Santa Maria BBQ

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The virtues of various regional styles of American barbecue are well-known. From Texas to Memphis, Kansas City to South Carolina, everyone believes their local barbecue reigns supreme. But one unique style of barbecue that is often overlooked is the one that originates right here on California’s Central Coast: Santa Maria style Barbecue.


Santa Maria barbecue originated in the mid 1800’s as a way for rancheros to celebrate and gather after round-ups. They would cook top block beef slowly on a spit over local red oak and serve it typically with beans and tortillas. Over time, a specific grill was developed - the Santa Maria grill - to allow cooks to raise and lower the cooking grates to adjust the cooking temperature.


Additionally, tri-tip - a unique cut which was discovered at a Safeway in Santa Maria - soon became the preferred meat for Santa Maria style cooking. Today, we enjoy Santa Maria barbecue in its modern form: red oak grilled tri-tip, sliced thin, served with braised pinquito beans, pico de gallo, and garlic bread. For those of us from the central coast, this is THE way barbecue should be.


We hope you enjoy Quokka’s rendition of our beloved meal. Although we’ve made some adjustments to improve the nutritional value of the dish, the soul of Santa Maria barbecue still shines through.

~ Chef Julian

About the author

Quokka chef Julian Martinez

Julian Martinez

A former collegiate distance runner, Julian ran cross-country at a national level before finding a passion for CrossFit. Shortly after he began competing, Julian qualified for the California Regionals competition. As an experienced chef, Julian has opened multiple restaurants in Santa Barbara, including Barbareño and Cubaneo.


As Quokka's Executive Chef, Julian leverages his professional experience and his ISSA certification in sports nutrition to regularly develop new Quokka recipes and help Quokka members reach their health, wellness, and performance goals.