Tip-top tri tip. Mouthwatering ribs. Succulent sandwiches.
Nothing says “summer” like barbecue, especially on the Central Coast.
Here in San Luis Obispo County, skillful pit-masters have been serving up meaty treats since the days of the vaqueros. (That’s “cowboys” to you gringos.) Whether you prefer your meat dry-rubbed and grilled Santa Maria-style over red oak or slow cooked in a smoker and slathered with sauce, here are five local barbecue joints you can really sink your teeth into.
G. Brothers Smokehouse
Where: 885 Foothill Blvd., San Luis Obispo
When: 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Take your tastebuds on a trip through the South at this low-key barbecue joint, which boasts a wood-burning smoker straight from Mesquite, Texas.
The wide-ranging menu starts with the staples: Memphis-style pork ribs, Texas sliced brisket, Kansas City chopped brisket and Carolina pulled pork. (Meaty “SLO smoked” beef ribs are another option.) Sides include beans, coleslaw, potato salad and garlic bread.
Still hungry? Dig into burgers, sandwiches, salads and pasta, or munch some Mexican fare — tacos, burritos and fajitas. (There are also daily breakfast options including omelettes, French toast and chicken-fried steak and eggs.)
G. Brothers Smokehouse offers a few desserts, but we’d rather grab a bag of G. Brothers Kettle Corn, available at several Central Coast stores and farmers markets.
Mo’s Smokehouse BBQ
Where: 221 Pomeroy Ave., Pismo Beach
When: 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Hickory-smoked pork ribs are the big draw at this Central Coast mainstay, which has a second location in Chico. (Mo’s is set to reopen its third, renovated restaurant at 1005 Monterey St. in San Luis Obispo in July.) Served with corn muffins, beans and coleslaw or potato salad, the ribs come drenched in one of three signature barbecue sauces: Mo’s Memphis, molasses-based Sweet Carolina or tangy, slightly spicy Philthy Phil’s.
And the menu doesn’t stop there. In addition to sides such as garlic fries, beer-battered onion rings and fried green tomatoes, options include barbecued chicken, chipotle-lime chicken tacos and several sandwiches, from shredded pork with barbecue sauce and coleslaw to Louisiana hot links with grilled onions and peppers.
Can’t reach the beach? Mo’s fires up its grill every Thursday at the Downtown SLO Farmers Market in San Luis Obispo.
Old San Luis BBQ Co.
Where: 670 Higuera St., San Luis Obispo
When: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday
This downtown barbecue joint might be small in size but it’s big on flavor.
Try one of Old San Luis BBQ’s signature sandwiches, including Santa Maria-style tri tip with salsa, pulled pork with cilantro garlic barbecue sauce and linguica sausage with sautéed peppers and onions. Or tuck into a pit plate featuring your choice of meat — tri trip, chicken or pulled pork — plus garlic bread and satisfying sides such as cowboy corn pie, ranch-style pinquito beans and apple cucumber coleslaw with jalapeños.
Lighter options include the Strawberry Field Salad with fresh berries, mixed greens, candied pecans and crumbled Gorgonzola cheese.
If you somehow manage to save room for dessert, finish your meal with a hand-scooped milkshake or root beer float.
The Rib Line
Where: 12308 Los Osos Valley Road, San Luis Obispo
When: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily
Where: 2256 Broad St., Suite 110, San Luis Obispo
When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: 228 W. Grand Ave., Grover Beach
When: 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday; 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday (closed 2 to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday); 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday
With three regular locations, plus a booth at San Luis Obispo’s Thursday night farmers market, The Rib Line offers meat eaters plenty of chances to try its barbecue bounty.
The truly massive menu begins with breakfast — try a steak-and-egg sando, or a breakfast burrito with eggs, bacon, chorizo and tater tots — and move onto lunch for options including sliders, tacos, sandwiches and salads.
But dinner is when The Rib Line kicks it into high gear. Good luck making up your mind between beef and baby back ribs, barbecued chicken, steak, salmon and, of course, tri tip, served with sides such as baked beans, coleslaw, cornbread and sourdough garlic bread. The drool-worthy starters range from mac n’cheese and grilled artichokes to bacon-wrapped pineapple jalapeño poppers, beer-battered sweet potato “beach balls” and fries topped with chopped tri tip chili, chipotle aioli and red wine glaze.
Scotty’s BBQ and Catering
Where: 5940 El Camino Real, Atascadero
When: 3 to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Closed Monday.
Scotty’s approach to traditional Central Coast barbecue starts with quality meats seasoned with custom-made rubs and cooked for hours over open-fire pits fueled by locally sourced oak.
With a menu that includes tri tip, chicken, linguica, pulled pork and beef and pork ribs, this casual eatery lives up to its motto as “the place for people who can’t vegetarian good.” All mouth-watering meats are offered as plate specials that include garlic bread and sides such as cornbread, ranch beans, potato salad and coleslaw.
With the exception of the ribs, those smoky, satisfying meats are also available as sandwiches, sliders and salads — even burritos and quesadillas.
If you’re craving something specific, call ahead to reserve your order; favorite foods sell out fast.
Tribune freelance writer Katy Budge contributed to this report.