Trader Vic’s, Emeryville, California

Recently I heard some sad news that the Portland outpost of Trader Vic’s closed after a fire. The Portland location was the best of the “new” Trader Vic’s in the U.S. which opened in the new millennium. I know it was because I went to all the new locations, with the exception of the Las Vegas one (mainly because the consensus in the tiki community was that the Vegas one was poorly designed – too sleek and not like a classic Trader Vic’s). The closure leaves only two Trader Vic’s open in the country, in Atlanta (covered by Le Continental) and in Emeryville, across the bay from San Francisco.

 

Hinky Dink's, Oakland - image from tradervics.com

Hinky Dinks, Oakland – image from tradervics.com

 

In 1934 San Francisco-born Victor Jules Bergeron, Jr. borrowed $500 from his aunt and opened a tavern in Oakland at San Pablo Ave. & 65th St. called Hinky Dinks. He acted as bartender and cook, serving mainly beer and sandwiches. But in 1938, after traveling to the Caribbean, New Orleans, and Hollywood, where he visited Don the Beachcomber (opened 1933), he decided to convert a portion of his modest bar into a cocktail lounge solely “for ladies and their escorts” called the Bamboo Room, where he served mixed drinks “from all around the world” such as the Mojito, “Cuban Presidente”, “Barbados Red Rum Swizzle”, “Maui Fizz”, Raffles Bar Sling, and the Pisco Punch [source: Oakland Tribune July 28, 1938 via tikiroom.com]. He also renamed his bar and restaurant Trader Vic’s around this time.

 

Trader Vic's, Oakland, c. 1960 via tikiroom.com

Trader Vic’s, Oakland, c. 1960 via tikiroom.com

 

Word spread about the bon vivant host with a wooden leg (he lost his leg as a child from tuberculosis) who was serving Chinese food (he learned to make by visiting Chinatown in SF) and fancy cocktails in Oakland. The new Oakland Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939-40 helped business. Herb Caen wrote in 1941: “the best restaurant in San Francisco is in Oakland”.

 

Trader Vic's bar, Oakland - postcard image via SwellMap on Flickr

Trader Vic’s bar, Oakland – postcard image via SwellMap on Flickr

 

In 1944 Victor Bergeron invented the Mai-Tai at Trader Vic’s in Oakland, where he also developed the full-blown Polynesian restaurant concept with tikis, nautical decor, flotsam from around the world, and of course bamboo. In 1948 he opened his second restaurant, The Outrigger in Seattle (changed to Trader Vic’s in 1960) and in 1951 he opened his San Francisco restaurant.

 

Trader Vic's, San Francisco - image via tikiroom.com

Trader Vic’s, San Francisco – image via tikiroom.com

 

The San Francisco location became very popular, frequented by celebrities, politicians, and royalty (Queen Elizabeth visited in 1983) until it closed in 1993. Today the French-Vietnamese restaurant Le Colonial occupies the building but you can see Trader Vic Alley as a tribute to what was once there.

 

Tiki Room, Trader Vic's, San Francisco - postcard via SwellMap on Flickr

Tiki Room, Trader Vic’s, San Francisco – postcard via SwellMap on Flickr

 

Garden Room, Trader Vic's, San Francisco - postcard via SwellMap on Flickr

Garden Room, Trader Vic’s, San Francisco – postcard via SwellMap on Flickr

 

Hong Kong Room, Trader Vic's, San Francisco - postcard via SwellMap on Flickr

Hong Kong Room, Trader Vic’s, San Francisco – postcard via SwellMap on Flickr

 

The Trader Vic’s restaurant chain grew worldwide through the post-war years’ massive popularity of exotic escapism via tropical drinks, Polynesian food, Hawaiian and South Pacific culture, and exotica music. In the waning years of the heyday of Polynesian Pop a new Trader Vic’s opened in the Bay Area, in Emeryville, and the Oakland location closed in 1972.

 

Trader Vic's newspaper advertisement, 1972

Trader Vic’s newspaper advertisement, 1972

 

Trader Vic's, Emeryville - postcard image via hmdavid on Flickr

Trader Vic’s, Emeryville – postcard image via hmdavid on Flickr

 

Some new Trader Vic’s locations opened in the Bay Area in recent years (Palo Alto, 2001-2012 & San Francisco, 2004-2007) but Emeryville has remained the flagship location of Trader Vic’s in the world. The company has its headquarters there and much of the decor from now-closed locations around the country ends up at this Trader Vic’s.

 

bar and lounge, Trader Vic's Emeryville via EaterSF

bar and lounge, Trader Vic’s Emeryville via EaterSF on Flickr

 

The Emeryville location has seen some remodeling since my first visit about 20 years ago. There was an unfortunate remodel of the cocktail lounge several years ago which gave it a white a-frame ceiling and a lighter nautical look. In 2010 it closed for a few months but thankfully came back looking better; a return to the classic tiki bar look with more tikis and traditional decor throughout the restaurant. And the a-frame ceiling over the lounge is looking great again! There is a lot to see so when you visit take some time to look at the items hanging on walls, above, and around you.

 

decor, Trader Vic's Emeryville via K on Flickr

decor, Trader Vic’s Emeryville via K on Flickr

 

tikis, Trader Vic's Emeryville via K on Flickr

tikis, Trader Vic’s Emeryville via K on Flickr

 

The dining room is wonderful, with large windows looking out on the marina and towards San Francisco. Try to reserve a table with a window view for a romantic meal without peer in the Bay Area.

 

Tiki Room, Trader Vic's, Emeryville via EaterSF on Flickr

Tiki Room, Trader Vic’s, Emeryville via EaterSF on Flickr

 

The food has also gotten better since my first visit. Highly recommended are anything from the Chinese ovens (the pork chop and steaks are great). And you have to get a Mai Tai where it was invented! Tip: order an “original Mai Tai” which is made from scratch rather than from a mix.

 

Trader Vic, 1902-1984 (photo taken at San Francisco location)

Trader Vic, 1902-1984 (photo taken at San Francisco location)

 

Sadly, we lost many classic Trader Vic’s in recent years, so the remaining two are treasures to be enjoyed as often as possible. So won’t you check out Trader Vic’s in Emeryville when you visit the Bay Area? Please tell maître d’hôtel Claudette Lum that I sent you.

 

Of all the Trader Vic’s (besides Emeryville) I have visited the following:
Beverly Hills (1955-2007; it used to be my favorite; there is a sleek Trader Vic’s lounge now which is nothing close to the original but you probably can get a good Mai Tai there as I hear some of the veteran bartenders are still around).
Chicago (1957-2005; new location 2008-2011)
London (1963-now)
Munich (1971-now)
Atlanta (1976-now)
Palo Alto (2001-2012)
San Francisco (2004-2007)
Bellevue, WA (2006-2008)
Los Angeles (2009-2014)
Portland (2011-2016)

 

Trader Vic’s
9 Anchor Dr, Emeryville, CA 94608
(510) 653-3400
Open Tue-Fri 11:30am – 11:00pm, Sat 5:00pm-10:30pm, Sun 5:00pm-10:00pm

 

 

Pacific Dining Car, Los Angeles, California

Friends have often heard me complain about the limited 24 hour eatery options in the Bay Area. New York City has a few, Chicago beats NYC by a mile, but Los Angeles is tops for 24-hour dining. There are scads of 24-hour coffee shops, hamburger and hot dog stands, taco shops, ethnic eateries, and most uniquely, even some fine dining restaurants. If you can sit down to eat a high quality meal at four o’clock in the morning on white linen with real silverware and fine china, served by professional waiters in dinner jackets and ties anywhere else in the U.S. I want to know about it!

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

Pacific Dining Car opened in 1921, when Los Angeles was booming during the Roaring Twenties. Fred and Grace “Lovey” Cook moved to LA from back east and decided to open a small restaurant that was like a railroad dining car. Many people think the original restaurant is in an actual railroad car but the Cooks had the car built to their specifications so it would be large enough to accommodate a lunch counter, some tables and chairs, and the kitchen. They outfitted it with wheels so it could be moved, which came in handy in 1923 because the land it was on at 7th & Westlake was sold, so the Cooks had to move the little café to 6th & Witmer at the western edge of downtown, where it still stands to this day, wheels and all.

 

timeline

Lovey’s pies became a quick hit in town and soon business was booming. In the 20s Fred Cook started serving high quality steaks from USDA prime aged beef, eventually installing his own curing box so he could age the beef on-site, a practice that continues today. The Cook’s survived the Depression and opened the successful Cook’s Steak House at 645 S Olive St. in 1935 (demolished). Lovey’s son-in-law Wes Idol ran the new venture. Both restaurants attracted many celebrities of the silver screen, writers, and even the notorious Mickey Cohen.

 

Cook's Steakhouse

Cook’s Steak House via Pinterest

 

Fred passed away in 1947 and Lovey continued to run PDC 7 days a week, except when the restaurant closed for three months per year during the summer, when a sign was put at the entrance reading “Too D. hot in L.A. Gone Fishing. Why the H. don’t you go, too?”. By 1960, Lovey was over 80, so her daughter Virginia, son-in-law Wes, and grandson Wes Idol II purchased the restaurant and remodeled it during the summer closure, reopening it as a “year ’round” restaurant, adding air conditioning so it could stay open during the summertime.

 

Pacific Dining Car 1968 menu

menu from 1968

 

Pacific Dining Car vintage matchbook

via Los Angeles Magazine

When Wes senior passed away in 1970, Wes II bought the restaurant from his mother Virginia, again remodeling it close to its present appearance. Wes II expanded the menu and wine list, while retaining the PDC standards of prime aged steaks. At one time there was also a Pacific Dining Car at 501 30th St in Newport Beach (as spotted on a vintage matchbook image; since demolished). I do not know when PDC started 24-hour service. This vintage matchbook shows limited dinner hours. But at some point it went 24-hours and in 1990 a PDC was opened in Santa Monica, also open 24-hours. These days, Wes Idol III runs PDC, amazingly owned by the same family for 95 years!

 

 

Pacific Dining Car original dining room

original dining room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

Pacific Dining Car has many dining rooms, but my favorite is the original dining car, which has been remodeled over the years to its present Victorian dining car look of varnished wood, plush high-back booths, tables with green crushed velvet chairs, windows with tasselled valances, brass luggage racks holding vintage suitcases, and classic lamps.

Past the wine room you enter the bar (with TV) and the adjacent Club Car dining room, which is decorated with many historic photos; worth a peek if you aren’t dining there.

 

Pacific Dining Car dining room

Club Car next to the bar – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

At the other side of the original dining car, just past the kitchen, is the Northern Pacific Room, in a Craftsman style with green walls and ceiling, lots of wood, blue crushed velvet chairs, and chandeliers made from antlers. A very interesting room that was used as a film set. Also, there is the Astor Room, the Huntington Room, and the Wine Room. Wow! More photos of the the various dining rooms.

 

antler chandelier in Northern Pacific Room, Pacific Dining Car

antler chandelier in Northern Pacific Room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

Since this is primarily a steakhouse all the menus feature steaks from prime aged corn-fed beef , but there are many other meat, seafood, and vegetable options. Breakfast is served 24 hours a day. I love their blueberry pancakes, top sirloin steak ‘n eggs, and lyonnaise potatoes. Or you could go New Orleans style and get eggs Sardou, artichoke bottoms over creamed spinach, topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce.

 

Pacific Dining Car steak 'n eggs

top sirloin steak ‘n eggs with lyonnaise potatoes -photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

Lunch is served from 11am to 4pm and features salads, steaks, seafood, sandwiches, and other entrees. Afternoon tea is offered daily from 3pm to 5:30pm. The dinner menu is served 24-hours a day and offers an extensive array of steak and seafood entrees and combinations. Make no mistake, PDC is an expensive restaurant. Their famous cowboy steak, a bone-in ribeye, will set you back almost $80 à la carte and their famous baseball steak, a thick top sirloin will cost you almost $50 on the dinner menu. However you can go after 11:00pm and save a lot. Their late night menu served from 11pm to 6am offers many of their popular selections at reduced prices and some include sides while their regular dinner menu counterparts may not.

 

Pacific Dining Car rib steak

Cowboy Steak – via beefaficionado.blogspot.com

 

Note on their steaks: the steaks are well seasoned and cooked over charcoal with a good dark crust (as you can see above). If you don’t like your steak that well seared you should ask if they can cook it with less of a dark crust. Also, after reading a lot of online reviews complaining about the Pacific Dining Car’s baseball cut being “dry”, I have this to say: top sirloin is a beefy but relatively lean cut with a somewhat chewy texture. I love a good top sirloin for a steak-on-a-budget. But it’s not as well marbled as say a ribeye or strip steak so it’s not as juicy and it doesn’t have the melt-in-your-mouth feel of more fatty cuts. So don’t order the baseball steak if a chewy, beefy steak doesn’t appeal to you. I found my aged top sirloin served with eggs to be very flavorful!

 

Pacific Dining Car

photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

The service is excellent: genteel, old fashioned, refined. Which makes the entire experience from a simpler, less hectic time. The crisp white linens, the real polished silverware and the fine china remind me of dining in a railroad dining car during the streamlined train era before Amtrak (luckily I was able to experience it in the 1970s on board the Denver and Rio Grande Western’s Zephyr, a remnant of the California Zephyr that held on until 1983). There is no music playing at the restaurant; just the sound of low conversation and polite dining. If you go late at night please don’t arrive drunk and make a lot of noise.

Sure, Pacific Dining Car is pricey, but it’s also priceless.

 

James Ellroy at Pacific Dining Car

James Ellroy in the Astor Room at Pacific Dining Car – via the Hollywood Reporter

James Ellroy, author of L.A. Confidential and other books, is a huge fan of Pacific Dining Car!

 

Pacific Dining Car
1310 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 483-6000
2700 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403
(310) 453-4000
Open 24 hours with breakfast and dinner menus; lunch 11am-4pm; tea 3pm-5:30pm; late night menu 11pm-6am – at both locations

 

 

 

Chicken Pie Shop, Fresno, California

 

When I was a young man running around San Diego on my Lambretta scooter in the 1980s I loved to eat at the Chicken Pie Shop in Hillcrest, especially during cold winter days (OK, it never got very cold in San Diego, but we’re cold wimps in California). It was the ultimate homemade comfort food, served in a time machine café that first opened in 1938 at 5th and B downtown and later moved to 5th and Robinson in Hillcrest (first on the southeast corner, moving to the northeast corner in 1965). The chicken pot pie dinner was tasty, cheap, and very filling (lunch there was my meal for the day). In 1990 the shop was purchased and moved to North Park. It’s not a time warp anymore in atmosphere but the menu is still old-fashioned and the food is good, hearty, and cheap. The friendly, veteran staff stayed with the restaurant when it moved.

 

Storefront of Chicken Pie Shop, Fresno

photo by mears on Flickr

 

In the cool Tower District of Fresno is an unrelated Chicken Pie Shop (aka Grandmarie’s) that is thankfully still frozen in time. In 1956 Mary Ross (“Grandmarie”) and her husband opened the original Chicken Pie Shop on Olive Street in Fresno to serve chicken pies from her own recipe. In 1966 it moved into a space on the same block previously occupied by Byde’s Hardware (the old location is now a parking lot next door). Mary Ross’ grandson Gary Ross is the current owner, so this year the restaurant has been owned by the same family for 60 years!

 

Dining room of Chicken Pie Shop, Fresno

photo by Dean Curtis, 2011

 

The dining room is probably the same as it was when it opened: two-tone green tufted-naugahyde booths, wood-grain Formica tables, original linoleum floors (a rarity these days!), chrome coat racks, and TWO horseshoe-shaped lunch counters in chartreuse Formica with bright-green swivel chairs. And there are large, colorful, rooster wall hangings!

 

lunch counter of Chicken Pie Shop, Fresno

one of two lunch counters – photo by Dean Curtis, 2011

 

rooster wall hanging in Chicken Pie Shop, Fresno

photo by Dean Curtis, 2011

rooster wall hanging in Chicken Pie Shop, Fresno

photo by Dean Curtis, 201

 

 

 

 

 

 

rooster wall hanging in Chicken Pie Shop, Fresno

photo by Dean Curtis, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The baked chicken pies are excellent: a flaky pastry crust filled with chicken chunks and served with mashed potatoes, a golden gravy made from scratch from the restaurant’s chicken stock, biscuits, and cole slaw, all house made. Other options for lunch or dinner are chicken & noodles, fried chicken livers, honey ham steak, country fried steak ‘n gravy, and pot roast. An assortment of sandwiches, salads, and soups are available, including their homemade chicken barley soup served with a mini loaf of homemade bread. They also serve breakfast. An off-menu special is the berrock, a pasty-like meat pie of Volga-German (Germans from Russia) origin.

 

berrock at Chicken Pie Shop, Fresno

berrock on vintage plate – photo by Dean Curtis, 2011

 

chicken pie with mashed potatoes, gravy, cole slaw, and vegetables - photo by Dean Curtis, 2011

chicken pie with mashed potatoes, gravy, cole slaw, and vegetables – photo by Dean Curtis, 2011

 

As you can see, they still use vintage china. The good diner-style coffee is served in Tepco mugs, perfect with one of their house made deserts, such as the apple crumble. I had rice pudding and can say without reservations that it was THE BEST rice pudding I’ve ever had, hands down! And I love rice pudding so I’ve tried it all over the country.

 

rice pudding at Chicken Pie Shop, Fresno

rice pudding – photo by Dean Curtis, 2011

 

After your hearty meal why not walk it off around the Tower District, which is a hip area of independent shops, restaurants, nightlife, and a historic theater.

 

(Grandmarie’s) Chicken Pie Shop (no web site)
861 E Olive Ave, Fresno, CA 93728
(559) 237-5042
Open Mon-Fri 7:00am – 7:00pm, Sat 8:00am – 6:00pm (possibly 2:00pm), Sun 8:00am – 2:00pm

 

Francesco’s, Oakland, California – CLOSED

Last week I heard from a friend that Francesco’s Italian Restaurant, near the airport in Oakland since 1968, will be closing its doors for good soon. The word is they will be open until March or April of 2016. I went back last weekend for a long-overdue return with friends and it won’t be the last time I go back before it closes. The East Bay will be losing perhaps the last family-owned old-style Italian restaurant in the area and that is a real shame. This is a place I was excited to check out about 10 years ago but now I wish I had visited more often. Here are some pics I took last Saturday night.

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

Dewey Bargiacchi opened Francesco’s in 1968 after running the popular Chandelier in Jack London Square. His mother, known as Mama Bargiacchi, founded the North Pole Club and the Villa de la Paix in Oakland. Francesco’s is now owned by the third generation of the same family.

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

the bar - photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

the bar – photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

amazing grapes chandelier - photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

amazing grapes chandelier – photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

our waitress Lisa preparing tableside Caesar salad - it was delicious! -  photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

Our waitress Lisa preparing tableside Caesar salad – it was delicious! – photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

"Italian pot roast" with their homemade ravioli - YUM! - photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

“Italian pot roast” with their homemade ravioli – YUM! – photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

Be sure to look at the memorabilia of the family’s restaurant history at the entrance to the bar and the old photos and articles on the Oakland airport over the years.

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

Francesco’s
8520 Pardee Dr, Oakland, CA 94621
(510) 569-0653
Open Mon-Fri 11:00am – 9:45pm, Sat 4:00pm-9:45pm, closed Sunday

 

 

The Branding Iron, Merced, California

When driving between the Bay Area and Los Angeles I prefer taking either U.S. highway 101 near the coast or U.S. 99 in the San Joaquin Valley over boring I-5. I have fond childhood memories of riding in the car on 99 during trips from San Diego to the Sierras or the Gold Country and beyond, watching the trucks on the concrete highway or the trains running alongside. Although much of old highway 99 (aka Business 99) has gotten run down and seedy there are still many interesting sights and antique stores, safe & clean motels, and good independent restaurants along the route. Highly recommended for your exploring along 99 are the series of books by Living Gold Press called That Ribbon of Highway. For over 15 years one of my favorite eateries along the route has been the Branding Iron, an absolute must-visit after dark (as you will see later in this post).

 

Original Pine Cone Restaurant, Merced, late 1940s

Original Pine Cone Restaurant, Merced, late 1940s

 

image by alamedainfo.com

image by alameda-info.com

 

In the 1940s Ray Douglas opened the Pine Cone restaurant in Merced, along what was then U.S. Highway 99 next to the train station. In 1952 he added the Branding Iron steakhouse on the site, which is where the Branding Iron still stands today. He eventually expanded into a chain of Pine Cone / Branding Iron restaurants and inns throughout Northern California. Locations included San Jose at Valley Fair Shopping Center, San Leandro at Bay Fair Shopping Center, Santa Clara at 5155 Stevens Creek Rd, Sacramento on Marconi near Fulton, Fresno at the Tradewinds Motor Hotel, Modesto at 1310 McHenry, and three locations in Merced. All are long closed or converted to other restaurants except the Branding Iron in Merced. On the advertising images for the Branding Iron a steak is being branded with the initials ‘RD’. I wonder if your steak used to come branded like that?

 

 

Branding Iron Restaurant - photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

Branding Iron Restaurant – photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

In 1987 the Branding Iron was damaged by fire and closed. Greg Parle purchased the restaurant and restored it, re-opening it in 1988. Greg, his wife Kara, and their son Justin own and run the restaurant today. On my recent visit Greg was at the exit personally thanking his customers for coming (you don’t see that at chain restaurants!).

 

front dining room - photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

front dining room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

front dining room - photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

front dining room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

Upon entering the lobby of the Branding Iron on your left is the cocktail lounge with red tufted vinyl bar stools but too many TVs for my liking (it seems like every time I return there is one more TV in the bar). But that’s OK because the restaurant, on your right after entering, is just the way I like it – original 1950s ranch with western touches. Almost everything looks original, from the gorgeous open-beamed wood ceiling to the red tufted banquettes and booths, early American furniture, touches of brick, and in the rear dining room the beautiful copper fireplace (which unfortunately was not used on the chilly night I visited).

 

rear dining room - photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

I even like the planter boxes filled with plastic plants along the clerestory windows on the back wall. There are over 200 cattle brands from area ranches displayed on wooden plaques and engraved on the large wooden beams throughout the restaurant. And don’t you love how the recessed lighting enhances the beauty of the tongue and groove paneled wood ceiling? As an added attraction, for me anyway, while dining you can hear passing trains on the nearby tracks (the train station is next door making it a convenient stop if you’re riding Amtrak through the valley).

 

rear dining room from my table - photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

rear dining room’s copper fireplace from my table – photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

The menu, of course, specializes in beef, but also includes plenty of chicken, fish, and other dishes. They are famous for their gazpacho, a chilled tomato soup. Dinners may be ordered without soup and salad and come with a vegetable of the day, garlic bread, choice of potato or rice, and a plate-cleansing raspberry freeze, or for a small additional charge you can have a ‘deluxe’ dinner with homemade soup and salad. The last time I went I had the coffee-rubbed ribeye and it was tasty and tender. But I also recall liking the baseball cut top sirloin on a previous visit, a lean steak that can be chewy but is juicy and very flavorful if not cooked too long (so order it rare or med. rare). Their prime rib is also a specialty. It comes in three different sized cuts and is herb crusted and delicious. Other steaks on the menu include the Branding Iron (flatiron), filet mignon, New York strip, and a ribeye without the coffee rub.

 


A note on steaks that applies to many steakhouses around the country:
I have found that at steakhouses that are less expensive sometimes the steaks are cut thinner than at the more pricey steakhouses that age their beef (this does not mean that the beef is not as good). So it is my recommendation to order your steak less well done than you normally like it. For example, if you prefer medium rare (red, warm center) as I do order it rare. You can always send it back if it needs a few more minutes. Otherwise you may find your steak is closer to medium at the thinner edges. If you like your steak medium (pink center) order it medium rare. I ordered my ribeye at the Branding Iron rare and it was just right – red, but warm throughout.


 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

Be sure and thank the animal who provided your steak! – photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

The Branding Iron serves lunch and they have an outdoor patio during the warmer times of the year. The Roundup, three small steaks wrapped with bacon on a skewer with onions and bell pepper, served with fries, is a bargain at lunchtime. Also, the lunchtime menu is loaded with sandwiches, salads, and many of the steaks that are on their dinner menu. But if you don’t go at night you will miss the best animated neon sign for miles around!

 

 

The Branding Iron
640 W 16th St, Merced, CA 95340
(209) 722-1822
Open M-F for lunch 11:30am-2:00pm, daily for dinner 5:00pm-9:00pm (until 9:30pm on Friday and Saturday), cocktail lounge open daily 11am-11pm (bar food served M-F 2pm-9pm, Sat-Sun 5pm-9pm)