Exploring Santa Maria

Dinning in the Santa Maria Wine Country offers many unique options from the much loved Chef Rick’s Ultimately Fine Food, to the popular wine country dining destination, The Wine Cottage Bistro or local favorite’s Kay’s Country Kitchen and the Loading Dock in Old Orcutt to Dino’s Deli/Testa’s Bistro downtown Santa Maria.

Start your day right in Old Orcutt at either the fun loving Loading Dock for great espresso drinks and a pastry on the old restored dock over-looking the Orcutt Hills (they also feature wine tasting and great live music on Friday nights) or venture into the always hopping Kay’s Country Kitchen for a full SM style country breakfast or lunch.

Chef Rick’s, beloved by Central Coast foodies and the Santa Maria Valley’s renowned vintners, finds his inspiration in the American South, a wide geographic swath that includes Louisiana, the Southwest and even Southern California. Meals start with a complimentary basket of freshly baked sweet and savory breads. But the real treats follow. Soulful choices like the tacos of grilled halibut, shrimp and scallops topped with jicama guacamole and salsa ranchera, and the Georgia fried chicken salad with green onion dressing. Rick’s is a lively place with funky purple napkins and a motto of “Everything I do gohn be Funky from now on”. The wine list offers rarities from the best wineries just north and south of Chef Rick’s.

If you’re looking for some great, local, seasonal food with great wine, try the Wine Cottage Bistro in Old Orcutt, just miles from Santa Maria to the south. With the area’s only wood fired brick oven lunch, choices like the Spanish Flatbread or the Roasted Garlic dipping oil with fresh baked bread are definitely worth the trip to Old Town Orcutt. Dine on the lovely outdoor garden patio or at the hand crafted concrete wine bar. The Wine Cottage Bistro is serving lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. Determined to showcase the region’s wines in an intimate dining atmosphere, sisters Rebecca Jacobs and Aimee Sigala decided to open Wine Cottage Bistro in the heart of Old Orcutt. Guided by their mission to provide “the area’s best food and wine in a simple and comfortable style,” the pair has created a haven for those who appreciate exquisite food and lively gatherings, all while enjoying the best that Santa Barbara County winemakers have to offer.

A longtime local’s favorite, Dino’s Liquor & Deli & (right around the corner) Testa’s Bistro, combine a full service deli and a Bistro pairing food with wines in a relaxed atmosphere. The Deli features over 20 sandwiches that are made to order and many fresh-made salads. They also offer a large selection of cheeses and meats that are sliced to order for your enjoyment. Custom made boxed lunches, extensive wine selection, gift baskets, large micro brew section, spirits, wine maps and much more all in one easy stop. Just around the corner is Testa’s Bistro where they have paired up with William James Cellars to take wine & food to the next level.

Before heading out for a day touring the countryside, hopping from winery to winery, savvy travelers know to stop by any one of these restaurants for made-to-order boxed lunches (ideal for picnicking on the wine trail) or to plan their day stopping in for lunch or dinner.

Santa Maria Valley Wine Country Hotels also offer Wine Country dining. A Central Coast landmark since 1917, The Historic Santa Maria Inn blends the style of an old English country inn, the elegance of a bygone era and the gracious hospitality of the Santa Maria Valley. The Inn is an oasis of charm and luxury, offering a unique hospitality experience and the sophisticated amenities travelers expect. Enjoy the quaint ambiance, creative cuisine, spirited wines and world-class service. Invigorate your taste buds with fresh and innovative California cuisine while sipping the finest local wines.You can also enjoy their award-winning Sunday Champagne Brunch.

Dine in the award-winning Vintner’s Grill, at the Radisson Hotel near the airport. Surrounded by unparalleled vistas of rolling hillsides and airport runways. The Vintners Grill proudly features an extensive wine list highlighted by Santa Barbara County’s finest wine selections. For breakfast and lunch, the Atrium Bistro offers fast friendly food featuring a breakfast & lunch buffet. Bob & Hardy’s Caffe Corner offers an espresso bar featuring your favorite coffee drinks.

Santa Maria Style Barbecue is truly the authentic taste experience of Santa Maria. This sumptuous feast of barbecued sirloin, salsa, Pinquito beans, toasted French bread, and green salad has been called by Sunset Magazine, the “best barbecue in the world” and the California’s Visitor’s Guide raves this the “number one food not to miss while visiting California.” It is the featured cuisine at all festive occasions, both public and private, and so thoroughly ingrained in local culture that it truly has become a way of life.

The present Santa Maria Style Barbecue grew out of this tradition, and achieved its “style” some 60 years ago when local residents 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 the triangular-shaped bottom sirloin known as “tri tip,” is rolled in a mixture of salt, pepper and garlic salt just prior to cooking. It is then barbecued over red oak coals, giving the meat a hearty, smoky flavor. The traditional Santa Maria Barbecue menu features, of course, the barbecued sirloin, trimmed, sliced, and laid out in metal pans so that the diner may select the desired doneness. The only condiment for this tender and flavorful meat is a fresh salsa. With it is served grilled French bread dipped in sweet melted butter, perfect for soaking up every last bit of the flavorful meat juices. Also served on the side is a tossed green salad, and slow-cooked pinquito beans.

Once a well-kept local secret, word of Santa Maria Style Barbecue has spread around the world, enticing travelers to come by the thousands, seeking a taste of this local specialty, and it’s not difficult to find. On a typical Saturday, you will see clouds of fragrant smoke billowing through the air, leading you to numerous barbecues throughout the city. They range from outdoor feasts along Broadway sponsored by schools and local charities, to restaurants offering a more formal dining experience, to backyard cookouts where families enjoy their own recipes that have been passed down through the generations. It’s no wonder Santa Maria is called the “Barbecue Capital of the World.”

OTHER THINGS TO DO…..

Santa Maria offers something for the entire family. This fun-filled playground in the foothills of the Sierra Madres and just minutes from pristine beaches will bring out the child in everyone. Most of the activities are low cost or free. For more information call the Santa Maria Valley Convention and Visitor & Convention Bureau

Santa Maria Valley Railroad Excursion
www.smvrr.com
Experience a dining excursion aboard the Silver Lariat on the Santa Maria Valley Railroad. Enjoy a fine dining experience reminiscent of the elegant railroad passengercars of yesteryear. Step aboard the ex-California Zephyr dome car Silver Lariat for an elegant and exclusive atmosphere once reserved for the railroad barons and magnates as they once plied the rails in their private railcars. Indulge yourself with a gourmet meal specially prepared on board the Silver Lariat. The dining excursions will take you from our depot in Santa Maria through the lush Santa Maria Valley as the fields are in full production with vegetable and berry crops in one of the most fertile agricultural valleys in the world. Santa Maria Valley Railroad Company 628 S. McClelland Street, Santa Maria, CA 93454

Santa Maria Museum of Flight
http://smmof.org/
Wander through this large museum featuring World War II and present-day displays of aircraft and artifacts. The museum is open Friday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 adults; $4 seniors; $3 kids 12-18; $1 kids 6-12. Group tours available, call to schedule.

The Natural History Museum
Kids of all ages will enjoy this museum featuring rock and fossil exhibits from the area, native bird displays, a bat-room, and an interactive work station for further exploration, and a touch table featuring rocks, shells and other surprises to play with. See an extensive shell collection from the area too! Admission is free. 412 South McClelland, Santa Maria.
Hours: Wednesday-Saturdays 11-4p.m. and by appointment.

Santa Maria Valley Historical Society Museum
For a glimpse into the history of Santa Maria and the people who settled here, visit the Santa Maria Valley Historical Museum. The museum preserves the history and nostalgia of the city with pictures, artifacts, and valley memorabilia. Ask about the Historic Walking Tours. Admission is free. 616 South Broadway, Santa Maria.

Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum
Families will take pleasure in this newly built museum that offers hands-on exhibits for children to learn while they play. This hands-on museum offers a chance for children to learn while they play. Enjoy exhibits such as Enclose Yourself in a Bubble, Tar Pit and much more. Open Tuesday – Saturday 11-6 Sunday 1-4 Closed Mondays. Admission $6.00, under 2 $1.00 and over 65 $5.00.

Santa Maria Valley Railway Historical Museum, www.smvrhm.org/, founded as a non-profit, educational museum, is dedicated to the preservation of the railroad heritage of California, the Central Coast, and the Santa Maria Valley. Admission is free. The Museum is located in the Santa Maria Town Center, corner of East Main Street and Broadway, on the upper level across from Robinsons May.