Floriano’s is a taqueria and butcher shop where beef from the famed Harris ranch is featured in the restaurant, at the butcher counter, and on the grill for tri-tip BBQs. No surprise, then, that the carne asada is steakhouse quality — leaps ahead of the rubbery little cubes of beef that we’ve come to expect from lesser taquerias. On the other hand, it doesn’t veer too far from the look and seasoning of classic taco-truck beef, offering the nice crust of carne asada, but with recognizable steak flavor and tenderness.
As good as the normal carne asada is, you can take it a step further and order rib-eye carne asada. With rich marbling and sharp beefy flavor beyond basic brown cubes, it is featured in the house specialty dubbed manwich burrito. This accompanies the ribe-eye with gently spiced rice, pinto beans, very hot jalapeño salsa, and smoky bacon, plus gooey layers of pepper jack cheese. The flavor combination is a familiar one around the Santa Barbara County, and we could not imagine a better way to combine them. A final note: the burrito is finished on the grill for a tastier, crisped tortilla.
A more familiar vehicle for carne asada is an order of asada fries. This Southern California favorite is a pile of fries topped with sour cream, cheese, guacamole, and asada. Aside from elevating the dish with top notch carne asada, Floriano’s uses battered, seasoned fries that stay crisp longer under the weight of sauces and toppings.
A less conventional use for carne asada is in a Flamin’ Hot Cheetos quesadilla. This quesadilla inserts a crunchy layer of the spicy snack puffs between jack cheese and asada. When we ordered it the cashier advised us to eat it quickly before the Cheetos lost their crunch, but elaborated that some people preferred them a bit soggy. We were puzzled as to why anyone would choose soggy over crunchy, so we set aside a slice of quesadilla for later. We learned that as the Cheetos dissolve into a spicy corn paste, they combine with the asada to form a sort of Cheetos pâte.
Since it was a BBQ day, we got a tri-tip torta as well. The tri-tip is proper Santa Maria style, and has less salt and more real BBQ smoke than most we’ve tasted. It comes on a bolillo roll, traditional for tortas, and is dressed with pico de gallo and Floriano’s fresh, simple guacamole.
Floriano’s offers prime beef, and fresh, thoughtful Mexican food, but one of its strongest lures is a wonderful salsa bar. Here are six salsa options with various spice levels, each good in its own way. The most essential is jalapeño salsa, which is a creamy olive green puree that clings to food. This sauce perfectly balances heat, acidity, and salt, and tastes a lot like jalapeños en escabeche. It improves everything it touches.