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#47 Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse - Trabuco Canyon

Rating: 3.50 cows


We don’t typically frequent a steakhouse just because of a gimmick, but this one had tickled our interest for some time, and the timing was finally right to give it a try. Trabuco Canyon is not an area known for steak, in fact it’s not really known for much of anything other than being in the middle of almost nowhere. As you might guess from the name, “rustic” is a good word to describe the place. Lots of wood and canteen lights, friendly staff and not a hint of pretense. You might say it’s a casual place. In fact that might be selling the place short. They don’t want no city folk riding up in their suits and ties, so if they see you wearing a tie, they’ll cut that sucker right off. They even did it to Richard Nixon (he’s the only president whose picture can be found inside).

The bar is small, but the drinks were better than we expected. Honestly that’s not saying terribly much, but the standard drinks used quality alcohols (Tito’s) in lieu of low-quality wells. The Bourbon Sangria was just what you might guess—sangria with bourbon—but was surprisingly good, though it could have used a touch more bourbon. The Mule and Old Fashioned weren’t showstoppers, but adequate. This is not a sophisticated cocktailery, so keep your orders simple and you’ll do better. The bar service was slow, but with just a single bartender doing her very best, our party of 8 was probably the reason.

Inside the diminutive dining room hang the vestiges of neckties long since shorn. They adorn the walls and dangle from the ceiling like strange trophies. The dining room is also very dark. It almost felt like we were dining in a cave. 

Most of us who were drinking opted for beer as opposed to wine. They did serve wine, but you couldn’t really call it a wine menu. The tap selection was slim but there were good quality brews to be had.

This also marked the first time we had jalapeño poppers and onion rings as an appetizer, but it just seemed like the right thing to do here. Two orders were perfect for our group of 8, and while certainly not why we went there, they were quite tasty all the same.

Steaks at Trabuco Oaks come with sides (salad, potato, and beans). They also serve garlic toast with each meal. Prices are slightly on the high end for a place that comes with sides, but the value here is still quite good. There’s only one salad here, and it’s unremarkable and overdressed. The french fries were actually pretty good, and the baked potato was fine, but small. The garlic toast left much to be desired. It was certainly toast, but it lacked a good garlic (or butter) flavor which left us wishing for offerings from North Woods Inn or The Dal Rae. The western beans (served in a large silver pail) were fine, but not quite our cup of tea.

And then there’s the meat. We didn’t know quite what to expect here, and we were all pleasantly surprised. We ordered the small filet, the ribeye, and the NY. Their steaks are mesquite grilled, and this flavor is very evident as you sink your teeth in. The steaks were seasoned reasonably well (some better than others) and they did a great job of cooking to our order (rare +). The quality of the meat was what you’d expect at this more moderately-priced steakhouse, which is to say mediocre, but there was a surprising amount of flavor, helped in no small part by that mesquite grill.

The desserts were also squarely in the “good” category. The sundae was too heavy on the whipped cream and light on the ice cream. Same with the Apple Gizmo, though the ‘gizmo’ part was quite good (apple pie filling wrapped in a tortilla and deep fried). The mud pie looked good but the flavor fell flat unfortunately.

Trabuco Oaks is a tough place to judge. We had a great time, and the people were wonderful. The no tie rule is a fun gimmick and they wear it with good-natured pride. While you’re not going to get the best steak of your life, you’re also not going to pay that much for a hearty meal and a savory slab of meat that’s better than most places at this price. Expectations are probably key to your enjoyment (or lack thereof) here, so if you adjust yours accordingly you’ll walk out with a full and satisfied stomach, and definitely without a tie.

Trabuco Oaks Photos

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