So after furiously chewing sugar free gum for five hours while on the road south from San Ramon, heading towards Chino, we pulled Maybellene in to the lot outside of the Hitching Post in Buellton Sunday evening, just as they were starting the first dinner seating at 5:00 P.M. The gum may have kept my cravings occupied on a base level, but the lure of the Hitching Post, and being steak deprived for longer than I can remember, while on the Liquid Diet, led me to the decision to have an enjoyable meal.
I had originally sniffed out the Hitching Post long before finding discussion of it on Chowhound, and having regretted not stopping in previously when we were in the neighborhood, I had been lusting over my first taste of meat at the Hitching Post for a few years. It was finally time. Dinner at the Hitching Post is what I call the old fashioned kind, for the price of your meal you get a relish tray and a basket of crackers as soon as you are seated. Then with your entrée you get your choice of a shrimp cocktail or the soup of the day, you also get a salad, then your main course, which is accompanied by your choice of starch.
The Mrs. and I were ravished after having spent the previous five hours with our butts planted on Maybellenes bucket seats. I really enjoy Maybellene who is a 2006 model year Chrysler 300 with the Hemi. The lines of the car are the best of all the recent model years, the interior is clean and elegant, the individual air conditioning controls are cool (or warm as necessary) and the satellite navigation system, with Maybellenes voice guiding us to our destination is far out. But oh those seats, they are not designed for long tours on the road. So even though it is difficult walking, even with the walker, it was nice to stretch our legs and get off those seats.
We scarfed the carrots, celery, radish, pickles, Nicoise olives, scallions and pepperoncinis in the relish tray, while the wife sipped some white zinfandel and I had my first Crown Royal and 7-up. The wife did not feel like either shrimp cocktail or soup, so I scored two shrimp cocktails. The shrimp cocktails that come with your meal at the Hitching Post consist of a couple of ounces of bay shrimp, very tiny, with a little, tiny dollop of cocktail sauce and a piece of lemon. The shrimp comes on a bed of finely diced celery. So while not a big, robust, manly shrimp cocktail, it was a rather nice little amuse.
The salads were a bit on the small side, but did consist of mixed field greens, which were appreciated. We both elected to have our salads dressed with Thousand Island, and the salads hit the spot. The Mrs. thought she discerned some buttermilk in the dressing, I did not, but I did notice that unlike other renditions of Thousand Island dressing I have had, this did not have a cloying sweetness to it.
The Mrs. had a half rack of baby back ribs, done on the barbeque grill and a side of fries. The Hitching Post puts a spice rub on the ribs that they call Magic Dust and nothing else, no sauce what-so-ever, either during or after grilling. The ribs, like the steaks are grilled over a Red Oak fire and come off the fire tender, smoky and porky. The wife thought they reminded her of smoked pork chops, which is fitting, given the wonderful smoky aroma imparted by the Red Oak.
I opted for the beef rib chop. This was a gargantuan hunk of meat weighing approximately 28 ounces, on the bone. It also had the house spice rub and was cooked medium rare, coming to the table smoky, aromatic, with a tasty, crusty-caramelized exterior, and pink juiciness as soon as I cut in to it. The Hitching Post does not advertise their meat as prime beef, only as " the best beef in America, sourced from small packers in Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas and aged to our specifications". I dont think this was prime beef, but it did not matter. The beef was tender, flavorful, and juicy and had a wonderful smokiness to it. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and after extracting every last morsel that I could with knife and fork, took that bad boy in my hand and cleaned it to the bone. The Hitching Posts forte is Santa Maria style barbeque, and they excel at it.
My beef was accompanied by a smallish baked potato, which I enhanced with some sour cream and the generous portion of real chives (not chopped up scallions that is foisted off in the typical chain operation). Besides the basket of crackers, a breadbasket with two pieces of garlic bread is brought to the table with the entrees. I am really not in to bread, being on the Liquid Diet, and the sample of the garlic bread that I had was nothing to write home about. We also ordered a side of mushrooms that are first smoked on the grill then sautéed with wine. Mostly button mushrooms, but with the smoking and the sauce were very nice, they come with some sourdough bread slices that are handy for soaking up the wine sauce (the bread though was very unremarkable, but it did not have to be anything special, the wine sauce was everything.)
The Mrs. opted for strawberry short cake for dessert. I sampled a taste of it, and if it hadnt been for my diet, I could have eaten a couple of helpings of that. The wife remarked that the cake was not like the short cake you get in the supermarket. I reminded her that the dreck you get in the supermarket is some kind of industrial bakery sponge cake like stuff, not true, homemade short cake like this was, with fresh whipped cream that if it was sweetened with sugar, it was very subtle, and fresh sliced strawberries with their natural juice.
This was an outstanding meal, and while I blew the Liquid Diet, it was an infrequent pleasure that was worth it. The Hitching Post is an exemplary venue for the art of Santa Maria style barbeque.
Total for one steak dinner, one half rack of baby back ribs dinner, a side of mushrooms, one strawberry short cake, one glass of white zinfandel, three Crown Royals came to $110.00 and worth every penny.
THE HITCHING POST II
406 E. Highway 246