{Firestone} Tri Tip Sandwich

Do you guys recall a certain reconnaissance mission that Kevin and I embarked on back in August? On a drive down to So Cal, we made a pit stop in San Luis Obispo for the legendary tri tip sandwich at Firestone Grill (always a necessary stop for any Cal Poly Alum that comes within 50 miles of the place).
As we ate our sandwiches, I made a bit of a study out of it, observing the ingredients, the flavors, and the way it was assembled. I also eked what little information I could out of the employees, but they are understandably discreet when it comes to maintaining their stellar trade secrets!
Nonetheless, I took what I learned, and after a little home experimenting…well, I think I came up with something pretty amazing. It may not be 100% of what the true original has to offer, but it’s certainly enough to hold you over between visits…

The base of this sandwich starts with a very key component…the bread. On our visit to Firestone, Kevin was the one to spot the bags of Old Country French Dip Rolls lined up on the counter. A quick call to Old Country’s Northern California regional office uncovered the following…they primarily sell for commercial purposes, but there are two chains where the average retailer can buy their bread…Smart & Final and Cash&Carry (one of my favorite stores btw).

When I paid attention to the ingredients in the sandwich, the one thing that jumped out at me…which I’d never really noticed before…was the garlic butter.  You know that whole “everything’s better with butter” thing…um, yeah, definitely applies with this sandwich.

I always assumed that the meat had to be smoked because it is so tender. Well, turns out…it’s not! Believe it or not, the tri tips are cooked “in their own juices” in an oven!!  I know. Hard to believe, right? They have these crazy ovens that cook the meat low and slow, and then keep the meat warm until it’s ready for serving. Once they are ready to serve it, they throw it on the grill at the end to char up the outside before slicing it up. I tried to recreate this by roasting the meat in the oven first, followed by a very, very quick sear over high heat on the grill.

I also learned that Firestone doesn’t sell their excellent barbeque sauce as bottling the sauce would require that they add preservatives. I had to taste several different off-the-shelf sauces to see which one came close, and the best I could come up with is Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory and Brown Sugar barbeque sauce. It’s not an exact match, but it’s similar in flavor profile and tastes really great with tri tip. (Any one have another suggestion)?


Tri Tip Sandwich

You’ll need:
  • 1 tri tip roast (2 1/2 to 3 pounds)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

For the butter:

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the sandwich:

  • 1 package Old Country French Dip Rolls (6 rolls)
  • 18 ounce bottle Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory & Brown Sugar barbecue sauce
To prepare:
  1. Season the meat with salt, pepper, and garlic powder on all sides. Refrigerate overnight.
  2. Remove the meat from refrigerator about 2 hours before cooking to allow meat to come to room temperature. Heat the oven to 425 degrees, and cook the trip tip for 25 minutes.
  3. While the meat is cooking, melt the butter in a small sauce pan over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in the smashed garlic and salt. Let it sit so the garlic will infuse the butter.
  4. Toward the end of the oven cooking time, prepare a barbecue grill by pre-heating to very high heat. Once the oven cooking time is finished, transfer the meat to the grill and cook very quickly on each side, just enough to get a sear/grill marks (30-60 seconds per side).
  5. When the searing is finished, remove the meat from the grill, and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  6. While the meat is resting, lower the heat of the grill to medium, and warm the barbecue sauce in a small saucepan on the grill (can also be done on the stove). Separate the french rolls halves and place on the grill to toast the bread. At this point, you can also place the saucepan of melted better on the grill to re-heat it.
  7. Once the meat has rested, thinly slice it across the grain 1/8″ thick.
  8. To assemble the sandwich, brush each toasted bread half with the melted garlic butter. Pile on a generous portion of the meat on the bottom bread half, spoon on the warm barbecue sauce, and top with the other half of bread.
  9. Slice in half, and serve immediately.
     Makes 4 huge or 6 small sandwiches.

I wish I could say I had mastered the crazy addictive Firestone french fries as well, but (for now) I opted for frozen fries tossed with seasoning salt…
I may have to take on the fries as my next challenge!


  1. OMG thats amazing!! We live in Clovis (Fresno) and we have Dog House Grill which is the sister spot…the owners actually are from here. My daughter is a child of Dog House Grill…we’re such regulars that they know her name and have tomatoes ready for us when we get seated (she’s a year and a half and is impatient!)

    I LOVE that you made this post!

    • Melissa says:

      Hi Jami! I didn’t even know they had a spot on Fresno, but I’ve heard rumors of a potential SF location as well, which would be AWESOME!! So glad you enjoyed the post. I know this sandwich goes straigt to the heart of anyone who’s tried it. Your daughter…how cute, sounds like a little foodie in training 🙂

    • I also live in Clovis! Small world. Dog House Grills tri tip sandwiches are the best I’ve had

  2. Megan says:

    Huge fan of both Dog House and Firestone! I currently live in Tulare, but always try to stop at Dog House when in Fresno. I’m going to have to try that BBQ sauce because I am obsessed with Dog House/Firestones, and don’t like many other BBQ sauces. Have you guys tried the pig sandwich?! Sooo good. Thanks for this post 🙂

    • Melissa says:

      No! Never had the pig. 90% of the time I go tri-tip, and maybe 10% I go grilled chicken. It’s always very tough to pass up the tri-tip. Sweet Baby Ray’s is soooo good! They have a few different flavors, and they are all great. You can find it at most grocery stores as well. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Karrie says:

    They also have the Main Street Grill in Cambria California . I’m a fan of all three restaurants. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Melissa says:

      I tried Main Street Grill once, but that was ages ago. I will actually be in Cambria in a couple weeks…I may need to check it out again! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  4. Justin says:

    It took me about 2 hours to cook our roast ( 3 lbs) in the oven at 425. Did I do something wrong?

    • Melissa says:

      Hmmmm…couple questions …First, did you let the meat come to room temp before cooking? Second, have you ever tested your oven temp…not by the temp your oven dial is showing, but by getting an actual oven thermometer that you put inside your oven? You can find them on Amazon or any kitchen store. I bought one a while ago, and learned that my oven is off by 7-10 degrees. That could be part of the issue. I also cooked the roast slightly rare so if you prefer it more well done, it will take more cooking time, but shouldn’t take 2 hours!

  5. Colleen Smith Fournier says:

    Well long before Firestone arrived in SLO, the original Santa Maria style tri tip sandwich was a little different. 1st you have to slow cook the tri tip on a very hot grill over Red Oak firewood.
    Using whole loaves of French bread sliced lengthwise, dip them in an aluminum pan of melted butter n garlic. Then grill the loaf away from any flame to toast the bread. Never ever put bbq sauce on it. Only salsa, again fresh made St Maria style. Slice the meat thin, layer on the whole loaf, dripping with the garlic butter, ladle the salsa on, then cut n slice in 6 sandwich size portions.. Old School style.

    • Jason Rowe says:

      Hi there Colleen, I love your post. Add a side of Pinquito Beans and that’s THE way to enjoy Tri Tip.

      Never Marinate, Always Dry Rub!

      The only other salsa I like to use is made with:

      Red Wine vinegar
      Brown Sugar
      Ground mustard
      Apricot or Mango
      Habanero Chiles

  6. James says:

    I’ve read that Firestone grill and its other chains like dog house in Fresno actually use sirloin cut and not tri tip

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  8. Elliot Mederos says:

    Hello, this post was awesome to come across :), I live here in Fresno and been going to Doghouse grill for years and love it , especially those fries !. Try Combining Lawry’s seasoned salt with Old bay seasoning , this has been the closest I have gotten trying to recreate that seasoning on their fries , I was always suspicious of both seasonings being behind it in some way , even my brother said they remind him of the fries they make at his work which they only add Old bay to them , so one day I just combined both seasonings and was shocked on how Identical the flavors were ! . I love the tri-tip as well but being a diehard BBQ guy in California I can tell by the flavor that they stay very true to Santa Maria style with the oak wood and simple Salt ,garlic and pepper , it’s definitely not low smoked but you get a very unique wood smoke flavor when you grill on Santa Maria style grills. Funny thing that you suggested Sweet baby Rays for the sauce , my fellow chef friends all say that’s what they use for their sauce and that its just cooked down and reduced and one even said they saw a bottle similar to the Bulk size bottle of Sweet baby rays and I even sometimes suspect that they add some kind of fruit preserves cause I get taste of something fruity like blackberry or apricot sometimes. Sweet baby Rays or not …something goes in that sauce and they are doing very well keeping it a secret ! 🙂 thanx for the post ! 🙂

  9. Rita & Gary says:

    OMG!!! This is like THE BEST place for Tri Tip and the fries are sooo addictive, if your in Fresno, go to DogHouse Grill, same owners, same great flavor…so happy you posted this, my hubby and I are going to follow this to the T….good luck if you can duplicate the fries,!!! So far we have not been able to….

  10. Great post on all of our favorite Tri-Tip sandwich. Definitely the garlic butter is what made the bread, interesting that they cook tri-tips in oven, but that makes sense for space and time. I feel like cheating on Firestone’s when I say this because I swear by this place to anyone visiting SLO, but I had the opportunity to go to Kansas City last October and I finally found the place that trumps Firestone’s for me. Oklahoma Joe’s, is one amazing BBQ restaurant and their fries are actually better than Firestone’s. Mo bought jars of their BBQ sauce and fry seasoning just to have handy. You can order it from their website also and would recommend it for any bbq enthusiast.

  11. Cameron Maxwell says:

    Come by this Sunday, January 24th on Ashlan between Fruit and Palm. Tri tip sandwiches with Cam’s Central Valley Fresno BBQ

  12. Ozzy Torres says:

    Awesome post. I love how it was all put in one place so that I can try to replicate their sandwiche since I don’t get to go back to SLO as I like to. Go POLY!!!

  13. The best tritip sandwich! For the closest sauce match Ive ever found try Pepper Plant BBQ Sauce.

  14. Kevin A Lee says:

    Thank’s for the TRI-TIP recipe . The question I have is where can I find a place in SLO County that sells a decent cut of beef these days ? I live in Santa Margarita where plenty of healthy cows graze but I can’t seem to find a good piece of tri-tip to cook . I just bought one at Vons the day before Labor Day . It wasn’t cheap and the color seemed much paler than I remember ( light pink ) and it was very tough with not a lot of meat left after BBQing . Thank’s again .

  15. shenGie says:

    Link for the bbq sauce doesn’t work 🙁

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