We had a hanking for BBQ on a beautiful Saturday, so we decided to pile our two dogs in the car and drive up the coast. But this wasn’t going to be a short jaunt to Ventura down the 126. We wanted Santa Maria-style BBQ, a smoky BBQ flavor created by the red oak native to the Santa Maria Valley, located in northern Santa Barbara County.
So we drove up the 101. And drove. Past Ventura, Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, Buellton, Los Alamos and even past Santa Maria until we arrived at Rancho Nipomo BBQ in Nipomo some 250 miles later. Located right off the 101 freeway, the casual BBQ joint has plenty of indoor and outdoor seating (so it’s dog friendly).
It took about 2.5 hours, but the traffic was light, the coastal vistas were beautiful and, yes, the food was worth the drive. We had a 1/2-pound tri-tip sandwich and a brisket sandwich with fries/rings and a Central Coast IPA.
The tri-tip was tender and smoky, and the extra BBQ sauce was served on the side, which was good because it was a little too sweet for our taste. The slow-smoked beef brisket was even more tender with just a right ratio of BBQ sauce to not overpower it. Even without the sauce, the brisket with its garlic and seasoning would have stood just fine on its own. Both sandwiches were served on soft Telera rolls which complemented the meats perfectly.
The 50/50 fries and rings were more like a 90/10 ratio, but there was plenty of food, and we didn’t drive 250 miles for French fries. However, one of the locals told us to try the Santa Maria fries (aka carne asada fries) with tri-tip ends, pinto beans, three cheeses, pico de gallo and sour cream.
It’s a good excuse to drive up there again, especially with other items on the menu like the pork ribs, pastrami, chili verde enchiladas and tri-tip burritos.
Rancho Nipomo BBQ & Deli
& Gold Rush Cantina
108 Cuyama Lane
Nipomo, California 93444