We were visiting family in Paso R last weekend and they took us to McPhee's Grill in Templeton. The decor is very "Central Valley-y", like a blast to the Gold Rush past with steak house feel throughout. Not too noisy, though it was full. Service was exceptional (extra points awarded when they included prices when announcing the specials). The food was much better than expected (I guess I was expecting run-of-the mill American steakhouse fare).
I started with a crab & white asparagus salad (one of the specials, roughly $7). When I ordered I braced myself with having to choose from the standard "blue cheese, ranch, italian or thousand dressing" question, but instead I found out it comes dressed in a vinaigrette, and a true french vinaigrette it was: clear, with a sparkling acidity, and well balanced olive oil.
My husband & I then split one of the pizzas (around $11) and the top sirloin steak (around $21). The pizza crust was good: thin and baked to a crackly chewiness. Toppings were on the skimpy side (even for italian-style pizza), but the parmiggiano was good. The steak was exactly the rare requested, with a perfectly seared & crusty outside. No fancy sauce on it that I could remember (and it didn't need one). It was almost as tender as a filet mignon (though about as small as one too). The green beans on the side tasted "farmer's market fresh" and were crisp-tender, coated lightly in herbed olive oil. I forgo mashed taters for more beans, but I had a small taste of my MIL's sweet potato fries which were ok (tho it was then towards the end of the meal). I didn't taste the other dishes in our party (the wild King salmon, and the pork chop), but the people who ordered them enjoyed them.
Good as the meal was, the dessert was the best part: I split the flourless choc cake, and it was like eating pure spoonfuls of dark chocolate truffles, but elevated to heavenly flight with the lime caramel sauce. And the cake was not that sweet, which I found totally surprising in an American grill-steakhouse. I'm not sure if the past reviews saying it's gone downhill mean my standards aren't as high as others, or if it was even a more exceptional place before. But I think it's good if you want California Cuisine in a steakhouse setting.
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