During his time on the Central Coast, Rib Line’s Brian Appiano has gone from cooking for his fraternity brothers at Cal Poly to running a catering business and four restaurants — including The Switch, a recent venture into a rotating pop-up kitchen space. Rib Line is a local favorite, serving everything from the region’s famous Santa Maria Style BBQ to their $30 four-course meal part of We sat down with Brian to chat about how he got his start, his favorite places to eat in SLO, and what changes he hope will stick around after the pandemic.
Who would play you in the movie of your life?
My son, Austin, could play the younger years since he’s literally a mini-me. However my adult life would be Tom Cruise (HA!), actually probably more like Jack Black.
If you could only have one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Whatever the French Laundry is serving will be just fine 🙂
What drew you to the culinary industry?
Food makes people happy. From cooking for my fraternity brothers of Phi Kappa Psi at Cal Poly to cooking for my wife, Krystal, and three kids — Aubrey, Austin and Autumn — I’ve always enjoyed playing with flavors and making people smile.
Rib Line is a SLO staple. How has it changed since you started?
Well, I changed or enhanced all the old recipes from before; dry rub, bbq sauce, beans, etc. — and we have added more modern items to diversify our menu to attract more customers. Believe it or not burgers, pulled pork, chili, fries, seasonal vegetables and more were not on the original Rib Line menu. I like to say we are “more than just BBQ” especially when it comes to catering. We have done everything from breakfast burritos to coffee-crusted tenderloin with lobster risotto.
What’s another favorite SLO restaurant you frequent?
We do our best to support local when we eat out. I really enjoy Del Monte Cafe for that classic homestyle food and I also like to get food from Farmhouse Corner Market. Friday’s are pizza night at my house, so I try to get the famous Benny’s Pizza whenever I can.
Any changes you’ve made (personal or professional) that you’d like to make permanent?
Personally, we’ve really made changes that have brought our family closer. Walks on the beach, bike rides at the campgrounds, and other activities with our kids have been great. Our weekends were so busy with catering and events that we missed out on a lot of quality time with our kids that you can’t make up. This will be a permanent change in our lives.
On the business front, we have really been able to take a step back and try to make our restaurant more efficient and more consistent. We upgraded our POS system to Toast, which allows for seamless online ordering and are also working on updating our inventory system through the platform to have a better handle on all the moving parts of four restaurants. We’ve also been forming a solid management team to help with hiring, reviews, and consistency across all locations. We know we are not perfect, but I can guarantee and promise we are doing everything we can do to improve each day. With that in mind, we signed up for a service that contacts customers automatically within a couple days of their visit to give us a review or suggestion to make things better. We are trying to be more active to resolve issues, teach employees, and promote positive feedback.
As a California native, what makes SLO special to you?
Besides having great weather, numerous beaches, hiking trails, wineries, breweries and parks — the people that make up SLO are what make it special.
One last question…why should our community support local?
Because supporting local, supports your community. It may sound cheesy, but it’s true. We employ local people supporting families. We donate and give back to local schools, charities and events to better our community. These are some of the toughest times we will ever encounter (hopefully) in the restaurant industry. Without the support, many of us small businesses may not be here when this is done.