Firestone Grill: i’ll “meat” you there.


In a nutshell: Cal Poly students, long-time San Luis Obispo residents, and visitors passing through all line up in droves for the mouthwatering BBQ and grill fare served at this neighborhood bar and grill.

If you’re traveling up/down the California coast and are anywhere remotely near San Luis Obispo, CA (better known as SLO), a pit stop is absolutely necessary at Firestone Grill. Why? So you can sink your teeth into their legendary tri-tip steak sandwich.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

See, the line is just as long at night!
See, the line is just as long at night!

Firestone has been serving up incredible BBQ and grill fare since the summer of 1995. Owner David Billingsley and his family, long-time residents of SLO, opened the restaurant in the space of a former Firestone Tire downtown. Due to close ties with the tire business in California, the family members knew they wanted to celebrate the legacy of the space’s former resident in their new restaurant’s name. Firestone is in fact the second dining venture for the family; eldest son Hal is responsible for running the show here, while other family members take care of Main Street Grill in Cambria (the family’s first) and Dog House Grill in Fresno (the family’s third).

The bar area.
The bar area.

There’s seating in three different areas–the open-air patio (with a fireplace burning during the cold months… as cold as it can get in California, anyway), a stretch of high tops by the front windows, and the classic bar section–but it’s not as easy to find a seat as you might think during a big game. The walls are decked out with community and sports memorabilia, further stressing the restaurant’s commitment to creating an inviting, vibrant environment for all who enter.

Direct your attention up towards the wall above the cash registers to take a gander at the menu.
Direct your attention up towards the wall above the cash registers to take a gander at the menu.

Don’t be deterred by a line stretching out the door 30 people deep; it really does move swiftly. Firestone’s operations are some of the most streamlined I’ve ever seen. Ultimately, it speaks volumes about the quality of the food. Besides, you need time to figure out what you want to eat, right?

A closer look at the offerings.
A closer look at the offerings.

The menu focuses on what Firestone does best: BBQ and grill bites. As such, the BBQ and burger offerings fly off the grill faster than you can say “Firestone.” You can’t go wrong with any of the items on the menu, however, as you’ll soon see.

They've got their operations down pat.
They’ve got their operations down pat.

Once you order, note the number on your receipt and wait for the staff at the counter to call out your order on the loudspeaker. Get extra BBQ sauce–it’s made in-house on a daily basis–for dipping or slathering purposes, then get seated and start eating.

Tri-Tip Steak Sandwich. {$.}
Tri-Tip Steak Sandwich. {$8.69}

Composed of tender slices of seasoned tri-tip, a toasted French dip roll slathered with garlic butter, and a bit of thick n’ sticky housemade BBQ sauce, this is a dream meal anytime of day. The meat is stacked thickly, not overwhelmingly spiced, and easy to tear into with your teeth. An extra container of the sweet and tangy BBQ sauce is perfect for dipping my sandwich to my heart’s content. With over 10,000,000 hand-sliced tri-tip sandwiches served, the numbers don’t lie.

Steak Cobb Salad. {$.}
Steak Cobb Salad. {$5.69}

Avoiding carbs but having carnivorous cravings? Hit up the steak Cobb salad, comprised of leaf lettuce, red onion, red bell pepper, tomato, bleu cheese, bacon bits (which I usually find unnecessary), and chopped tri-tip. The portions are plentiful (this is a small; I can’t imagine how big the large is) and make you feel a little less guilty about pigging out.

ABC Burger. {$.}
ABC Burger. {$6.49}

The ABC burger gets its moniker from creamy green avocado, crunchy strips of bacon, and melted jack cheese. The patty is a substantial 1/3 lb. of meat with telling grill marks. Chilled iceberg lettuce, farm-fresh tomato, rings of sharp-tasting onion, and 1000 Island complete the towering burger. Satisfying your tastebuds: “It’s easy as 1-2-3, as simple as Do-Re-Mi.”

Ranch Beans. {$1.99}

The Ranch Beans are your standard side kicked up a notch: chunks of tri-tip stew amongst the legumes. The sauce is sticky-sweet, thinner than the viscous BBQ sauce but just as potent. Also an excellent choice for dipping food into.

Basket of Fries. {$.}
Basket of Fries. {$3.89}
Sides of Fries and Onion Rings. {$.,$.}
Sides of Fries and Onion Rings. {$2.89,$3.29}

Tossed generously with seasoning salt, these fries arrive piping hot from the fryer, crisp on the outside with a soft interior. Get a basket and you can feed an army. The onion rings have a thick crust and are blazing hot temperature-wise if you munch too quickly, so take your time enjoying these. As with the other items, these are especially addictive when dipped in the mouthwatering BBQ sauce.

Other favorites?

  • the tongue-tingling Cajun Sausage {$4.19}, slathered with pungent honey dijon and crisp slices of raw onion on a soft French roll. A hot dog fanatic growing up, I made sure to get THIS sandwich on our trips along the coast.
  • the crazy spicy Buffalo Wings {$7.49}… ah, so addictive. Firestone’s take on the “buffalo” part is highly preferred to the standard vinegary red sauce you find enveloping wings at restaurants throughout America. Here, the chicken is coated with a spicy dry rub before being tossed into the fryer. Biting into the crisp skin and tender meat ignites a fire in your mouth, but you don’t just get heat: a salty savoriness rounds out the flavor. They source some meaty cluckers for these.
  • the gargantuan Beef Ribs straight out of a Flintstones episode. This offering is sadly no longer on the menu, but my stomach will remember it in spirit. Pork Ribs {$19.99 for a full rack} are your next best option.

Hungry yet? I’ll “meat” you there.

Firestone Grill
1001 Higuera Street Suite A
San Luis Obispo, CA
Firestone Grill on Urbanspoon


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