Tried Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse on Saturday night with a few friends. Driving up to the place through the blackness and the windy forest road, I got a few "are you sure you know where you're going?". "Yes, trust me," I said, in the back of my mind thinking, "this place better show up soon, or else I could have a mutiny." But what would we do? There's nothing but blackness for miles. But just as quickly, we arrived. A fella waved us into the gravel parking lot with a flashlight. We walked out into the night, our breaths curling in the cold, crickets chirping, pebbles crunching beneath our shoes, rustling trees in the dark, as we made our way toward a lantern light on the lone building. "Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse" the dangling wooden post read. Wooden planks lead up to a creaky door.
Inside, it was warm and colorful. Cut neck ties dangled everywhere; on the walls, along the ceiling. Newspaper clippings pasted here and there too -- glowing reviews. Nixon apparently ate here. I wonder where his tie is.
We were seated right away. Again, ties surrounded us. It was like being in a cramped overstocked garment district storage room, or an old cozy attic. Very charming and unusual. You wouldn't think "steakhouse" if you saw it. Our place mats were denim, with pockets sewn in to hold the utensils. On the table was a old flickering lantern, salt and paper shakers, and a squirt bottle we later discovered contained a nice sour BBQ sauce.
The salads came out first -- iceberg, purple cabbage, grated carrot dressed in a house Italian. No choice was offered on the dressing, but our table loved it. Each of us sopped it up with the homemade garlic toast.
The steaks came out next. I ordered the Kansas City Rib. It was a Bone-In Rib Eye, fired up medium, served on a metal/tin plate set on wood. Cutting up the steak on my dull tin plate evoked memories of Westerns, where the cowboys would rake their spoonfulls of beans on such a plate around a campfire. The meat was good with a nice smoky note, although a bit chewy for a rib eye. The squirt bottle of BBQ sauce went well with each bite. Baked potato came with the usual fixings; green onions, butter, and sour cream, which were brought out on on a rack of pint sized sauce containers. Also on the metal steak plate was a small ramekin of beans. The beans were an afterthought, no taste whatsoever in its vaguely watery broth. Our table left all of our beans virtually untouched. The shoestring fries my friends ordered were good, crispy and crunchy. Repeatedly ramming a fork through the pile was the best way to eat them.
Our bellies stuffed with beef and potatoes, we sauntered outside into the night; the dark forest lit dimly by the moonlight.