There are plenty of steakhouses and chop shops in the Santa Maria Valley, but if speed is the name of the game, you could do worse than make a pit-stop at El Pollo Norteño, a small fast-food-style diner in a strip mall in Santa Maria.
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Santa Maria's claim to culinary fame is a type of open-flame grilling that dates back to the 19th century. Despite its association with colonial Spain's vaquero culture, this approach was not too different from most American barbecue of the time—a process with three general steps: "Dig hole. Light coals. Apply carcass."
My friend Tom is on his way to Barcelona, so of course he asked me where he should eat. I've never been to Barcelona (a shocking admission for a foodie), so I immediately called Jeff Steingarten, who's eaten everywhere. Alexander...