Wednesday, November 8, 2017

ADVENTURES CLOSE TO HOME: In Search of the Mythical Good, Cheap, Steak Dinner

Went to a restaurant not so long ago and the steak entree's were well north of $50. While I admit, there are places where you get every penny's worth at those prices, a lot of times I just don't want to take the gamble.

A little while back, I saw an article looking for the best dollar slice of pizza in New York. With that inspiration, we're looking for the best steak dinner in our little area of Southern California (San Gabriel Valley/Pasadena area) for under $15.

For most people, Sizzler would be their first bet. Just a couple of their steaks come in under $15 and I am completely underwhelmed by their blandness. One side is included but if you want to take advantage of the one thing that really stands out at Sizzler, their soup, salad, and dessert bar, you're going to add $5 to that price and take it beyond our limit.

My friend Rudy Castrellon runs Rudy's Mexican Restaurant in Monrovia with lot's of good food under our limit but his ribeye steak dinner (called carne asada steak on the menu) is a generous cut of very good ribeye. Since it's a Mexican restaurant, it's served with rice, beans, and guacamole instead of potatoes but you can ask them to substitute potatoes for the beans. At $14.50, this delicious steak is a grand bargain. Oh, and it's also the home of one of the Top Three Margaritas in Southern California.

During my childhood, my parents would take us to a local chain called Steak Corral now and again. A western themed, budget steak house, I remember them being pretty good and looking forward to our visits. Recently, I found there was a lone survivor down in Whittier so my wife and I went to try it. The prices are very low...ribeye is $12.95...and you get a salad, cheese bread, and your choice of potato to go with it. The cheese bread was very good, can't say anywhere near the same for anything else but they do have an extensive condiment bar to add some taste to the lifeless slab of cow on your plate.

Speaking of cowboy themes, Steer 'n Ale...hard by the Rosemead Boulevard South exit of the 210 Freeway...looks like it could have been pulled directly out of Knott's Berry Farm. Come on a Tuesday and you can get their New York steak dinner with soup or salad, cheese bread, choice of potato, and dessert for $11.95. While they did go downhill for awhile with new owners, a new manager has brought the place back up to snuff and you get a very good cut of meat brought out sizzling on an extremely hot metal plate (the server really means it when she tells you the plate is hot, let it cool a few minutes first). Very good meal at an excellent price.

At the Monrovian in Monrovia (across the street from Rudy's, above), you'll be fine if you realize it's a spiffed up Greek diner and not a fancy dinner house. While most things on the menu are satisfactory, there are a few dishes that they excel in...anything Greek, their chicken fried steak, chile verde, and salmon for example. Come on Friday night for their prime rib dinner at $14.95 and you'll get a very juicy and tender slab along with a very good salad, potato, dinner roll, and dessert.

So, which are the best? First, let's eliminate two. Sizzler and Steak Corral. Love the atmosphere of Steak Corral but, let's face it, the namesake entree leaves a lot to be desired.

The remaining three are awfully close to each other in quality.

The Monrovian's prime rib is darn good and it's complete salad-to-dessert. Small substitutions are allowed (like veggies instead of potato) and you can take the dessert to go, if you wish.

Steer 'n Ale is also complete through dessert and is the cheapest of the three best at $11.95. Like Monrovian's prime rib, however, it's only available one night per week.

Rudy will serve you his outstanding ribeye anytime you want and the tasty beans and guacamole give it another leg up, as does one of their great margaritas on the side, so I'll give a slight edge to his version over the other two but you will not go wrong at any of the top three.

There are also several restaurants that take their steaks to an even higher plane for just a few dollars more. We'll cover them in a future post.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
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