K. C. Steakhouse, Bakersfield, California

photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

The K. C. Steakhouse in Bakersfield was opened in 1939 by ‘Doc’ Kennedy from Oklahoma City at 630 Union Ave. In 1967 it moved into its current location at 2515 F Street, a restaurant formerly named Greg’s Hi Life, which originally opened in 1952. The interior is a combination of Mid-Century Modern and Western, with its free-form dropped ceiling, giant copper fireplace, red leatherette booths, and wagon-wheel chandeliers (most likely all installed in 1952), with some large mirrors framed by lights (added later). There have been several owners over the years. Today it is owned by Charlotte Carter and Terry Campbell.

 

fireplace and dining area - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

fireplace and dining area – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

My photos are pretty dark, I hope but they give you a better idea of the atmosphere that way. The fireplace is used during the colder winter months but it wasn’t in use during my recent visit in early November.

 

amazing free-form ceiling with cool lighting - photo by Dean Curtis

amazing free-form ceiling with cool lighting – photo by Dean Curtis

 

The bar and lounge have several TVs and a live band most nights of the week, but from the dining room the TVs were far enough away to not be a distraction or an annoyance.

 

view of bar (foreground) and lounge from dining room - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

view of bar (foreground) and lounge from dining room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

The menu‘s focus is on steaks, of course, with several offered including a 22 oz. Porterhouse, top sirloin, NY strip (2 sizes), filet mignon (2 sizes), and ribeye (regular cut and a 20 oz. bone-in cut), as well as prime rib Thursday-Saturday. My choice was the Porterhouse. It was very good and cooked just right. Other entrees include rack of lamb, a stuffed pork chop (a hand cut, bone-in loin chop stuffed with apple stuffing, which is one of their specialties), beef liver, and several chicken & seafood dishes. Their lobster mac ‘n cheese is famous. Dinners are a good deal as they come with soup or salad, choice of potato or rice, vegetable, beans, salsa, and bread.

 

band - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

band – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

They have live music Tuesday-Saturday starting at 6:00 or 6:30, depending on the night. The music is a mix of oldies, many from the 1970s. The pianist, Jimmy Gaines, plays nightly, joined by guitarist Mike Hall and drummer Bobby O. on Fridays and Saturdays (in my photo above the drummer and guitarist are hidden behind the keyboard). They have a wooden dance floor and dancing is encouraged! We didn’t find the music too loud in the dining room to interfere with conversation.

 

K. C. Steakhouse
2515 F St, Bakersfield, CA 93301
(661) 322-9910
Open Mon-Fri 11:00am-10:00pm (lounge open until midnight on Friday), Sat 4:30pm-12:00am (dinner served until 10:30; band plays until midnight), closed Sundays

 

 

Taix French Country Cuisine, Los Angeles, California

For a long time I’ve been wanting to dine at the venerable Taix French Country Cuisine (the official name, though everyone just calls it “Tex”) in Echo Park in Los Angeles. Recently I passed through town during Los Angeles Restaurant Week and they were offering a special 2-course lunch for $20 (weekends included) so I jumped at the chance and had Saturday lunch in the bar (the dining room isn’t open for lunch on Saturday).

 

original Taix - photo by L.A. Public Library Archives

original Taix – photo by L.A. Public Library Archives

 

The original Taix restaurant was opened in 1927 by Marius Taix, Jr. in the ground floor of his father’s hotel, the Hotel Champ D’Or, at 321 Commercial Street in the French district of downtown. I believe that the hotel was a Basque boarding house, because the original Taix served food in the style of the many Basque hotel restaurants which still exist in California and Nevada.

 

original Taix - photo by L.A. Public Library Archives

original Taix – photo by L.A. Public Library Archives

 

As could be seen on the above sign food was served table d’hôte – multiple courses with a choice of entree – “family-style” on long tables. Taix specialized in roasted chicken dinner (50 cents in 1928) served with salad, a large tureen of soup, potato, vegetable, and French bread. When the restaurant would fill up at dinner time food was served until everyone was satisfied. So a single seating like some Basque restaurants still do today, such as at Noriega in Bakersfield.

 

Taix on Sunset Blvd - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

Taix on Sunset Blvd – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

matches

In 1962 Julius Jr.’s sons Raymond and Pierre, who started washing dishes at Taix when they were children, opened Le Frere Taix (The Brothers Taix) with some family partners on Sunset Blvd. (U.S. 66) in Los Angeles. The original downtown restaurant closed in 1964 to make way for a parking structure for the federal building. Raymond eventually became sole owner of the new restaurant and the name reverted back to Taix.

 

Raymond’s son Michael Taix runs the restaurant today, though Raymond remained involved in running it until he passed away in 2010. Next year it will be 90 years in operation by the same family! Speaking of longevity, many of Taix’s staff have been working there for decades. Three men, Jose Fragoso (banquet waiter), Fernando Gomez (bartender), and Bernard Inchauspe (dining room waiter), have worked there over 50 years!

 

Inside the Restaurant

 

321 Lounge - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

321 Lounge – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

The bar and restaurant are suitably dark. There is a large TV at one end of the lounge and a small TV over the bar, but where I was sitting for lunch on one of the banquettes along the wall they weren’t obvious or annoying. The bar has entertainment on Wednesdays and Fridays so if you’re looking for some action those are the nights to go (or avoid if you’re looking for a quiet repast).

 

fireplace in waiting room - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

fireplace in waiting room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

There is a nice waiting area with some leather couches and a great fireplace which made me wonder if it is ever used anymore in the cooler months.

 

dining room - photo by Ruth V. on Yelp

dining room – photo by Ruth V. on Yelp

 

The dining room was remodeled recently but it still has nice tin ceilings and chandeliers (though I don’t understand why they partly covered them up with shades – see photo below for before picture). There are booths upholstered in a floral fabric and fresh flowers in vases decorate the room. I think they have additional dining rooms but they may be for large parties and I didn’t get a good look when I was there because the lights were turned off.

 

2007 photo of chandelier and ceiling by Jessica Watkins on Flickr

2007 photo of chandelier and ceiling by Jessica Watkins on Flickr

 

The Menu

 

1962 menu - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

1962 menu – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

As you can see above in the original menu from 1962 they still served primarily table d’hôte, with a choice from 4 entrees (pot roast, roasted chicken, filet of sole, or steak) or the daily special, which came with hors d’oeuvres, soup, salad, vegetable, potato, cheese, coffee, and sorbet. A lot like classic Basque restaurants in the West.

Today’s menu is much longer and a la carte, with several choices of entrée, including a different special each day, that comes with soup du jour or salad. For my lunch I had the excellent Moules Maison (mussels with leaks, wine, butter, and cream) and the Ahi tuna tartare, which was the perfect dish for a summer lunch.

 

duck a l'orange - photo by Taix restaurant

duck a l’orange – photo by Taix restaurant

 

The dishes are tried-and-true classic French country cuisine (no haute cuisine here), such as duck a l’orange with wild rice (Saturdays), rabbit with mushrooms, pearl onions, and mustard (Thursdays), veal stew (Sundays), oven braised oxtail (Tuesdays), escargot, frogs legs Provencales, and steak frites. And the prices are reasonable.

 

 

 

 

Taix French Country Cuisine
1911 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 484-1265
Open Mon-Thu 11:30am-10:00pm, Fri 11:30am-11pm, Sat 12:00pm-11pm, Sun 12:00pm-10:00pm, 321 Lounge menu is served Wed-Sat from 10:00pm-1:00am
Note: On Saturdays lunch is served in the 321 Lounge

 

 

Glendora Continental – Glendora, California

We’ve covered a lot of Basque restaurants here on Le Continental, being a big fan of the type of restaurant, the food, and the people. On good ol’ Route 66 east of Los Angeles I happened upon another one last summer when I spotted the sign “Glendora Continental Restaurant”, which of course caught my eye.

 

sign

 

The restaurant was opened in 1980 by Jean and Elisabeth Sabarots, who came from the Basque Country of Europe. Jean Saborots (1936-2012) came from the town of Osses. He emigrated to the U.S. at 19 years old to work as a sheepherder, later working in dairies, and eventually becoming a bartender. In 1964 he returned to the Basque Country and met Elisabeth Larralde (1937-2005) from the town of Lecumberri, who was working in a hotel. They returned to the U.S. together, got married in 1966, and managed The Little Inn Smorgasbord in Covina (later owning it) until they opened Glendora Continental.

 

Jean and Elisabeth Sabarots - image by Glendora Continental

Jean and Elisabeth Sabarots – image by Glendora Continental

 

The bar and lounge in Glendora Continental has entertainment most nights of the week – Bingo on Mondays, karaoke on Tuesdays, live piano on first Thursdays, and live music on Fridays and Saturdays.

 

bar entrance - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

bar entrance – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

the bar - image by Glendora Continental

the bar – image by Glendora Continental

 

But my visit was for dinner so I entered through the Continental entrance – of course!

 

main entrance - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

main entrance – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

The dining room has booths of tufted brown vinyl, classy chandeliers, and plaques of the Lauburu, the Basque Country symbol.

 

dining room - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

dining room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

The Menu

 

menu - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

menu – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

The restaurant’s menu offers the complete Basque “set up” for $28 with your choice of the daily special entrees. This comes with pickled tongue, house made soup and salad, a stuffed puff pastry (optional), sliced ham, the main course with potato and vegetable, great homemade bread, cheese, fruit and dessert, plus wine! A feast! Of course I got the full set up and had a hard time eating it all. If you don’t want that much food you can get one of many available entrees of chicken, fish, lamb, beef or pasta, which come with soup and salad or pickled tongue, potato or rice, vegetable, and bread. Entrees range in price from $12 to $48 and they have early bird specials and daily specials at $14.

 

soup course - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

soup course (cream of broccoli) – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

pickled tongue - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

pickled tongue – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

puff pastry stuffed with mushrooms in a creamy sauce - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

puff pastry stuffed with mushrooms in a creamy sauce – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

I wasn’t sure how to eat the cured meat (which I believe was Jambon de Bayonne) served with hunks of butter. Spread the butter on the ham and eat it rolled up, perhaps?

 

ham with butter - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

ham with butter – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

main course of lamb chops - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

main course of lamb chops (which are on end in this pic) – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

cheese plate - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

cheese plate – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

It was a pleasant surprise finding this restaurant! The food was very good but next time I’ll bring some friends to share with because it was a lot of food for one (or I’ll just get a regular entree and not the set up)!

 

Glendora Continental
316 W Rte 66, Glendora, CA 91740
(626) 914-1834
Open M-Thu 11:00am-3:00pm, 5:00pm-9:00pm, Fri 11:00am-3:00pm, 5:00pm-10:00pm, Sat 11:00am–10:00pm, Sun 10:30pm-3:00pm with limited menu, bar open daily 11am-2am

 

 

Far East Cafe, San Francisco, California

In San Francisco there are two Chinese restaurants that claim to be the oldest in the city and both were established in the same year: 1920. There’s the Hang Ah Tearoom, which also claims to be the first dim sum restaurant in the U.S. The food is reported to be good, but the place has zero atmosphere. The other is the Far East Cafe in the heart of Chinatown. In contrast its dining room is spectacular and apparently much of it is original.

 

Far East Cafe

Le Continental couldn’t find any detailed info about the Far East Cafe online. All we know is that it opened in 1920 with its ornate lamps, paintings and other decor coming from China.

 

Far East Cafe

The Bar

 

The Far East Cafe serves traditional Cantonese style Chinese and Chinese-American food, with a sprinkling of Szechuan dishes on the menu as well. They specialize in seafood, so that’s what you should order.

 

Far East Cafe

A unique feature are the private wood dining compartments on one side of the dining room (that matches the wood paneling on the opposite side), which the restaurant says are the last in any Chinese restaurant in the city. Sam’s Grill and Tadich Grill (both in San Francisco) also still have similar private dining compartments. Reservations are REQUIRED to sit in a private compartment (walk-ins welcome for the main dining room).

 

Far East Cafe

The restaurant was freshly painted since the last time I visited but the colors are pleasing, not garish like in so many Chinese restaurants. And check out those beautiful murals and intricate “palace” lamps! I also love the vintage linoleum floor.

 

Far East Cafe

The service was very attentive on my recent visit. The waiters wear black vests with white shirts, black slacks, and red ties.

 

Far East Cafe

 

Far East Cafe
631 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 982-3245
Open daily 11:30am-10pm

Sam’s Hof Brau, Sacramento, California

Cafeterias used to be everywhere in this country. (For those who aren’t familiar with the term, they are restaurants that serve you food from a buffet in a line formation, but unlike a buffet, such as those popular in Las Vegas and around the country, you don’t primarily serve yourself). Nowadays they are few and far between. In California in the late 1940s and the 1950s they evolved into a popular style called a hofbrau (from the German word for a royal brewery) probably because they usually served beer as well as hearty food.

The earliest hofbrau that is still open is Tommy’s Joynt in San Francisco. Still wonderfully original and filled with clutter it serves good, filling food at low prices (perhaps the best value in the city). In 1954 the first Harry’s Hof Brau opened in Redwood City, now a small chain of newer hofbraus owned by Harry’s son Larry Kramer (the original Redwood City location is still open but has been remodeled). Famous ball player, coach, and manager Francis ‘Lefty’ O’Doul opened his eponymous hofbrau / sports bar in 1958 in San Francisco (still open and it sill has some charm but every time I go there for some tasty chow it seems there are more TVs than before). And across the bay in Berkeley Brennan’s opened its Irish style hofbrau in 1959 (still owned by the same family, it moved in 2008 into the historic 1913 Southern Pacific Railroad Station next door to the original location, but it’s also filled with more TVs than I can stand).

 

Sam's Hof Brau Sacramento

Sam’s Hof Brau, Sacramento – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

In 1955 Sam Gordon opened his first Hof Brau in Sacramento at 17th and J streets (it closed in 1993 and became Hamburger Mary’s, then Hamburger Patties, and still has the original chef neon sign from Sam’s Hof Brau).

 

Sam's Ranch Wagon

In 1956 he opened Sam’s Original Ranch Wagon at 817 Broadway with a Western theme in the two dining rooms, the Bonanza Room and the Ranch Wagon Room, and the cocktail lounge named the Gold Discovery Room. The sign for the restaurant was an eye grabber!

 

Sam's Ranch Wagon sign

Sam’s Ranch Wagon sign via atomicpear on Flickr

 

In 1957 Sam Gordon opened another Hof Brau in downtown Sacramento at 815 L St. in a Bavarian theme. Then in 1960 he opened his fancier restaurant, Sam’s Rancho Villa, at 2380 Fair Oaks Blvd., which featured three dining rooms, the Candlelight, the Continental, and the Venetian, and two cocktail lounges, the Capri and the Eden Roc (wow, I would have loved to have seen this place!). Although it was swanky, they still served food cafeteria style.

 

Sam's Hof Brau Sacramento

Sam’s Hof Brau serving area – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

In 1962 he opened Sam’s Plaza Hof Brau in the Plaza Shopping Center at 2500 Watt Ave., the only Sam’s Hof Brau still open in Northern California. The restaurant is mostly original, except for a few TVs by the bar. At the front is the food line with the servers and a big pickle slice decanter. On the right side of the large main dining room is the long bar with a large oil painting of the Golden Spike ceremony when the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869.

 

Sam's Hof Brau Sacramento

painting over bar – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

The main dining room is decorated Victorian style with wood-paneled walls filled with historic photos of Sacramento, brass railings, red flocked wallpaper, oil paintings, and chandeliers and ceiling fans (that are much too bright, in my opinion). The middle of the room has wooden booths and the side opposite the bar has tables on a raised area (see photo).

 

Sam's Hof Brau Sacramento

Sam’s Hof Brau dining room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

In back is another dining room with cozy wooden booths along the sides of the room with tables in the middle. In the far back is a banquet room. It’s a huge place as you can see in this outside side view.

 

Sam's Hof Brau Sacramento

photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

The menu at Sam’s is hearty and filling, perhaps somewhat plain, but it’s real comfort food. Roasted, carved meats are the specialty, served in “sam’wiches” or as entrees with choice of two sides. Meats include roast beef, pastrami, corned beef, turkey, prime rib, and tri tip. Desserts are made fresh daily.

 

Sam's Hof Brau Sacramento

corned beef entree with mashed potatoes, green beans, and a dinner roll – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

Later in 1962 Sam Gordon opened a circus-themed Googie restaurant called Sam’s Big Top at 16th and K St. in Sacramento. It was designed by Armet and Davis, architects who designed many Googie restaurants. Several of their restaurants are in the Los Angeles area: Pann’s Coffee Shop (open), Johnie’s (closed but standing), Mel’s in Sherman Oaks (open; formerly Kerry’s), and Norms on La Cienega (open). Sam’s Big Top at 16th and K is gone but the second Sam’s Big Top at 2721 El Camino (opened around 1966-67) still stands and is now a Country Waffles restaurant. In 1963 Sam Gordon opened Sam’s Town entertainment complex on US highway 50 (closed in 2000). Sam’s Hof Brau expanded to Auburn, Oakland, Portland, and Los Angeles (all closed except LA’s, which still operates as Sam’s Hof Brau but as an adult club with topless dancers!). The Denny’s Coffee Shop chain took over most of the Sam’s locations in the 1970s and Sam Gordon passed away in 1998. But the Sam’s Hof Brau on Watt Ave. hung in there, leased from Denny’s from 1991-2007 as Plaza Hof Brau, then renamed back to Sam’s Hof Brau in 2009 after it was purchased by the Hof Brau Restaurant Group. Thank goodness we still can visit this Sam’s, pretty much all that remains of Sam Gordon’s once-mighty hofbrau empire.

 

Sam's Hof Brau, Los Angeles

Sam’s Hof Brau, Los Angeles

 

Sam’s Hof Brau
2500 Watt Ave, Sacramento, CA 95821
(916) 482-2175
Open Sun-Wed 10:30am-9pm, Thu-Sat 10:30am-10pm