Tri-Tip Sans, Santa Maria to SoCal

Ever had the popular grilled-over-oak tri-tip on visits to the Central Coast? The classic presentation is thin-sliced on crusty French bread, with fresh, not-too-hot salsa—and it’s all done in the name of fundraising, Central-Cali style. Large, box-shaped grills with adjustable grates park here and there, sending up plumes of fragrant smoke. Local groups sell the sandwiches on roadsides and in parking lots; of course, the regional specialty is on local restaurant menus, too, every day of the week.

After picking up Savory Spice Shop’s Santa Maria tri-tip seasoning while attending a cooking class, I’d been mulling over this sandwich and the idea of a deconstructed salsa—something like a tri-tip bánh mì. Before grilling my tri-tip, I rubbed quite a bit of Savory Spice’s Santa Maria blend—made of sea salt, black pepper, two kinds of garlic (granulated and minced), and parsley—over it. The robust spices were a great foil for the tri-tip’s rich beefiness. After letting the grilled meat rest, I tucked slices into French rolls, with tomato, cucumber, jalapeño, and sprigs of cilantro—tri-tip sandwich, Southern-Cali style.

SoCal Tri-Tip Sans

1-1/2- to 2-pound tri-tip

Santa Maria seasoning

French rolls


Thinly-sliced tomato, cucumber, jalapeño

Cilantro sprigs

Rub tri-tip generously with seasoning. Allow to stand about 1 hour.

Grill over medium-hot coals, searing each side, paying special attention to the fat cap on top—it might need extra time to begin rendering. Move to indirect heat, turning occasionally,  and cook to 150 degrees internal temperature—15 to 20 minutes. Remove from grill and allow to rest before slicing.

For sandwiches, slice rolls lengthwise and spread with a little mayonnaise, if desired. Layer tomato, cucumber, and jalapeño slices with sliced tri-tip, topping with cilantro.

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