Chicken in a Barrel Brings BBQ to Goleta

By Rebecca Horrigan

Chicken in a Barrel brings a much-needed wave of unique barbeque flavor to Goleta. While chicken is their namesake, they’re more than that offering a variety of BBQ meats: ribs, pork, beef, tri-tip, chicken, burgers, Mexique, and more.

The franchise, which originated in Hawaii, gets its name from the 55-gallon drums or barrels that originally used to cook all of the meat. The method involves hanging the meat over Kiawe wood, sweeter Hawaiian mesquite, and coal. When the drippings from the meat hit the coal, it helps to steam the meat in its own juices resulting in a tender and flavorful final product. Now they make custom octagon shaped barrels to serve up juicy, tender, dry rubbed meat.

“It has a double meaning also since Rex the rooster is surfing in the barrel of a wave in our logo” explained manager of a Chicken in a Barrel in Hawaii, Brent Bierma. 

With over 35 years of cooking experience, owner and founder Michael Pierce opened the first Chicken in a Barrel in Hawaii in 2010. They now have six locations, four on the island of Kaua’i, one in Lake Tahoe, and now in Goleta.

“We want to continue to expand to Oahu, Maui, and more in California,” Bierma said.

With a simple and satisfying menu paired with excellent customer service and plenty of options, it looks like this company can continue to ride the tides of foodservice and swell in business.

When I came into the bright, clean, and friendly restaurant, I immediately felt the carefree aloha vibes. While their menu is not overly tropical, their positive and upbeat attitude certainly is.

The menu includes a variety of options including delightful sampler plates featuring everything from smoky baby back ribs to beef, chicken, and pulled pork, served along with healthy brown rice and a rich chili. The standout item in my eyes was the chicken (I know, shocking!) When dining out, chicken can all too often end up dry; however, this spot lived up to its name, boasting an incredibly moist and perfectly-flavored rendition. Simple, straightforward, and well-executed cooking. If you’re looking to jazz up your chicken, they offer plenty of different vehicles for consumption including salads, sandwiches, and since we’re in Santa Barbara, of course, tacos and burritos. 

Another favorite was the pulled pork. Whether piled high in a hoagie with caramelized onions and provolone or nestled in a brioche bun and slathered in barbecue sauce for their Po Boy, this tender pig can do no wrong. 

The sides delivered as well, including their traditional fries, dusted with an addictive seasoning, sweet potato fries, and the ever-lovable, onion rings. Be sure to try their homemade barbecue sauces and ranch, which add a burst of flavor to any dish. The menu also includes grass-fed beef hamburgers, a kids menu, and brownies for dessert, which makes it an ideal location for the whole family. 

“We really want to share with people that we sell so much more than just chicken,” Bierma said. 

Hailing from Hawaii, owners of the Goleta space, Alex and Jennifer Vilera, are sure to make guests feel right at home with their hospitality and are committed to giving back to the local community. 

“We offer a 20% discount for all first responders and UCSB students. We are now doing weekly fundraisers for the community for any school, church, a league that needs help raising money,” said Jennifer Vilera. 

With their hearty and flavorful fare, this barbecue joint is a particularly fun barrel to get stuck in. 

Chicken in a Barrel is located at 5711 Calle Real in the Fairview Shopping Center in Goleta. They are open every day from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Learn more at

Rebecca Horrigan

Written by Rebecca Horrigan

Rebecca is a teacher, writer, and lover of food & wine. She enjoys sharing her travel experiences with the Santa Barbara community.

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  1. The test of a good BBQ restaurant is if you can eat the brisket straight-up by itself, with no bread or BBQ sauce. Unfortunately, the brisket at CIAB is all but completely unpalatable solo. And it isn’t that cheap. Granted, the brisket is the only thing I’ve had there, but that’s really all I’m interested in. The Soul Cal Smokehouse at the Public Market is where it’s at!

  2. I really liked their food and am happy to have a new place to visit in Goleta outside of Chicken Ranch (which is constantly dry and lacking flavor). The meat is always moist and tasty here, and yes nice people. This article is no different than the pieces at any other local media outlet highlighting a local business, plus the author gave their take on the food.

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