Restaurant News & Reviews

Bring your appetite to F. McLintocks in Shell Beach

For almost four decades, F. McLintocks Saloon and Dining House has served up the signature Western-style feasts that have made its Shell Beach restaurant a SLO County landmark. Read more »
For almost four decades, F. McLintocks Saloon and Dining House has served up the signature Western-style feasts that have made its Shell Beach restaurant a SLO County landmark. Read more » dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

It began on Oct. 1, 1973. That’s when fledgling business partners Bruce Breault and Tunny Ortali opened the doors to F. McLintocks Saloon and Dining House on Mattie Road in Shell Beach.

Ortali recalled that he first met Breault — already a veteran of the restaurant business — when making a sales call at a San Luis Obispo restaurant.

Although Ortali had no previous thought of going into the business, the two hit it off, and “Bruce had had his eye on (this location) for a long time.” The rest, as they say, is history.

The F. McLintocks family of restaurants now includes three more saloons and the seafood-oriented Steamers of Pismo. But the original dining house remains not only the flagship establishment, but also the hub of operations for all the other properties, from bookkeeping to bean baking.

Almost every dish listed on an F. McLintocks menu gets its start on Mattie Road.

While the front of the business hosts the bustling restaurant area, the back of the sprawling complex serves as offices and as a central commissary for time-consuming items such as the mountains of side dishes, thousands of hand-trimmed steaks and chops, and pounds and pounds of low-and-slow-cooked ribs.

Each location gets regular deliveries of the signature ingredients and finishes them off to order. (Steamers operates more autonomously due to its different menu.)

Though beef definitely rules the roost here, there are many other choices as well.

Seafood options include everything from shrimp scampi to seafood fettuccini to grilled salmon, and you can order up pork chops, an oak-grilled chicken breast and even grilled liver and onions.

Regardless of what entree you choose, all the dinners served in the dining room (even the early suppers) come with the family-style servings of sides that F. McLintocks is known for: onion rings, salsa, trail camp beans, garlic bread, ranch-fried potatoes and your choice of ice cream, sherbet or one of 15 liqueurs.

So, about that beef. Yes, it is all hand-trimmed from much larger cuts by F. McLintocks' own on-site butchers (all the leftover bits go into the hearty beans, the freshly ground hamburger, etc.).

That means you can choose from a bone-in or boneless rib-eye, an 8-ounce top sirloin or a 24-ounce porterhouse, a New York steak or a tri-tip steak. Cooking involves slow roasting, smoking and/or grilling over open oak pits, and from there the meat might be bacon-wrapped, pepper-encrusted or topped with barbecue sauce.

As much as it’s a destination for its food, the F. McLintocks Saloon and Dining House also serves up a slice of Western culture thanks to its decor.

Though it may look like “saloons” everywhere, almost every bridle, boot and buckskin is from a nearby ranch, and locals will recognize many familiar names on the myriad cattle brands that adorn the walls.

Indeed, at its heart, F. McLintocks is an integral part of the local community, especially considering the hundreds of “alumni” who have worked there and proudly claim the F. McLintocks entry on their résumés. Many have gone on to use the knowledge to start their own restaurants, while most gained valuable first work experience and some extra cash to help out with school.

Among the many alumni is Whitney Northington, now the company’s manager of public relations and communications who first worked at Steamer’s while attending Cal Poly.

“After I graduated and applied for a job again, they welcomed me with open arms,” she said. “There’s really nothing like a family-owned-and-operated company like this one — you really don’t find it very often.”

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