Santa Maria Sun / Cover Story
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 26
Best in the WestGo on a tour of the new Far Western Tavern
BY AMY ASMAN
I pass through the entrance of the new Far Western Tavern in Old Town Orcutt and step through a doorway with a stained glass window that simply says, “Bar.” What greets me on the other side is nothing short of breathtaking: the grand, old-fashioned bar with its dark wood paneling, large mirrors, and stained glass detailing looks both formidable and welcoming.
Head contractor Berto van Veen informs me in a lilting Dutch accent that it’s the same bar from the original Far Western Tavern.
“We took the old bar out of the Far Western in Guadalupe in pieces and transported it to the new location in Orcutt and put it back together. We think it was made in Chicago in 1912,” he says. “Hopefully it’s going to have another 100 years to go right here.”
As pretty much everyone in Northern Santa Barbara County knows, the Far Western Tavern—arguably the crown jewel of Santa Maria-area steak houses—is leaving its hometown of Guadalupe for
Seismic retrofitting requirements for the old tavern, combined with a steady decline in daytime and banquet business, caused the restaurant’s board of directors to look elsewhere for lodgings, said Renee Righetti Fowler, co-owner of the Far Western Tavern and granddaughter of Clarence and Rosalie Minetti.
“After much consideration and looking into it we decided [the retrofit] was too costly,” Righetti Fowler told the Sun. “It’s very bittersweet that we’re moving because the city of Guadalupe and the people who live there have been so good to us.”
She said it was important to board members that the new establishment retain the atmosphere and authenticity of the old Far Western.
“It honors our legacy and keeps it going for the next generation,” she said.
Added van Veen, “The Far Western moving is sad for Guadalupe, but one of the things we could do to make it better was keep [construction] as local as possible.”
He estimates approximately 95 percent of the materials used in the new building are locally sourced—a staggering achievement in today’s culture of outsourcing and price slashing.
Everything from the light fixtures to the stained glass to the woodwork to the granite façade comes from the Central Coast. Van Veen himself created the “Far Western Tavern” marquee on the outside of the building.
“We used as many local vendors and contractors as possible. The cabinets and woodwork are from Santa Ynez; the granite is from Guadalupe; the dry wall is from Santa Maria. We used Victorian Stained Glass right here in Old Town Orcutt to fix the bar glass,” van Veen said. “The goal was to create a building with that old atmosphere.”
That dedication to local craftsmanship can be seen from the moment you walk in the door.
“We searched for a [front] door that was made locally at the turn of the century,” van Veen said. “We ended up getting a door from the old school house that used to be on Santa Maria Way and Highway 101.”
That door—with its finely cut edges and swooping inner panels—served as the inspiration for much of the new tavern’s trim and woodwork.
“The design of the new building is very similar to the Far Western in Guadalupe. It’s designed to last for a long time. It’s not easy to remodel and change. It’s durable construction,” he explained. “When you go to other new restaurants in town, they’re not really built to be there for 50 years or more. But this one is.”
Like the bar, there’s also a stained glass window over the entrance to the downstairs dinning room. Patrons of the Far Western in Guadalupe might recognize these pieces because they adorned the doors to the old bar and dining room.
Patrons might also recognize the framed mural gracing the southern-facing wall of the dining room: “A photographer took a picture of the old mural at the Far Western in Guadalupe and had it printed on linen at a shop in Hollywood,” van Veen said.
Its muted blues, browns, reds, and yellows complement the rest of the restaurant’s décor, which includes steer heads, artwork, and even the same red embossed wallpaper from the old Far Western.
However, there are some modern additions to the new Far Western.
“We have a wine cellar, and we’re going to have eight different beers and six different wines on tap. The alcohol is pumped through pipes five feet under the floor out of the cooler back in the kitchen,” van Veen said. “[The alcohol] comes directly from the wine barrels and kegs. It creates less waste because you don’t have a bunch of bottles to throw away. It’s the green way to go.”
Speaking of green, all of the light bulbs in the building are 100 percent LED, which helps the restaurant save about 80 percent on its electricity bill.
All of the ceilings are sprayed with sound-absorbing material to create the least amount of echo, and van Veen used something called “quiet rock” between the two stories to muffle the sound of footsteps.
“It’s equivalent to eight layers of dry wall,” he said.
In the 2,500-square-foot kitchen, where the culinary magic happens, all of the equipment is stainless steel, and there’s a 10-foot barbecue with its own outside storage space for red oak.
“The Far Western is known for its barbecue so the grill is very important,” van Veen said with a chuckle.
My mouth starts to water as I imagine the hundreds of rib eyes and filet mignons that will slow-cook to perfection on its surface.
There’s even a dumbwaiter to transport those steaks and other dishes from the kitchen to the banquet hall upstairs.
With its large oak-paneled windows and high-beamed ceilings, the banquet hall is the perfect place for a wedding, birthday party, or company meeting.
The room has a full-size bar, patio seating, and 12-foot projection screen on which to view sports games or video presentations.
A special addition to this new banquet hall is the private dining space created inside the building’s corner tower.
Van Veen said he built the tower because, as he learned during his travels in Europe, “every town should have a focal point, and usually it’s a tower of some sort.”
People eating in the tower will enjoy the view of Old Town through the bay windows, and a similarly stunning view of the chandelier hanging above them, which resembles a wrought-iron wagon wheel.
There’s also another large, old-fashioned bar upstairs.
This one has been in the Minetti family for more than 50 years.
“It was almost in disrepair,” van Veen said. “They think it’s originally from a saloon in Paso Robles.”
Van Veen said the Minetti family, who owns the Far Western, has been very involved in all of the planning for the new building, which originally belonged to van Veen.
“But they have given me the freedom to put everything together,” he said. “It’s a pleasure to work for them. I’ve done so many projects for them; I know what they like and what they don’t like. I think that’s where we’re successful.
“The custom thing is right up my alley. It’s a joy to do something like this,” he added. “It’s exciting to see Old Orcutt getting new life. It’s great to see the fruits of your labor and everything coming together.”
Contact Managing Editor Amy Asman at email@example.com.
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