Subject 1

So, it's Sunday, June 29, 2009. I'm hungry, and I have no clue where to go for dinner. Someone at the club says there is a new place next to the bowling alley called "Red Onion Grill".  I want a steak. Grills, have steaks, right? I went home, grabbed a bottle of LVC 2002 Arcanum, and headed to Chester. The bowling alley was closed, so I got to park right in front and went inside to be greeted just about instantly. Water appeared only momentarily later, presented by Shawnda, a friendly and professional young waitress. Although young, she covered all of the bases and politely led me through the ordering process.

Red Onion could easily be a white tablecloth restaurant, but it doesn't need to be, and the tables of black Formica with wood trim are nice and all were either in use or clean when I came in. The restaurant looks like it seats around 80 in its current configuration of mostly 4-seat square tables and a few larger tables. They could, of course, combine tables for larger groups and can probably fit something close to 100.  

I started with their soup of the day, which was a red pepper tomato soup. It was great, with big chunks of tomato in a spicy red soup.  They brought a seasoned bread which I liken to a focaccia bread. It was warm and soft and disappeared quickly. Almost as quickly, Shawnda asked if I wanted more, but with the meal  ordered, I had to admit it was already going to be enough. The soup was followed by a small Caesar salad which had a very nice dressing with just a little bit of bite. The soup and salad were both on the spicy side, which pleases me greatly but may be a little too much for people like my octogenarian mother. There are plenty of milder choices, so nobody's going to go away hungry.

My entree was their Surf and Turf which included a 14 ounce ribeye steak and a little side of pasta with an alfredo sauce and two large prawns.  The pasta sauce was loaded with cheese and made a very nice side.  It also came with a choice of side dishes, one of which I was happy to hear, was polenta. I expected a brownie shaped piece of polenta and was surprised when she delivered a muffin-sized polenta surrounded by a marinara sauce and fresh-grated Parmesan cheese. It was simply fantastic. I probably should have taken the steak home for leftovers, but one doesn't get this tanklike physique from being a bashful eater. I ordered the steak rare, and got what I will call "politically correct rare", which is still sort of rare but not the mushy rare so much enjoyed by my wife. The cognac-peppercorn sauce that I chose from their options was pleasant and not very spicy.  Adding salt (as I always do) and pepper brightened it up nicely. Most people would have liked it as served, but I like hot and spicy, and it is only now as I type this, that I notice the other two options for sauces were an herbed butter and sauteed baby bella mushrooms or a blackened with cajun spice mix.  I missed the blackened!

The Arcanum paired wonderfully with the dinner. It was still very bright and full of nice dark cherry fruit flavors. It has a wonderful mouthfeel, great depth, and balanced into a long and superb finish. I don't know how many more of these I have, but I wish it was a bunch.

Had I not been hooked on the idea of steak, the nightly special of Red Chili Linguini with Gorgonzola cheese would have been an automatic choice.

I usually take wine almost everywhere. Had I not, the wine list at Red Onion Grill would not have left me thirsty or at all disappointed. They have a fairly brief, but very well thought out list of wines. They have several whites, including a couple of Chardonnay, a Riesling, a couple of blends, a Pinot Gris, and even a Viognier. They have three Rose wines, which are never on my list, but they look good with and do NOT incude a White Zinfandel, going to Merlot, Mourvedre, and a blended Rose.  Their reds are wide ranging in varietals and styles, from a fairly mild Parducci Pinot Noir all of the way through a Rosenblum San Francisco Bay Petite Sirah. As I look at their online wine list, I will forgive their misspelling both Petite and Sirah.  In any event, the wines are priced from $17 to $36, the top end being a Rosenblum Paso Robles Zinfandel. That's very reasonable pricing for a restaurant. If you want, they even have some of Coppola's "Sofia" bubbly to celebrate at $34.

Overall, I was very impressed. It was in all attributes a much nicer dinner than I expected to find in Chester. The service was responsive, professional and polite, the food was served at the appropriate temperature at the right times, the prices were reasonable, and everything I tried was simply great. I can't wait to go back for some more of that polenta.

The Red Onion Grill is located at 384 Main Street, Chester, CA 96020 (530) 258-1800. They have a website complete with menu and wine list at Entree prices range from $13 - $29, most including a side and salad or soup. They have food for short people priced at $6.95. The restaurant is owned and operated by Filip and Eva Laboda. I got to meet Filip, and had to tell him that I think they are really doing it right. 


Copyright(c) 2002 Andrew M. Phillips, Sr.. All rights reserved.