By Phil Mestomack
(This week, the Weekly-Chronicle’s resident gastronome Phil Mestomack starts the latest summer restaurant survey. Whose cuisine will reign supreme this year?)
If there’s one thing that is resoundingly American, it’s the steak. A slab of finely selected beef, sometimes aged to bring out more flavor, fire grilled, usually finished on a broiler to a perfect medium rare.
Accompanied by a simple green salad, a baked potato and a ramekin of au jus, the meal is as extravagant as it is simple, yet so difficult to accomplish well.
This year, the Imperial Valley Weekly – Calexico Chronicle – Holtville Tribune will be in the search for the best steak in the Valley. There are four restaurants we will be testing, but which ones will be a closely guarded secret.
This survey will focus on one of the more popular cuts available, the Rib eye steak, which is the bovine equivalent to the pork chop. If a restaurant does not have a rib eye steak on the menu, the closest equivalent will be judged in its place.
All steaks will be requested at medium rare doneness, considered by many to reflect enough cooking time to properly cook the steak, while still retaining enough of the original flavor of the meat.
Criteria for judging -
Meal Quality: What the meal comes with, how well the steak tastes, and how close to medium rare was the steak will be included in this category.
Service: How well were we served, how well did the staff serve other customers, how fast requests were dealt with.
Atmosphere: Does the restaurant environment contribute or subtract from the steak eating experience.
Price and value: While steaks are traditionally among the more expensive items available on a menu, price will be a factor in determining how well a steak is compared to lesser and more expensive items. In other words, a good steak at a reasonable price will be valued higher than a really good steak that is really expensive.
With the criteria out of the way, let’s begin.
The Town Pump, located in Westmorland at 200 West Main Street, has a long standing reputation as one of the best restaurants in the northern half of the county. The restaurant, once located next to the Westmorland Fire Department building, specializes in steaks and seafood, much like steakhouses on the East coast.
Recent changes to the Town Pump include a dance floor and one of the few full service bars north of Keystone Road.
Our party didn’t have reservations, which is what the restaurant prefers, but we arrived early and were seated with little delay. Within thirty minutes, two very large parties of more than 10 arrived and service was naturally focused on them. Still, our entrées meals arrived hot.
The meal: All entrées at the Town Pump come with a choice of soup or salad and a choice of baked potato or French fries. In addition to the steak, an onion ring, a ramekin of au jus and a cut cucumber were on the plate. We were also served a platter of roughly cut vegetables and a large scoop of butter.
Towards the end of the meal, a freshly baked loaf of bread was put on our table.
The steak itself was cooked very well. As it was a bone-in Rib chop, parts closer to the bone were rarer than parts that weren’t. Still, the meat was tender and flavorful, much as you’d expect from a long established steakhouse.
One issue was with the silverware, though. The old, very small steak knives took too much effort to get at pieces near the bone.
Price of the meal: $18.99 for a bone-in rib eye steak.
Atmosphere: The inside of the dining area is typical of steakhouses, with an modest level of internal lighting, seats that have
Over the summer, the Town Pump will be open from Tuesday through Sunday from 5 pm with no set closing time. For reservations, call (760) 344-4841