This is an open letter of thanks to Jason Santos and the terrific staff at Gargoyles for saving me from what surely would have been chronic nightmares about my company holiday luncheon at Ken's Steakhouse.
Those nightmares would have begun with my arrival at what surely was a timewarp through the same 50's wormhole through which one would find the Hilltop. Blue haired old ladies would fill the dining room while the Elks club members checked their blood-sugar levels in the bar. I would make my way down the creepy "hallway of dressings" to find my coworkers assembled for lunch.
Then the real nightmare would begin. On naturally selecting the sliced tenderloin over the scrod or the chicken, I would notice that the waiter is not asking how the beef should be cooked. How could that be? This place may be dated, but it's still a steakhouse, right? So, on placing my order I'd ask, "Is the beef cooked to order?" (Don't get me started on what that phrase actually means) The waiter would reply, "No, it's all cooked medium." Medium! I would try to run, but in true nightmare fashion, I would be trapped, no way to escape.
So, I would grin and bear it, and hope for the best. But what would haunt me forever more would be the food itself. To say I'd have had better meals on airplanes would not be an exaggeration. My plain limp salad would be served without choice of dressing. Clearly the hall of dressings was a maniacal twist to this bad dream. My thinly sliced tenderloin (we're talking roast beef style slices) would be drowned in dark brown congealed gravy that could only have come from either a can or a packet. It would be served with the classic "mixed vegetables" side that could only have come from the freezer and been either nuked, boiled, or steamed, and served without seasoning, sauce or care. The only remotely tasty food to pass my lips would be the mashed potatoes, but even they couldn't save me from this nightmare meal.
Gargoyles, however, did. Abandoning my groceries and my plans to cook at home, my wife and I would head to the bar in Davis for salvation. Cocktails were terrific, including something with an Asian name (Enter the Dragon?) for me and a pomegranate martini for the wife. The reuben fritters did not disappoint. Hot, crispy, creamy, light and delicious, without a hint of greasiness and yet packed with reuben flavor. The rosemary mayo was tasty but unnecessary, and the steak sauce didn't seem to have any flavor, but these little guys didn't need any help.
The burger truly is one of if not the best that I've had. Perfectly cooked and seasoned, with nicely melted cheddar and meaty, smoky bacon, terrific homemade ketchup, and crispy steak fries, that burger alone almost made me forget about Ken's.
And the special "Kobe beef hot dogs" were similarly delicious, with a crispy snap, topped with carmelized onions and grainy mustard, all on a toasted bun, served with homemade barbecue potato chips.
Top the food off with excellent service in a cozy little bar, and not only will memories of Ken's fade away into the distance, but I'll be headed back to the bar at Gargoyles for another one of those amazing burgers and some tasty cocktails.
Next time I'm trying the pick plate.