Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse
One of Orange County’s Best Steakhouses is tucked away in Trabuco Canyon.
I will remember my first trip to Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse clearly. I was sitting in the passenger seat as we drove through a windy road.
The light was obscured by the oak tree canopy tunnel, with only pencils of sun peaking through. Fifteen minutes prior we had just exited the 405 at El Toro; now I felt like we were on the way to Big Bear.
Me, “So where are we going and why are we in the forest?
Friend, “You will see”
Me. “If we are in the forest, why am I wearing a tie?”
Friend, “You will find out…” an evil grins covers with face, which is now half covered in shadows from the setting sun.
We pulled up to the gravel paved road to a cabin looking structure. It looked more like someone’s mountain cabin then a restaurant.
I walked in the building and before I could protest, the hostess comes up to me with large pair of scissors. I look at my friend and he gives me a devilish smile. I momentarily had visions of Rob Zombie Movies as I saw at least a thousand ties hanging from the ceiling and the smell of roasting meat wafted in the air.
<Snip, Snip> My tie was cut off
“Welcome to Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse”, said the smiling receptionist.
This was the first of many trips through “the bat cave” to one of my favorite steakhouses in Orange County, Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse. This restaurant is an Orange County cultural institution and should be tried at least once.
A Steakhouse in the Middle of Trabuco Canyon?
Yes, and it is awesome. It reminded me of the John Candy Movie, “The Great Outdoors.” Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse is literally in the middle of the forest, tucked away in the Canyon. It really feels like you are in another state; although, it is only a 40 minute drive from most parts of Orange County. If you are coming from the 405 Freeway, exit El Toro and go all the way and make a right at the Biker Bar, Cook’s Corner. You will find it nestled between 1000 year old oak trees. If you are wine tasting in Trabuco Canyon, this is an excellent stop.
The interior is decorated very rustic and eclectic, literally like a backwoods cabin occupied by an antique collector. In addition, the place is loaded up with with curio from several decades. Including a glass bottle collection and a vote for Ross Perot sign from the early 90’s. There is also a live Oak tree growing through the center of the dinning room!
Wear a Tie and it will be cut off, no exception… even for Presidents
They are infamous for their practice of being a casual restaurant. They have a long tradition of cutting off your tie, if you dare walk in with one.
The most notable guest who had their tie cut off was Richard Nixon. They still have the tie and a picture of the snipping in the waiting room. Every inch or wall space, ceiling space and exposed beams are covered in 40 decades of ties.
The Food at Trabuco Oaks
This is a rustic steakhouse, so they cook their steaks like cowboys, using mesquite wood when grilling the meat. The mesquite gives the steaks, chicken, and fish a smoky quality that seeps deep into the meat.
Salad and Bread, complimentary with meal
This is a casual rustic steakhouse and you will be rewarded with complimentary salad and grilled bread as part of the dinner service. The salad is a iceberg lettuce salad with carrots and heavily tossed in a tangy and oily vinaigrette. No it is not the best salad, but each time I eat it I love it and tend to finish it up quickly.
Their grilled garlic toast is always a big crowd favorite and we always ask for a second basket. Even with a second basket and the promise of a big meal, family members turn to strangers when there is only one last piece of bread. Greedy hands compete for that last slice of garlic toast, just like a Costco sample table.
I recommend the Cheesy Vegetables Appetizer
Their “Fresh Off the Prairie” vegetable skillets are a perfect appetizer if you are really hungry and it is perfect for sharing with a large group so that you don’t get too full.
You can get the dish with button mushrooms, zucchini or a combination of both. The vegetables are simmered slowly in sherry & garlic with peppers, onions, a special seasoning. The vegetables are finished with a very generous amount melted mozzarella cheese. This is pretty much just like a campfire dish. For Two People $9, for four people $12.
My Picks for Steaks
All steaks are also served with their house made beans your choice of baked potato with all the fixings or house made shoestring fries. I always get the fries, they are amazing with the BBQ sauce.
Kansas City Rib
This is, in my opinion, the best steak at Trabuco Canyon Steakhouse. This is a 16 ounce rib-eye, so expect a very marbled cut of beef with small clouds of fat and bone attached. This extra marbling and on-the-bone cut provides an extremely flavor cut of meat that is accentuated with the mesquite smoke flavor. $32.95
The Rib Eye comes from the ribs section of the cow, so this meat is very marbled with fat resulting in juiciness in every bite. The prime rib cut is the same cut of meat, just cut and prepared differently.
The Tenderfood is an 8 ounce filet mignon, which is a very lean and tender piece of steak, $32. If you are looking for a larger filet mignon, I suggest The Rustler, which is a 12 ounce filet Mignon, $42.
My wife doesn’t like any fat on her steak, so this is perfect for her. What you sacrifice for tenderness is some of the flavor from fatty marbling, so decide what is most important to you. This feels like the Android and Apple debate. The filet mignon comes from the tip of the tenderloin, a part of the cow that gets very little exercise and away from the fatty sections.
The Ram Rod is a 12 ounce New York Strip cut and is my second favorite steak at Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse. This cut is a blend of both the flavor of a Rib-eye and the leanness of a filet. Although the body of the steak is fairly lean, it still has some marbling with a thicker strip of fat on the perimeter to add juiciness when cooking. $32
This cut comes from the Short Loin, which is adjacent to the tenderloin (where the filet comes from), this musle does not get worked by the cow, so it is tender, but still close to the rib, so much fattier. A delicious balance.
This dish has been a favorite my many of our friends and family, who wanted a slightly smaller portion, but still wanted to taste the steaks. This is a kabob that is mixed with 8oz of choice bits of Filet Mignon and Top Sirloin on two skewers with bell peppers, onions, mushrooms and their house made BBQ sauce. This dish still comes with all the fixing.
The sirloin comes from the serloin section of the cow and is tougher than it’s neighbor the tenderloin and not marbled like the rib. This sirloin is a good cut, but still a value cut that allows you to get more bang for the buck.
Other Dishes that I recommend
The Cowboy – A monster steak, 2 pound sirloin steak with little else but meat. Dare to eat it alone? Good luck. Just in case you were wondering, it is not free if you eat it all.
The Ponderosa – A 16 ounce porterhouse that has sirloin on one side and filet on the other.
St.Louis Pork Ribs – These are simple amazing ribs. Even though they are a steakhouse, these are awesome.
My Final Thoughts
Although fancy steakhouses are a wonderful experience, sometimes you want a truely amazing steak. Trabuco Oaks offers one of the better steaks in Orange County. In addition to superior tasting steaks, you will also get a mini vacation into the woods. One of my favorite memories is camping at O’neil State Park with friends and walking to Trabuco Oaks for dinner. It is so close to home, but still feels like hours away.
Trabuco Steakhouse Hours
Monday- Thursday 5-9 pm
Friday – Sunday 4-9:30 pm
Reservation are a MUST for Friday and Saturday nights, they book up every weekend. You can ONLY call for reservations. They are old school, no Open Table, No emails, No Texting. Got it?
Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse reservations phone number: (949) 586-0722