When Matt Pearce opened Old San Luis BBQ Co. in 2012, his goal was to make authentic Santa Maria-style barbecue more accessible and budget friendly for Central Coast residents and out-of-town visitors alike.
What started as a diminutive 340-square-foot eatery has since undergone three expansions with the most recent — and perhaps most exciting — being completed in August.
Pearce helped design and construct a new, 1,000-square-foot taproom in the adjacent space previously occupied by West End Espresso & Tea, which closed its doors last November after 37 years.
With a modern industrial look and a wide variety of craft beer on draft — using a self-serve system where customers select and pour their own beer straight from the tap — Pearce has received “really, really positive feedback” since the taproom opened about six weeks ago.
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“When people walk by, I want them to see 46 taps on the wall,” Pearce said. “I want them to see a big statement, something that looks different than anywhere else in downtown San Luis.”
Old San Luis BBQ Co. hasn’t gone away from its trademark outdoor walk-up window, and the menu still features all the Santa Maria-style classics: tri-tip, chicken, linguica, pinquito beans and garlic bread.
It’s an exciting time for Pearce, a Simi Valley native who earned a degree in civil engineering from Cal Poly. He’s a few years removed from a somewhat unsatisfying engineering career at Diablo Canyon, and loves putting that skill set to use within the restaurant.
Pearce worked with a Chicago-based company called PourMyBeer, which designs self-serve beer stations that allow customers more selection freedom and help business owners eliminate profit loss.
He installed the state-of-the-art system himself and every keg has its own regulator. Overall, the expansion adds about $4,000 per month to Pearce’s current lease on the building.
“Each of these taps is realistically a profit center,” Pearce said.
Craft beer, sours, three nitro handles and a small selection of wine fill out the 46 taps, offering something different for every customer.
“You can try half an ounce of 20 different things and never have to worry about running up a huge tab or getting stuck with something you don’t like,” Pearce said.