Home on the Range—A trip back in time to the Hitching Post 1
If you just rolled into town or you’ve lived in an underground bunker, those would be the only two reasons why you haven’t heard of the Hitching Post in Casmalia, CA. Casmalia is a cow town located about 15 minutes outside of Old Orcutt at 3325 Point Sal Road, Casmalia. Open Monday through Saturday, from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m., and Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m. The drive out to the Hitching Post is nothing short of spectacular, especially in the winter/spring when the rolling hills and valleys are a vibrant green. Casmalia Road is a popular cycling route as it takes you to the top of the tracking station, so be careful and give those cyclists plenty of room. I come from a long line of cyclists in my family, so I have a soft spot for anyone on two wheels, butt shorts, and a funky helmet.
Upon reaching our destination, The Hitching Post 1, we see from the sign, the Hitching Post 1 touts as the World’s best BBQ steaks. Is that true? Is it even possible to know? Well for sure they are top 10 according to Forbes magazine, “The Hitching Post is one of the 10 Great BBQ Joints in the USA” and the Hitching Post has been serving up Santa Maria Style BBQ since 1952. I think that you would pick up a thing or two about BBQ in 65 years.
The western-style restaurant building is over 100 years old. It is filled with so much local memorabilia you just feel like you are part of the Ostini family as soon as you walk in. The Ostini family has been hosting guests in their restaurant for decades. In 1952, Frank and Victor Ostini bought the current building for $16,000 and started the BBQ tradition. Originally, the BBQ was located outside the restaurant but now is a focal point inside the stadium kitchen. There is even a table for two right next to the BBQ. I suggest you make reservations and ask for that table. Speaking of reservations, the restaurant opens every day of the week at 4:30 and by 5:00 if you don’t have a reservation, you might just be waiting or sitting at the bar. Even if it is a Tuesday, make reservations, you will be glad you did. The menu has always been centered around traditional SM BBQ, grilled French bread, and green salad, but now also includes fresh seafood, chicken, pork chops, and even something for our veggie friends. Speaking of friends, if you are local you will almost always see your friends at the Hitching Post. If you are not local and you are one of the hundreds that come from coast to coast to eat at the famous restaurant, you will definitely feel like friends by the time you leave and it won’t be your last visit to this historic gem in the middle of the Santa Maria Valley.
I am sure by now your taste buds are salivating, first, though, let me tell you about the service. Donna Norris has been a server at the Hitching Post for 20 years. I asked her what the best thing about working at the Hitching Post is and she said, “The best thing about working at THP is the people. I have met some amazing people and they are what keeps me here. Plus, the Ostinis are amazing. Before each shift, they feed us buffet style, chicken, top sirloin, linguica, salad, bread. It is amazing.” Since they opened in 1952 certain items have consistently been served to guests of the Hitching Post; one is a tray of veggies and the second is crackers with butter and for us, it was no different. I know it sounds simple and not very notable, but you will love this small token of hospitality. Next, we were served a small, silver bowl of shrimp cocktail. It is so simple that you can’t understand why it seems like such an important detail of your meal. Next comes the salad, a cold, crisp green salad. Now onto the main course, your choice of steak, cooked perfectly medium with a hint of pink in the center, charred on the outside with plenty of fat to give amazing flavors and texture. The steak is served with a baked potato with the fixings on the side and the famous 65-year old salsa recipe. I savor these amazing flavors. Dinner isn’t over yet, though, because lastly you are served ice cream and coffee. I am pleasantly plumped from that meal. I didn’t eat it all, I mean how could you, so I take some home and have it in the morning with eggs. In some restaurants everything is served ala cart but not here at the HP, order the protein and everything else comes with it. I love that.
Since the Hitching Post is in the middle of the famous Santa Maria Valley Wine Country you would expect the wine list to be top-notch, featuring local wines and brews. Well, I am excited to tell you that they just did one better. Frank Ostini makes his own, award-winning Pinot Noir, Pinot Rose, and a Cabernet blend. There is also a great representation from the local SMV wines, and the prices are reasonable. We opted to bring our own wine and they charged just $15 for corkage. For my last trip of the day, Costco has Hitching Post gift cards, $100 worth for $75. Enjoy your trip to the Hitching Post BBQ restaurant. I will probably see you there one of these times
In my opinion, you’re guaranteed to have a great meal, and you’ll leave with a full belly. Open Monday through Saturday, from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m., and Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m. Be sure to call for a reservation, (805) 937-6151 or (866) 879-4088
By Rebecca Jacobs