Heritage Barbecue looks to add barn, more smokers in planned expansion

Pitmaster Daniel Castilla mans the grill at Heritage Barbecue & Brewery in San Juan Capistrano.
Pitmaster and co-owner Daniel Castilla mans the grill at Heritage Barbecue & Brewery in San Juan Capistrano, which is looking to expand.
(Katrina Frederick)

A historic barn and six covered smokers took a step closer this month to becoming part of Heritage Barbecue’s bid to expand in San Juan Capistrano.

The city’s planning commission met on April 10 and voted unanimously to recommend the changes be approved by the City Council at a future meeting.

Paul Garcia, San Juan Capistrano’s principal planner, told commissioners the roughly 2,000-square-foot barn would move from the nearby Casa Manuel Garcia historical site to Heritage Barbecue to be repurposed as a new dining area.


The Michelin-honored restaurant revered for its central Texas-style barbecue and its 1,000-gallon offset smokers hopes the picnic dining barn will allow it to better accommodate its patrons, especially during crowded weekends.

“We need to make these changes because we’re always busting at the seams,” said Brenda Castillo, Heritage Barbecue’s co-owner. “Since day one, it’s always been supply and demand. We’re trying to meet the demands of the people that come.”

Last year, the restaurant’s operators opened a second location in Oceanside. Castillo and her husband, Daniel, are also planning to open Les Brisket Hut, a taco wine bar in Santa Ana this summer.

In full disclosure, the husband of a Times Community News reporter is a chef at Heritage Barbecue.

In San Juan Capistrano, the proposed barn expansion will allow for Heritage Barbecue, which first opened in 2020, to offer longer hours and seated dinner service while adding a little historical charm to its share of the city’s downtown.

According to National Register of Historic Places documentation, Casa Manuel Garcia’s two barns were originally built in 1880 with wood planks and a wood shingle roof.

Both barns were altered in the 1930s with corrugated metal — only the original wood front remains.

“San Juan Capistrano has its particular historical styles,” Castillo added. “We want to keep that going, but with everything we do, we want to give it a little face-lift.”

A platter at Heritage Barbecue in San Juan Capistrano.
(Edwin Goei)

In addition to the barn, Heritage Barbecue is also looking to add an area to park six covered smokers and build a new bathroom.

During the planning commission meeting, some questions arose about the restaurant wanting to clear its sole handicap parking spot as part of the proposed changes.

An earlier approved addition allowed for an ADA-compliant ramp to be built at the restaurant.

“When we’re looking at handicap access, not all handicap issues have to do with ramps,” said Commissioner Tami Wilhelm. “Some of it is distance.”

Wilhelm mentioned her own bad leg when asking if the city’s zoning codes accounted for distance from a handicap parking space to a business.

Garcia assured her the proposed changes, which include two handicap parking spots in the lot behind the restaurant, complies with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Commissioners voted 4-0 to recommend the changes be approved after about half an hour of discussion.

With the first hurdle cleared, Castillo hopes construction can begin as early as this summer and be completed in time for the holidays.

“We’re excited to see what our chefs can create for their night service,” she said. “This is another exciting phase for our restaurant.”