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Where's The (Barbeque) Beef?

With the end of summer looming before us, I have half a mind to load the family into the car and drag them down to Santa Maria, California, just outside of Santa Barbara. Why? Because they have terrific barbeque there. The whole town is crazy about the stuff. Sorry, you vegans: I'm afraid that my meat-tooth is talking right now, and I can't see any reason why one shouldn't devote an entire vacation to seeking out great steaks and ribs.

Santa Maria is a little inland town, and it's like a Disneyland of smoked meat. People there are fiercely protective of the local tradition of smoking tri-tip beef, chunks of which have been skewered on long metal rods, over the local red oak firewood. You smell the smoke as you drive into town, and then the tri-tip opportunities are everywhere, from walk-up sandwich places to fundraisers held in parking lots where men and women are cooking and slicing meat from cast-iron grills on trailers. The meat is served plain and simply, without any sauces or condiments and with the local pinquito red beans as a side dish. It is sensational. For a diversion from the tri-tip, you drive out to the Hitching Post restaurant in Casmalia, or the Far Western Tavern in Guadalupe for barbequed steaks that are equally great.

It's a meat-lover's dream destination. For that matter, I intend one of these days to get myself to Kansas City just to eat the local 'que, and follow it up with a trip to Texas to sample the local chili and smoked meats. And then I'll be in Barbeque Heaven.
And what about you? Where do you recommend that one go to satisfy his meat cravings? And if you're a vegetarian, where can a guy go to get a decent veggie burger?

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