The Firestone Grill takes up about half a city block in Downtown San Luis Obispo. Cynics say that it has transformed the folksy Central Coast tradition of BBQ tri-tip into something akin to fast food. But when food tastes this good, who cares?
The restaurant was founded as The Main Street Grill in the nearby beach town of Cambria, but it didn’t gain statewide fame until it opened up in an old tire shop (hence the name) in 1995. The grill now is the town’s most famous restaurant and has spawned spin-off locations in Fresno and Bakersfield. The Firestone Grill mini-empire is said to have served over ten million tri-tip sandwiches.
The sandwiches do have an assembly-line touch. They are churned out in less than a minute, with uniform layers of steak. The meat will be warm and tender with a mildly smoky flavor that, with tangy BBQ sauce and garlic butter, becomes a magic combination.
Just-right fries are an important piece of the formula. They are simple enough: thin, pale, and uniform, with a sprinkle of paprika-based seasoning. Served in ridiculously large portions, even a small order could feed a family of four. But in fact, one hungry person can indeed devour an plateful, then likely regret the overindulgence when it’s time to stand up.
The pulled pork sandwich shares the basic traits the the tri-tip. It features a huge portion of tender meat, delicate smoke flavor, and a tasteful touch of thick BBQ sauce. It’s a fine alternative, but tri-tip should be your first choice.