The Santa Barbara Independent – December 7, 2006
What Happens in Santa Barbara, Did Not Stay Here:
Local Ideas Everyone Enjoys
There is perhaps no more controversial county debate than where tri-tip first originated. Santa Maria does all it can to lay claim to the cut, but there’s plenty of evidence that it might have been first marketed here in Santa Barbara sometime in the 1950s.
The debate is alive and well for such longtime butchers as Dave Whitefoot from Whitefoot Meat Market & Deli and John Shalhoob from Shalhoob Deli. But everyone in town bows to John’s dad Jerry as the official voice on the history of meat in Santa Barbara.
According to Jerry, the ball-tip and the tri-tip were what was left over after the wholesale meat choppers took away the more desirable cuts. While the ball-tip was popular, the tri was usually ground up or made into stew. But right around the time Jerry remembers thinking that the tri-tip “was the most under-priced piece of meat on the animal,” someone barbecued it and found butchery gold.
“Throughout the years, it became more popular on the Central Coast, then it moved to Southern California,” Jerry said, “and now it’s popular throughout the state. I have a house on Maui and I’ve even seen it over in Hawai‘i.” Due to the popularity, which extends also to Washington and Texas, it’s now a more expensive piece of meat. That’s supply and demand for ya, but there wouldn’t be any tri-tip supply if it weren’t for our county’s butchers.