Question: I was probably the last guy on the block to get
around to Sideways, but I finally saw it and now I’m hooked. I’m going
to the Hitching Post, of course, but I was wondering if there was anywhere else
around there that you’d recommend. Any cuisine is okay.

—Lewis, Sherman Oaks

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 Jocko’s, up
the road an hour or so in Nipomo. Where the Hitching Post offers appetizers
of quail, Jocko’s has jalapeno peppers; where the Hitching Post has an exquisite
selection of local wines, the house beverage at Jocko’s is probably something
more like Bud Light. Julia Child has been to the Hitching Post; Jocko’s attracts
the stars of the bullriding circuit.
But there is something atavistic about a Jocko’s 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 Jocko’s 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

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