular such as rib eye and tenderloin) slowly grilled on long skewers over a barbecue pit fired with local red oak. One of the best and oldest restaurants serving that style of BBQ is in the sleepy farming community of Guadalupe (pronounced Gwad-a-loop by locals) along California highway 1.
The Far Western Tavern has been in the same family in the same location since 1958, when the Minetti family opened the restaurant in the vacant Palace Hotel, which was built in 1912. Many of the Palace Hotel fixtures remain, including the beautiful mahogany bar. The Minettis added western touches like steer horns, mounted animal heads, and cowhide upholstery in the bar, which are still intact to this day. In fact not much has changed since 1958, which makes it even tougher for me to accept the news that the restaurant will be moving into a new building in Orcutt, CA in the spring of 2012. The Far Western Tavern has been my favorite place to stop on the drive down the coast along US highway 101 for many years, so it will be sad to see it go. Which is why I high-tailed it down there on the long Thanksgiving weekend. I plan to return as much as possible before it closes (date not announced, but the web site states that it will close a few weeks before the new one opens, so its days are numbered).
The Far Western Tavern’s most famous steak is the Bulls Eye Steak, which is a rib eye (the “eye” of fat is the bulls eye). It’s a great steak but for lunch in the bar I like to order the Ranchers Steak Sandwich, a top sirloin steak on a grilled slice of French bread, served with pinquito beans and homemade salsa (all three are de rigueur in the Santa Maria Valley). Top sirloin isn’t usually my cut of choice anywhere else, but in this area I often order it because it is the original preferred Santa Maria steak and it is always tender and beefy, with a great chew, because they know how to cut the steaks for flavor and tenderness. The pinquito beans here are not my favorite in the valley; they are pretty bland. Recently the Santa Maria Valley has developed a reputation for their excellent wines, so I had a good local red wine with my steak. When dining in this area I recommend ordering any of the wines from the valley or Santa Barbara County.
When I was there recently I was taking pictures so the bartender invited me to check out the second floor, which has this great looking bar for private functions plus a large dining room.
Here are some details of the main bar.
Go there soon while you still can! It’s a great scenic detour for lunch or dinner off highway 101.
Far Western Tavern
NEW LOCATION: 300 East Clark Avenue, Orcutt, CA
Open: lunch Mon-Fri 11am-2 pm; dinner Fri-Sat 4pm-10pm; Sun-Thurs 4pm-9pm; brunch Sat-Sun 9am-2pm; bar open Fri-Sat until midnight, Sun-Thurs until 10pm