I always look forward to visiting new places with fellow journalists and never know exactly what to expect. When I learned I’d be visiting the Santa Maria Valley, I had a rough idea of where it was, somewhere north of Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley. I had heard of, and certainly tasted Santa Maria style barbecue, but any preconceptions I had vanished as I pulled off the 101 freeway and into Santa Maria.
After getting stuck behind an accident, I arrived with no time to spare. I hurriedly checked into the Holiday Inn Santa Maria and boarded a bus with other members of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association as we headed for lunch at the Moxie Café. Caleb Granski, their events coordinator and catering manager, welcomed us and fed us a hearty and delicious lunch as he shared the Moxie’s history with us. Jay Hardy, owner of Hardy Diagnostics employed 250 people and wanted them to have a place to grab a healthy lunch. Since the area was littered with fast food joints, he opened his own.
Initially open just for lunch Monday through Friday, word quickly spread of a tasty, health-conscious lunch alternative. Dinner was added by popular demand, then breakfast and before long the Moxie was open seven days a week. Everything served is minimally processed with no hormones, antibiotics, sucralose, aspartame or MSG. We savored Santa Maria Tri Tip sandwiches, Tuscan chicken with basil aioli, roasted veggies on multi-grain, a coastal croissant with turkey, bacon and avocado and a mouth-watering tri tip chili. For dessert we chose from a large selection of gelato.
The Moxie Café is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week with live music Wednesday through Friday nights. All the beer and wine is from local makers as well as the produce used in the meals. Each employee begins accruing stock after 1000 hours and is fully vested after six years. They receive shares of Hardy Diagnostics and health insurance, too. Pictures of military aircraft adorn the walls as a tribute to veterans who also receive a 10% discount. Moxie is located at 1317 West McCoy Lane in Santa Maria.
Tom Plant launched WINEormous in 2009 and is a member of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association. Based in Temecula, California, he offers intimate winery tours for no more than seven people. Tour details and pricing are available at www.temecula-tours.com. Call now to book your Temecula Winery Tour at (951) 907-9701. Ask about special discounts. WINEormous is the recipient of the Wine Tour Operator of the Year award for 2017 for the UK’s Luxury Travel Guide.