Restaurant News & Reviews

Santa Maria-style barbecue rules at this Atascadero haven for meat lovers

Tri-tip is a popular meat option at Scotty’s BBQ and Catering in Atascadero.
Tri-tip is a popular meat option at Scotty’s BBQ and Catering in Atascadero.

Scotty’s BBQ and Catering lays it on the line with their slogan: “The place for people who can’t vegetarian good.”

Save for some salads and sides, vegetables are rare at this restaurant in downtown Atascadero. Here, dry-rubbed meats slow-grilled over red oak rule the roost.

The business got its start as a barbecue pit in a parking lot. Scotty Pierce opened his brick-and-mortar location at the corner of El Camino Real and Traffic Way in 2014 and quickly gained a following for his authentic Santa Maria-style treatment of meats and sides.

One of the barbecue joint’s devoted customers was Adam Heard. “I ate here at least twice a week,” the Atascadero resident recalled.

So Heard was dismayed when he learned that Pierce was going to sell the business. When no buyer could be found, Pierce planned to shutter it entirely.

On a whim, Heard contacted his brother, Jason Heard, and mother, Chrissy Heard, and suggested buying Scotty’s BBQ together. Both of them lived in Southern California at the time, and “We certainly weren’t looking to do (something like) this,” Chrissy Heard said.

Nonetheless, the family bought the business in January 2016. The move was partially “to give Mom something to do,” Jason Heard joked. She had recently wrapped up a 30-year career in large-scale corporate food service but wasn’t taking too well to the sedate pace of retirement.

Chrissy Heard moved to Atascadero to head up Scotty’s BBQ. The family retained two of Pierce’s key employees — Austin Alexander and Jordan Stuedemann. Both are expert pitmasters, and Alexander is also the restaurant’s manager.

“They knew everything about the operation,” she said, “so the transition was pretty seamless.”

Although the family significantly ramped up the catering side of Scotty’s BBQ with a custom-built 96-foot-long pit with 120 square feet of grilling space, the restaurant part of the business remains largely the same.

Beyond some minor cosmetic touches, “we didn’t want to change anything,” Adam Heard said. “We love this little spot.”

The casual restaurant still has the feel of a barbecue joint, with plastic red-and-white tablecloths and Western-themed décor.

The most noticeable change at Scotty’s BBQ is the beefed-up beer selection, which includes several bottled options. Among the six drafts are local labels such as Firestone Walker Brewing Co. and BarrelHouse Brewing Co. in Paso Robles. Also on tap are selections from King Harbor Brewing Co. in Redondo Beach.

“That’s one of our favorite local beers from down south,” Jason Heard said.

One thing the family was adamant about not changing was the food.

“It’s still traditional Central Coast barbecue — open-fire slow cooking over red oak, with dry rubs we make ourselves that are specific to each meat,” Jason Heard said.

Even the beans, made with tri-tip, bacon and Anaheim chiles, are cooked on the grill, and Chrissy Heard is developing a smoky mac-and-cheese recipe to be done on the grill as well.

Other sides include cornbread, garlic bread, potato salad and coleslaw.

The full roundup of meats ranges from tri-tip to beef ribs, pulled pork to pork ribs, chicken to linguica. All are available in plate specials which include garlic bread and your choice of two sides. Except for the ribs, you can order the rest as sandwiches, sliders and salads, or opt for one of the burritos or quesadillas.

Because of the authentic slow cooking process at Scotty’s BBQ, be prepared to be flexible — unless you’ve called ahead to reserve your order.

“We’re never going to change the old-fashioned way of cooking,” Chrissy Heard said. “We’re not going to throw a tri-tip on the grill for 40 minutes just to have more. We grill most of the day, but when we’re out of something, we’re out.”

Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at ktbudge@sbcglobal.net.

Scotty’s BBQ and Catering

5940 El Camino Real (at Traffic Way), Atascadero

805-464-2822 or scottysbbqpit.com

Hours: 3 to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Closed Monday.

The scene: A casual, family-friendly barbecue joint. Off-site catering available.

The cuisine: Authentic Central Coast slow grilling over red oak; meats include tri-tip, ribs, pulled pork, chicken and linguica. Wine and draft/bottled beer available.

Expect to spend: Sandwiches $6 to $10; plate specials with sides $13 to $26; baskets, salads and burritos about $10 to $15. Larger orders of meats and sides vary with type and size.

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