I am not an expert in anything. A natural penchant for laziness combined with an inherent boredom, leaves me knowing only enough on any given subject to be dangerous. I do, however, spend an inordinate amount of time seeking out things that replace laziness and boredom with a childlike wonder and unbridled enthusiasm - namely funny parks, perfect hills for rolling down, curious landmarks, neon signs, strange fashions, thrift stores, and delicious/offbeat restaurants. That's why it's great to know that even wacky tacky super-sleuths like us can be introduced to entirely new culinary experiences. When we get a tip or recommendation for a new place to go, it is truly a gift from one wacky tacky lover to another. We have a few friends who hipped us to the the Steak Corral in Whittier, CA, and we finally made the time to go over there and check it out.
|Horseshoe bedecked shutters? Sculptural steer?|
I was a happy camper before we even set foot inside the door.
The Steak Corral was a small chain of restaurants that began with its first store in 1961. The last remaining Steak Corral, opened in 1965, stands on Washington Boulevard in the heart of Whittier and it welcomes customers with the friendly smile and unspoken "Howdy" of a seven-foot-tall, fiberglass cowboy. When I asked if he had a name, I was told, "We call him Bob's Big Boy." I hate to say it, but I think he might even be cooler than Bob's Big Boy!
|The succulents, the covered patio, the summer sky - I'm ready to move in!|
Steak Corral is a semi-counter service joint and the only reason I love the operation is that it is so counterintuitive that it is charming. Guests are greeted by menu boards hanging from the ceiling and a host/hostess who welcomes them to the restaurant and takes their orders.
With a few exceptions, most of the menu items are incredibly inexpensive. I mean really, why would anyone go to the Steak Corral for fish, anyhow? Just for the Halibut, I guess.
Instead of a computerized system or a microphone that conveys the orders to the back of the house, the host hand writes the orders, hands the guest a block of wood, steps behind the Conestoga Wagon salad bar and scurries down to the kitchen where the cooks receive the order and begin preparation. Meanwhile, guests who choose the salad bar (who at $1.95 wouldn't?) create the salad of their dreams and are met at the end of the wagon train to be charged for their food and beverages.
|Mary takes her tray at the chuck wagon!|
|A longer view of the wagon train|
One taste of the croutons will put you over the edge; they're deep fried.
Instead of a number, each party is given a block of wood with the name of a
prominent Western figure. We were "Doc Holiday."
I wonder if Doc Holliday would mind the primitive paint job?
Guests then seat themselves in a dining room that is a western wonderland of wacky tacky.
|A corner booth|
|I really love the interior, shingled roofline.|
Of course, there are the obligatory long horns...
But these taxidermied longhorns make the consumption of steak a little eerie.
|My obsession for light fixtures continues, not just with the interesting|
hanging yoke/lantern arrangement...
|But also with the stagecoach...|
|And prairie schooners that were lit from within!|
There are two words in the English language that when combined create such a beautiful harmony, their individual definitions are rendered completely meaningless by comparison. Those words are - if you're ready - Toppings Bar!!!
|Why yes, that is a 10 pound vat of butter next to a 10 pound vat of sour cream.|
The ice cream scoops beg just one question.
Where are the hot fudge and sprinkles?
Answer, right behind you at the ice cream toppings bar!!!
|Other toppings include, but are in nowise limited to, barbecue sauce, |
grilled onions and peppers, gravy, cheese sauce, and something called
"steak relish," which to my refined palate tasted suspiciously like ketchup
and relish mixed together.
After salads have had a moment to settle, the same host/cashier/server trades your wood block for your entree. Okay, so it was obvious that Steak Corral is not five-star dining, but where else can you get a multi-course meal for two for under $20?
|BBQ Chicken Sandwich|
After years of running restaurants, the original owner of the Steak Corral chain became more interested in investments and commercial property. Slowly Steak Corral restaurants began closing with the most recent closure in Covina just a short time ago. Even though he is no longer interested in the food service game and his children are set to inherit the property on which Steak Corral stands, the owner has, in his will, guaranteed the future of Steak Corral by leaving the restaurant (and provisions for multiple leases) to the manager who has worked there since his high school days. If not just for the affordable food, the great western atmosphere, and the fiberglass cowboy, I will continue to patronize Steak Corral to support the new family that will perpetuate its five decades of history.
Were we the kind of fatties who also ordered a slice of fresh strawberry pie for dessert? It is impossible to prove, because there is absolutely no photographic evidence. I always like to get photographic evidence of funny restroom signs, however.
|At first I thought that the washrooms were only for the likes of Elmer Fudd.|
Coincidentally, we ran into one of our wacky tacky amigos during our visit to Steak Corral; he was fixin' to get some vittles too. Once you're in the know, it's hard to stay away from this place! If you're in the general vicinity of Whittier, CA and you feel like rustlin' up some grub, well then get along little doggies and get to Steak Corral. Be sure to tell them Mr. Tiny sent you. They won't have a blessed idea what that means, but you should do it anyway.
11605 Washington Blvd
Open 7 days a week!
p.s. No, I did not make a butter/sour cream hot fudge sundae...but I could have if I wanted to!