Soul Cal Smokehouse offers soulful take on BBQ
There is definitely something in the air at the Santa Barbara Public
Market. As you make your way around the downtown Santa Barbara food
hall, a hint of spice-tinged barbecue wafts through the aisles.
The source of the seductive scent is Soul Cal Smokehouse, which
opened about two weeks ago in the space previously occupied by
Belcampo Meat Co. Stoking the fires are owners Justin West and Jason
Carter, who are hoping to light a fire with their California regional
“When people think of barbecue here, they think of tri-tip. But
there’s more to this region than just that,” Mr. West told the
News-Press during a recent visit to the eatery. “Just like other
regions in America have their own way of doing things, we have our
own regional cuisine here.
“We’re surrounded by farms growing amazing produce and we’re
right on the ocean, which is another huge influence. Vegetables and
seafood are a big part of life here. If barbecue is America’s
cuisine, saying that tri-tip is our regional representation is doing
this place a huge injustice.”
Mr. West’s introduction to barbecue came via a smokehouse called
West Bros. BBQ in Eugene, Ore., that his father, Mike, owned and
operated for about 15 years with his brothers. After moving to Santa
Barbara in 2008, and branching out into fine dining with Julienne
restaurant, Mr. West opened Wildwood Kitchen three years later. It
was there that he met Mr. Carter, his executive chef, who, after
growing up in Austin, Texas, and working in his family’s catering
business, most recently spent time as a sous chef under Gregory
Gourdet at Departure in Portland.
“I know barbecue from growing up in Texas, stoking fires with my
grandpa and cooking for our church,” Mr. Carter said. “I was
working with a restaurant group in Portland and about to leave for
the East Coast when a friend told me about Justin wanting to do
barbecue in Santa Barbara. I came down to meet with him and after
visiting Santa Barbara in winter, you don’t then move to
Having previously applied for the space Soul Cal Smokehouse is now
occupying, the Public Market has been on Mr. West’s culinary radar
for some time.
“I interviewed for this particular spot when they were first
curating vendors for the market,” Mr. West said. “Somewhere
between the second and third interview, my wife and I found out we
were pregnant, so I put the brakes on it because we already had
Julienne and I wanted to also focus on being a dad.”
Five years later, the location, with its built-out kitchen and
generous cold storage, was available again.
“What I like about the Public Market is that everybody who comes
here, comes here with the intention of spending money on food and
beverage,” Mr. West said. “Sure there are other places to eat
here, but I don’t see them as competition because we’re all
working together to create something. What’s good for the market is
good for Soul Cal Smokehouse.”
While Soul Cal Smokehouse is heavily influenced by local produce, its
foundations pay tribute to Mr. West’s family legacy.
“The heart and soul of the menu is a reflection of my dad’s
restaurant,” Mr. West said. “The coleslaw, beans, potato salad,
dry rub, sauces, and the way we cook our meats, all that comes from
original family recipes.”
It’s difficult to know where to start when perusing the
smokehouse’s packed menu boards. To get things going, there is a
selection of Snacks, including the market-priced Chicken Liver Toast,
Pork Pate, Smoked Salmon and Smoked Mussels. There is also a
selection of beer accompaniments, including Artichoke Toast ($7 to
$13), Frito Pie ($8 to $11) and Smoked Chicken Wings ($8 to $15).
The two Soups are either the Soul Cal Chili ($11) or a Daily Special
($6 to $9), while the Salads ($10 to $12) include a Kale, Thai Cobb,
Soul Cal Cobb, Kale Caesar and Little Gem Wedge. There is also a
hearty offering of sides ($2.50 to $12) ranging from Cole Slaw and
Potato Salad to Smokehouse Caviar, BBQ Beans, Braised Greens, Mac &
Cheese, BBQ Tempeh and Corn Bread.
Burgers are $12 to $14 and include a Cheese Burger, Bacon Blue
Burger, Mushroom Burger, Patty Melt, Cowboy Burger and Beyond Burger,
while Sandwiches are $9 to $14 with choices including Smokehouse
Chop, Brisket, Pulled Pork, Fried Chicken, Tri-Tip, Pork Belly and
Salmon. You can add fries for $3 or a salad for $4.
But it’s the Smoked Meats that fuel the smokehouse. They start at $5
for a 4-ounce serving and range to $13 for 8 ounces. There is
Brisket, Tri-Tip, Pulled Pork, Pork Belly, Smoked Ham, Smoked
Chicken, Smoked Turkey and Baby Back Ribs ($17 per pound). A
selection of house-made sausages ($3 to $4) includes Bratwurst,
Jalapeno Cheese, Turkey Andouille, Soul Cal Hots and Kielbasa.
You can make it a combo with any Smoked Meat (6 ounces) and two BBQ
sides (Cole Slaw, Potato Salad, Smokehouse Caviar č a black bean,
corn, red onion, smoked tomato and cilantro combo č or BBQ Beans) for
between $10 to $14, depending on the meat.
You can also try one of three Sampler Platters: The Chef’s Plate
features 2 ounces of Pulled Pork, 2 ounces of Brisket and 2 Pork
Ribs, served with Potato Salad and Beans, for $17; the BBQ Sampler
comes with Chicken, Rack of Ribs, 4 ounces Brisket, 4 ounces Pulled
Pork and Texas Toast for $24; and The BBQ King includes the BBQ
Sampler plus three sausages of your choice for $32.
Seating includes counter stools or you can take your box and devour
the contents at any of the shared tables around the market.
“This might be counter service, but there is more talent in this
building than on any single block in Santa Barbara,” Mr. West
said. “And it means that we’re all 100 percent focused on the