Question: I was probably the last guy on the block to get around to Sideways, but I finally saw it and now Im hooked. Im going to the Hitching Post, of course, but I was wondering if there was anywhere else around there that youd recommend. Any cuisine is okay.
Lewis, Sherman Oaks
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Answer: On the Central Coast, cooks season well-marbled beef with salt and garlic, sizzle it over local red-oak coals and serve it with the invariable trinity of garlic bread, stewed local pinquito beans and tomato salsa. The Buellton Hitching Post has always been a hangout for winemakers, and its owner, Frank Ostini who is almost as good with a vat of Pinot Noir as he is with a grill may be the most famous pit-master in the state. Few things are better than an evening at the Hitching Post with a thick steak and the best wine you can afford. (Reserve well in advance.) But when we daydream about steak, we always daydream about Jockos, up the road an hour or so in Nipomo. Where the Hitching Post offers appetizers of quail, Jockos has jalapeno peppers; where the Hitching Post has an exquisite selection of local wines, the house beverage at Jockos is probably something more like Bud Light. Julia Child has been to the Hitching Post; Jockos attracts the stars of the bullriding circuit. But there is something atavistic about a Jockos steak, a slab of protein so filled with juice and smoke and flavor that it almost feels alive in your mouth. Try to time a Jockos run so that you arrive in the evening or on Sunday. The restaurant may be open for lunch the rest of the week, but at that time, they cook their steaks on a griddle. 125 N. Thompson Ave., Nipomo, (805) 929-3686. Got a burning culinary question? Ask Mr. Gold by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.