Anyone who has seen the movie “Sideways” will be familiar with the Hitching Post II. It is the restaurant that Virginia Madsen’s character, Maya, works as a waitress. But even before the movie, the restaurant was a favorite go-to place for locals. The Buellton location has been around since the early 80’s. During that time the Santa Ynez Valley was still in its nascent stages of the winery boom. The biggest tourist draw then was a Danish themed city called Solvang.
But what the area was originally known for was Santa Maria BBQ. The tradition dates even further back from the mid 1800’s where the cattle ranchers would host large feasts for their vaqueros. Typically the cut of choice is tri-tip which is seasoned with black pepper, salt, and garlic salt then grilled over an open fire stoked with red oak. Sometimes butter is brushed over the meat moist and flavorful. The result is a nice garlicky slab of meat with layer of char that gives an additional layer of smokiness.
The Ostini family started their first location in the early 1950’s to bring this style to a steakhouse. This is where the Hitching Post really distinguishes itself from other traditional steakhouses that you may find anywhere else in the country. The Hitching Post has 2 main specialties which helped to define the restaurant – steaks and burgers. For some reason, people here like their meat well-done. All of the tables around us ordered theirs as such. So you may need to adjust your temperature instructions accordingly, as they tend to cook it a bit more than other steakhouses.
Their prize cut is the Angus Rib Chop which runs about 24-26 ounces. It is a marvelous steak. I prefer rib cuts to other cuts such as NY or filet, simply because there is more fat in the meat and therefore more flavor. After a period of long slow grilling, you get a steak that tastes like it was cooked in butter.
For those who don’t feel like steak, there are other meat options such as fowl, fish, or pork. Pictured below is the fish specialty of the night, the Albacore Steak. An excellent meat alternative. Tender and thick, it was of very good quality.
When you order an entree, you get to pick 2 of either soup, salad, or shrimp cocktail. As you can see, when it comes to these, they prescribe by the adage, “If ain’t broke, why fix it?” These are the type of starters you would get in a cheap steakhouse during the 80’s. Don’t expect them to taste good, but rather revel in their nostalgia.
But at least their appetizers are halfway decent. Roasted Garlic is pretty standard and served so you can spread it on crunchy toast.
So if you are in the area for a vineyard tour, or perhaps visiting Solvang, a stop to Hitching Post II is recommended. As most of the patrons tend to be a bit older, dinner peaks between 600-800 pm. At around 830, the whole restaurant seems to clear out. But don’t expect any spectacular decor or anything beyond what is grilled to be exceptional. Their focus is on Santa Maria style grilled meats seasoned with their Magic Dust. You may be surprised that their collection of house Pinot Noirs are an excellent accompaniment as it comes from their own vineyard and definitely a good value.
Bill total = 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, tax, tip = $120 ($60 per person)