Far Western Tavern, Orcutt, California
Far Western Tavern, in the Santa Maria Valley, dates back to the late 1950s and remains the epitome of a California-style casual steakhouse. The specialty is “oak-grilled dinner classics,” more commonly known as Santa Maria–style barbecue, popularized by 19th-century rancheros in the region. Expect tri-tip or steak seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, then grilled over red oak. Traditional sides include locally grown pinquito beans, salsa, green salad, and grilled French bread.
Fox Smokehouse BBQ, Boulder City, Nevada
While Las Vegas has plenty of barbecue, locals head 30 minutes south to Boulder City when a craving hits. Dan and Kelly Fox, owners of Fox Smokehouse BBQ, are self-proclaimed barbecue junkies and Kansas City Barbecue Society members and competitors. Their trademarked motto is, “If you’re saucin’, you’re hidin’.” It’s the hickory smoke that gives the meat its signature flavor—served by the half-pound in combo plates and in sandwiches or tacos. Scraps of smoky meat in the cowboy beans make it a must-order side.
Matt’s BBQ, Portland, Oregon
In true Portland style, Matt’s BBQ sells Central Texas–style barbecue at a popular food cart pod. It’s smoked for 16–18 hours and comes out encased in the classic crust or “bark.” Brisket is the specialty, available chopped or sliced, but the house-made jalapeno-cheddar sausage also gets rave reviews. Favorite sides include mac and cheese made with another Texas classic, queso, and tangy coleslaw with vinaigrette.