Beloved tri-tip restaurant fires up ‘Express BBQ’ for hungry I-5 travelers

The Harris Ranch logo on the outside of the Harris Ranch Inn & Restaurant in Coalinga, Calif.
The Harris Ranch logo on the outside of the Harris Ranch Inn & Restaurant in Coalinga, Calif.

Harris Ranch, that beefy roadside attraction in the heart of the Central Valley, just added another reason to stop.

This week, Harris Ranch Inn & Restaurant debuted its Express BBQ, dedicated to fulfilling travelers’ tri-tip cravings in a timely fashion. Located just off Interstate 5 at Highway 198, the 153-room inn and restaurant complex is a popular rest stop and layover, halfway between Sacramento and Los Angeles.

Next to the Shell gas station immediately west of the main restaurant complex, the new barbecue stand will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, serving smoked tri-tip, beef brisket and ribs (beef or baby back pork).

The menu also features chipotle-dusted boneless chicken, grilled hot dogs and Italian sausage, carved meat sandwiches and Cobb salad topped with tri-tip burnt ends. Cowboy beans, mac and cheese, cornbread, chuckwagon soup and other Harris Ranch side dishes from its main kitchen are offered by the Express BBQ too. Outdoor seating is available nearby.

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Smoked beef brisket, ranch beans, red potato salad and mac and cheese are featured on the new Harris Ranch Express BBQ menu. Harris Ranch

With about 18,000 agricultural acres growing 30 crops, Harris Ranch is California’s top beef producer. Its steaks, tri-tips and other cuts are offered at its Coalinga restaurants, which serve about 1,500 entrees a day.

During weekends and peak travel periods, the wait at the inn’s three restaurants can be long. With most entrees under $11, the Express BBQ aims to serve hungry travelers in a hurry.

The new barbecue stand is ready to feed a crowd. Custom built by Johnson Smokers of Texas, its $12,000 combination grill-smoker features 83 square feet of cooking surface. According to the restaurant staff, Harris Ranch chefs use California live oak wood in the smoker and fire up the grill with all-natural mesquite charcoal.

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Harris Ranch, a longtime roadside attraction off Interstate 5 in Coalinga, hopes to serve more tri-tip to hungry travelers with its Express BBQ featuring a $12,000 custom combination smoker-grill. Harris Ranch

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington