When the word barbecue is mentioned around here, people are usually talking about Santa Maria style, but you won’t find tri-tip anywhere on the regular menu at RB Smokin’ BBQ in Paso Robles.
What’s recognized and revered as an iconic Central Coast cuisine would be called nothing more than grilling in the barbecue belts of Texas, Kansas City and the Carolinas, where meats are cooked low and slow, usually with indirect heat such as smoking.
From there, the particulars are subject to fierce and heated regional debate: dry rub or sauce, beef or pork, beans or coleslaw.
RB’s owners Doug and Connie McCurdy retired to Paso Robles from Henderson, Nev., about six years ago.
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After Doug won a few local, judged rib cookoffs, the couple decided to seriously heed friends’ urgings to start a restaurant.
They found a vacant Italian-themed restaurant on Creston Road, and Connie applied her design skills to the interior. The result is a worthy and welcoming space for a southern-style smokehouse, complete with big rolls of brown napkins on the homemade tables, metal pails made into lampshades, and country music (unless there’s a big game on the flatscreens).
“As much as everybody grills around here, we thought there’d be a good market for this barbecue,” said Doug McCurdy.
Since the McCurdys launched their family-run restaurant in November, son Jeff has joined them, as has manager Adrian Taylor, who said, “We’re offering a combination of the best barbecue regions in one smokehouse.”
Indeed, while Austin is known for smoked beef brisket, Kansas City for its baby backs, and Charleston for its chicken, you’ll find all that on the menu at RB. There are two versions of a pulled pork sandwich: one that’s Carolina-style with dry rub and topped with cole slaw, and one with sauce but no slaw.
Speaking of cole slaw, any smokehouse worth its hickory has to have appropriate side dishes, which are as much a part of the tradition as the meats.
Among the choices at RB’s are cornbread, baked beans, sweet potato fries, and yes, even fried pickles. As this isn’t a spot for calorie-counting, you can also munch on battered and fried green beans with chipotle pesto dipping sauce while you’re enjoying one of the eight premium draft beers.
Other menu items include a pulled chicken or brisket sandwich, and Caesar salads topped with the chicken or brisket and either classic or spicy chipotle dressing.
If you’re really feeling decadent, go for the smoked meatloaf made with Certified Angus Beef, bacon and cheese. As the menu aptly notes, “This ain’t your momma’s meatloaf,” but if you still have room for dessert you can dig into a peach cobbler made from an old family recipe.
To fire up their mouth-watering menu items, RB’s “has five smokers that are going 24 hours a day,” said Taylor. Each is dedicated to a particular meat, down to the type of wood used. For example, the brisket (also Certified Angus Beef) is smoked over hickory and apple, while the chickens get apple and cherry.
“It really is a continuous, 24-hour operation,” said Taylor. “Our brisket takes up to 16 hours, so we’re starting it at 7 o’clock at night to have it ready for the next day’s lunch. For the ribs, we’re smoking them — not boiling them first and holding them to finish off to order. It takes about four to five hours to smoke them, so when they’re done, they’re done, and when we’re out, we’re out!”