I love steak… but I’m tired of the kitschy, overpriced steak house. With so many great cuts of meat, and so many TYPES of meat, I always seem to leave the traditional steakhouse yearning for a restaurant whose menu has a little more to offer. Thankfully, San Diego has the alternative for the meat lover: the Tractor Room.
They dub themselves “The Hunting Lodge on 5th Avenue”, which is as close as I could come to describing this unique establishment. In fact, I’m not so sure that there is any way of truly classifying this restaurant. Steakhouse meets the cuisine of the Old West? Fine dining meets down-home cuisine? Classy Southern Speakeasy transported to 2010? Upscale meat eatery? (Would that be a meatery?) Whatever classification you give it, there is one title it deserves: delicious.
I’m going to do something a little odd and start talking about one of the items that are typically overlooked on a restaurant’s menu: the sides. Normally not the showcase of the meal, the sides at Tractor Room stand out so much that I’ve actually ordered them “to go” and had them as dinner several times. What is not to love about “Acorn Squash with Bacon Maple Butter”, “Smoked Wisconsin Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese” and “Fresh Grilled Corn on the Cob with Honey Butter and Melted Brie Cheese”? As if it could get any better, each of these delicious little dishes comes with sweet cornbread that is baked in-house and served in their own little cast iron skillet, smothered in butter. Yum. At $6.75 a piece and large (and rich) enough to share, these sides are actually quite a delicious deal.
I firmly believe that a restaurant’s bread and side dishes are a testament to the quality of the main courses: if the chef pays that much attention to the smaller parts of the meal, it is typically a sign that there is a high level of quality in the kitchen, and that the showcased food will be delicious. The Tractor Room did not disappoint. The steaks are delicious, flavorful and a generous portion, and entrees such as “Venison Meatloaf” excite the palates of foodies like myself who are looking to try something new. My personal favorites, the free range wild buffalo and wild boar stews, embody winter and scream for a full-bodied red wine and a fire to cuddle up next to when you get home. Yes, even in San Diego, we need winter food. J
Another surprise of the Tractor Room was their selection of drinks: they boast the largest bourbon, rye, scotch and whiskey selection in all of San Diego. For those who love these classic stiff drinks, this means that a trip to the Tractor Room is a guaranteed good time; for the restaurant critic, it shows that when it comes to their “Hunting Lodge/Americana” feel, the Tractor Room actually delivers.
After a wonderful first dining experience at the restaurant, I thought I had seen all of its surprises. I was wrong. On a recent trip to the restaurant during the early afternoon hours I discovered that they have a fun happy hour menu with $3 appetizers using ingredients that are showcased on their menu, including buffalo and boar. Their drink menu is innovative and sure to please the cocktail lover. At that moment, sitting amidst all the leather furniture, the sleek bar and the dimly-lit room that exuded sexiness, I knew that I’d be walking through those brown velvet curtains again really soon, and I highly recommend that you do the same.