SeaSalt Woodfire Grill originally slated to open January 2016 just opened April 27 offering diners the fresh flavors of “Farm-to-fire” grilling and a nostalgic trip back in California history
Restaurateur of SeaLegs Wine Bar Alicia Whitney and Her Team Pay Homage to California Settlers Who Invented Santa Maria-Style Grilling with New Concept, Revising It for Orange County Tastes with House-Made Sea Salts and “Craft Rim” Cocktails
Alicia Whitney, owner of award-winning SeaLegs Wine Bar, and her team will open a next concept restaurant, SeaSalt Woodfire Grill, in fall 2015. The breakfast and meat house eatery will feature the tastes of “farm-to-fire” grilling invented in the mid-19 century by settlers in Santa Maria Valley on the California central coast. Now called Santa Maria-style barbecue, this mainstay of state heritage will gain a local variation as SeaSalt Woodfire Grill introduces the smoky, hearty flavors to Orange County.
Pitmasters’ live-fire grilling of local cuts of meat and seasonal vegetables is a quintessential Santa Maria tradition,” Whitney said. “Our concept is to create a dining destination in Orange County that evokes this experience. With SeaSalt Woodfire Grill, we will showcase the simplicity of tri-tip steaks and other meats cooked over red oak coals and flavored with house-made sea salts of the diners’ choice for an ever-evolving culinary experience.”
Historic Santa Maria Live-Fire Grilling Meets the Famed Huntington Beach Fire Pits
SeaSalt Woodfire Grill pays homage to the 19th-century style of live-fire cooking and as Santa Maria developed, residents perfected this style as they cooked string cuts of beef over the hot coals of a red oak fire — until the tri-tip steak became a regional specialty in the 1950s.
“Although the Santa Maria technique draws its heat and flavor from the hot coals of indigenous coastal red oak,” Whitney explained, “no one can compare it to the taste created by covered barbecues using reductive fire typically found today. The difference lies in the use of an ironwork grill, hand-cranked to lift or lower it to reach the desired distance from the coal. The resulting taste is unbelievable and nothing Orange County restaurants offer now.”
Residing in the same shopping center as SeaLegs Wine Bar to provide a range of dining options to the Huntington Beach community, it will be open every day for dinner and on weekends for a lumberjack-style breakfast.
Culinary Artist Invites Locals to Taste Santa Maria Style, Seasoned with Huntington Beach Ocean Mist
Chef Alexander Dale, the culinary artist who creates the seasonal menu for SeaLegs Wine Bar, will lead the creation of the SeaSalt Woodfire Grill menu, based on the infusion of house-made flavored sea salts, black pepper and other simple seasonings.
The focus will be on allowing diners to experience the natural flavors of selected meats, such as the bold-and-robust bone-in ribeye steak, traditional tri-tip and lamb chops. Skilled pitmasters will grill each meat over an open fire to capture the seared-in smoke flavor from the red oak wood coals, enlivened by dried sea salt flavors, such as garlic, bacon or lemon. Conceived by Chef Alex, the Huntington Beach ocean mist — ripe with the scent of saltwater — inspired the creation of these artisanal sea salts.
Diners will pair meals with seasonal side dishes that play up the taste of early pioneer cooking and feature fresh ingredients from local farmers’ markets. Breakfasts at SeaSalt Woodfire Grill will be hearty, including linguica sausages prepared on the wood-fire grill.
SeaSalt Woodfire Grill also will be offering a twist on the popular craft cocktail concept. Chef Alex is creating flavored savory and sweet sea salts to rim the glasses of specialty cocktails to draw out the unique flavors of each libation — spearheading the “craft rim” movement.
SeaSalt Woodfire Grill will serve wines selected from the Santa Maria region and will be the only restaurant in the county to offer only Orange County-based craft beers.
Sought-After Interior Designer Re-Imagines Santa Maria
Kenneth Ussenko, renowned designer responsible for SeaLegs Wine Bar’s sleek-yet-cozy presence, also is designing SeaSalt Woodfire Grill. Whitney and Ussenko selected all details to make diners feel like they are gathering in a rustic farmhouse from another era with exposed wood logs covering an elaborate 18-foot wall and lighting fixtures featuring wagon wheels — a creative nod to the acclaimed central California “Hitching Post” restaurant. Adding to this nostalgic atmosphere, entrées will be served on country earthenware plates, alongside mismatched utensils.
Facing Beach Boulevard, the window-front live red oak wood-fire grill will allow diners and passersby to watch as pitmasters grill prime selections of meat and seafood to perfection. In addition, an indoor-outdoor patio will offer guests peak-a-boo views of the Pacific Ocean and the restaurant will convey a friendly coastal vibe reflective of the bonfire gatherings at the nearby iconic Huntington Beach fire pits.
About SeaSalt Woodfire Grill
SeaSalt Woodfire Grill brings the culinary concept and culture of Santa Maria, Calif. to coastal Huntington Beach, Calif. with modernized live wood-fire grilling and an emphasis on sea salts. The steak house and weekend breakfast destination’s menu from famed Chef Alexander Dale highlights flavors of selected meats cooked over an open redwood oak wood-fire grill, seasoned with sea salt flavors created in-house. Savory and sweet sea salts also rim the glasses of specialty cocktails to complete the experience with “craft rim” libations, or diners can enjoy an Orange County craft beer selection or Santa Maria wine. This second destination restaurant from award-winning SeaLegs Wine Bar entrepreneur Alicia Whitney and her team resides in the same shopping plaza as the wine bar and is expected to open in fall 2015 on Beach Blvd. in Huntington Beach within the Beach Promenade shopping plaza.
Updated April 28, 2016