ABOUT THE HITCHING POST II
On the central coast of California, BBQ has always meant grilling over an open fire of red oak, a style of cooking that is native to the area and goes back to the days of the Spanish Rancheros. About 30 miles north of Santa Barbara, The Hitching Post II blends traditional Santa Maria Barbecue with eclectic local ingredients and award winning wines for an exciting cuisine that is uniquely its own.
The Buellton Hitching Post II opened in 1986, but its roots started at the Casmalia Hitching Post in 1952. It was there that Frank & Natalie Ostini brought "Santa Maria Style BBQ" to its peak of perfection and where their children Bill, Bob, Terri and Annette continue to work to this day. When returning from college in 1976, Frank Sr. and Natalie's son Frank Ostini helped out in the kitchen for what he thought would be a short stint. Today the younger Frank is the owner of his own restaurant, The Hitching Post II, and is also - along with partner Gray Hartley - co-owner and winemaker of the Hitching Post Winery.
Jointly owning both restaurant locations from 1986 to 1993, Frank and his brother split ownership in 1993, allowing Frank the freedom to explore new menu items at The Hitching Post II. "I just took the family's concept of grilling over this wood fire and expanded it to other dishes such as grilled vegetables, quail and duck" Frank explained. "We look at ourselves as still honoring this culinary tradition, but building upon it using a few contemporary techniques and new ingredients."
Mingled with the scent of pine and eucalyptus, one can smell the deep fragrance of red oak barbecue from the parking lot. Black and white photos of generations of men on horseback hang on the walls of the simply decorated room. The main attraction is the indoor barbecue, staged behind glass, where guests can watch Frank and Bradley Lettau, The Hitching Post II’s Chef de Cuisine, grill massive quantities of steaks and chops without tearing up from the wood fire. Signature appetizers include the Grilled Artichoke served with the restaurant’s Tomato Ancho Chile Mayonnaise or plump Santa Barbara Mussels Steamed in Beer that is the base for a garlicky dipping broth for bread grilled over that same fire. Every dinner features a plump bay Shrimp Cocktail, soup or a salad of local field greens, and a choice from the grill – Top Sirloin, Filet Mignon, Angus Rib Chop, even grilled fish and shrimp. Desserts change often; favorites include a tangy Key Lime Pie, Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake, or hearty Bread Pudding Spiked with Whiskey Sauce.
Not only is Frank Ostini owner and chef at The Hitching Post II, he is also one of the winemakers, along with partner Gray Hartley. "When I began working in my family's restaurant after college, I found that when I fell in love with wine, I fell in love with the restaurant business. I finally understood dining as an event and as a social occasion,” Frank says. “To me, food by itself seemed boring, but once you put wine on the table and have different wines combining with different foods, it all became very interesting to me and I was hooked.”
Lots of people are hooked on Hartley Ostini Hitching Post wines, especially since the Hitching Post II and its wines received international acclaim when the Academy Award® winning movie Sideways debuted in 2004. Filmed on location in California's beautiful Santa Ynez Valley and extensively at the Hitching Post II, Sideways tells the story of two friends, Miles and Jack, who set out to spend a weekend in wine country together before Jack's wedding.
From the exposure in Sideways, Hitching Post Wines have gained in popularity. The winery refuses to raise their prices, so the wines sell out fairly quickly. Along with ten selections of Pinot Noir, they produce two Syrahs and a Merlot-Cabernet Franc blend named Generation Red, the house wine for the Hitching Post II. Currently, the winery has 800 barrels and produces about 15,000 cases a year. They work with growers in Santa Barbara County, specifically Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Rita Hills and Los Alamos. Most wines are aged in French Oak barrels and bottled unfiltered, redolent with fresh fruit, complexities of spice and earth, and refreshing acidity.
The Hitching Post II has been praised extensively in Gourmet magazine, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes.com, Sunset and USA Today. They all agree that for mouthwatering western barbecue and world class California Pinot Noir, the Hitching Post II in Buellton is the place to be.