I thought I'd report on the meat eating portion of my recent visit to the central coast. On our first night we ate at McClintock's and on the last at Far Western, which provided a great opportunity for comparison. Both places are serving steak "Santa Maria style", with western/cowboy themed decor, and a menu heavily focussed on meat and potatoes. Both places had friendly and helpful service without significant glitches.
At McClintock's, in Shell Beach, I ordered the 15 oz rib-eye, medium-rare (29.99 is what it says on their online menu, but I think it cost over 30.00). There is a clear attempt to boggle you with the shear quantity of food served to you here, which they did successfully. The steak comes with salsa, onion rings, "trail camp" beans, garlic bread, all you can eat ranch fried potatoes, and either dessert or after dinner liqueur.
The onion rings were entirely forgettable, though since I was hungry I ate more than a couple. The salsa was bland. The salad was fine but dull, with not entirely fresh greens and a lot of croutons. I don't think there was any tomato, onion or anything else on the salad that I can recall. My steak was cooked perhaps a shade more than medium-rare, closer to medium, but the meat was tasty and reasonably tender. I enjoyed it, but I wouldn't rave about it. I don't really care for beans, so won't critique the "trail camp" beans they make there (though my partner loved them). The skillet of ranch fried potatoes was incredibly salty and oily, but they were crispy and oniony, and I confess that I think they'd be great alongside some eggs for breakfast. The ice cream I had for dessert was also forgettable, and I should have passed on it--there's something about it seeming to be "free" that kept me from saying no.
All in all, the dinner was fine but not great. If it were a restaurant in the San Francisco/Bay Area I wouldn't go back, but I liked it just fine in the context of a vacation spot.
Far better, however, was the rib-eye I ordered at Far Western Tavern in Guadalupe. The steak was cooked perfectly, very tender and well marbled, and I really liked the seasoning they used on it. I ordered "a la carte", which meant that my steak came with a choice of potato/onion rings/polenta, and I ordered a small side salad. My partner ordered his steak as a full meal, which included beans, a shrimp cocktail, soup or salad, the above mentioned potato/polenta/onion ring choices, pinquinto beans, and grilled french bread. They served a plate of carrots/celery/olives with a bowl of salsa when we sat down. So they too suffer from the idea of boggling you with too much food, but I liked having a choice about whether or not to pay for all those extras. This a la carte steak cost ( think) about $22.00.
My partner liked his beans a lot, and seemed to enjoy his shrimp cocktail, but I didn't miss those things. My salad was just some lettuce, a sliced beet, and some croutons, so it wasn't much different than the salad at McClintock's. I ordered a baked potato, which came loaded up with sour cream and chives, and I enjoyed it more than the ranch fried potatoes of McClintock's. Their salsa did seem just as bland as McClintock's.
For cost, ambiance, and flavor I'd pick Far Western hands down over McClintock's, and it had the added benefit of being in Guadalupe, which feels like a town that time forgot.