It's official. I am obsessed with mid-century steakhouses. The strangest part about this obsession is that I don't eat steak. I don't like prime rib, baked potatoes, or creamed corn. I do love bacon, but wrap it around a filet and you've lost me. In general, I just don't like adult food that much and anything that I have to use a large, serrated knife to hack through, is something on which I will almost always take a pass. What I do love is the atmosphere. I love the semi-religious rituals engaged in by staff and patron. I love a table-side preparation. I love multiple courses delivered by a trolley. I love a dimly lit room (even after discovering, post-meal, that the semi-darkness is probably used to shroud the evidence of a "B" rating that would be glaringly obvious under harsh, artificial light).
The most recent object of my obsession is Clearman's Steak 'n Stein Inn (est.1946). Clearman's is a fairly well-known name in the restaurant industry of Southern California. A name once emblazoned on restaurants all over the San Gabriel Valley and surrounding environs, Clearman's still stands for wacky, old-timey dining at the five remaining restaurants that bear the Clearman's name.
I love architecture, but unfamiliar with accurate terminology, I honestly don't know how to describe the style of Steak 'n Stein; it is like a rustic, Spanish fort mated with a Black Forest brothel.
We didn't go out to eat very often when we were young; I guess five kids didn't make for a fun or affordable night out for the folks. As a consequence of that bitter deprivation, I always feel funny when we go to a restaurant where the server wants to place my napkin in my lap. I feel like I can conduct myself appropriately in any situation, but I am just not very fancy. I felt a boost of confidence as we approached the entrance and read the simple dress code. I figured this place couldn't be too fancy if the only item on the dress code was the of "sleeveless shirts" variety.
|Good thing I layered a t-shirt under my tank top|
|If it's posted it twice and burned in wood, I guess they really mean it.|
|I don't eat steak and I don't drink.|
Then what am I doing here?!?!?!
|I go for this...in a big way.|
An illustration of the S 'n S fireplace
|It is clear that the one-time circular fireplace |
has become an indoor water feature.
|I guess if we can't have a ring of fire,|
we'll take a wacky water feature!
Is it wrong to love the musty/chlorinated smell of an indoor fountain?
|I also like the bottle/stained glass windows - from outside|
|Mary and the S 'n S menu,|
a leather and brass affair standing in the middle of the table
|The thing that really distinguishes Steak 'n Stein from it's|
siblings is the peanuts.
At Northwoods Inn, the peanuts are in the shells that are ready to be
discarded onto the floor. The Galley doesn't even have peanuts.
Peanuts at Steak 'n Stein Inn are served at each table in a small
glass carafe. Now that's 3.5 Star dining.
|Mary got the filet mignon, wedge salad.|
The presentation might be a little lacking, but she said the taste was there.
opted for the turkey club sandwich.|
In my ongoing effort to reduce, I shared my fries and left some on the plate - progress indeed!
The food was tasty and by the time we made it through the salads, we were already full. I decided to walk it off by wandering through the restaurant to take in the scenery. I'm telling you, the place was so dimly lit, that I could barely see all of the eight million calories I was consuming. The photos may have suffered from the shadowy interior but here are some "highlights" of our dining experience.
|The hostess stand|
|A view of one of the dining rooms|
|Victorian-style light fixtures|
|I like the gnarly, branch-like columns at the bar.|
|Now that's a cuckoo clock!!!|
I'm not too familiar with cuckoo clock decoration but I don't
remember bird carcasses and crossed rifles in the cartoon
cuckoo clocks of my youth.
Chandeliers and clocks are nice but my favorite bit of decorating magic, the bit that seems to be a theme in steakhouses of this ilk, are the tasteful nudes. It seems like such a funny thing to stare at whilst one devours a juicy slab of beef, but maybe the rich food and the sultry portraits combine to satisfy all of the human appetites.
It's been a few weeks since we've been to Clearman's Steak 'n Stein Inn; we're still talking about it and comparing it to the eateries we have subsequently patronized. Much like the demure nudes, Steak 'n Stein has left us wanting more and we're sure to visit this landmark again.
Clearman's Steak 'n Stein Inn
Pico Rivera, CA