Menuplease: Dry Creek Station – Diner Prices, Steakhouse Quality

Femme de Joie arrived late to the Dry Creek Station party. She had heard of it but had always assumed it was a sort of roadhouse-cum-greasy spoon with nothing much to justify the drive out east of Redding. Nothing against roadhouses or Ye Olde Greasy Spoon; it’s just that she’d prefer the roadhouse to be within crawling distance of home, and there are plenty of greasy spoons to go around.

It was the fire just two years ago that alerted her that it might have something worth the drive – if people were in such a swivet over losing it, Dry Creek Creek station must have had something to recommend it besides cheap beer. So M. de Joie cannot join the chorus of yayers/nayers over whether it was better before the fire. That’s like arguing over whether Joe Montana’s retirement spelled the end of the 49ers: it doesn’t matter now. Let us see what we have today.

Whatever the inside looked like before probably bears no resemblance to the decor today. When you enter off the front porch, the pleasant-looking bar is to the right. The dining rooms (of which there are three large spaces) look rather like an ordinary coffee shop with ordinary wooden tables and chairs, some faux-stone, a surfeit of bear paintings and bear hanging wall plaques, industrial carpeting and lighting.

Amico del Signore and M. de Joie made the drive – not all that far, really – for breakfast. It was crowded on a Saturday morning and service was friendly, if a bit harried and scattered. Getting a coffee refill took time.

8-ounce fresh chicken fried steak and eggs, $7.50

Fresh chicken fried steak is what the menu said, and that is what it was. It looked like any other CFS but was by far the best we had ever tasted. The steak actually was fresh – not pre-breaded product made in Minnesota and shipped across the country – and covered with a luscious sausage country gravy. Tender and actually tasting of beef instead of Mystery Meat, this was a winner.

Dry Creek Breakfast Burrito, $6.50

It was probably unfair to have this burrito at the same table as the Chicken Fried Steak. It was filled with eggs, sausage, potatoes, onions, cheese, and topped with the same country gravy as the steak, and was quite good on its own, but M. de Joie kept sneaking bites of the CFS instead. Not that the burrito was bad – it wasn’t; it was all the savory breakfast items rolled up into one neat package. But the CFS was better.

On a late afternoon in midweek, we headed to Dry Creek Station for dinner. Arriving about 5:15 PM, the parking lot was already half full. We stood in the doorway uncertainly for several minutes until a waitress emerged from the back to lead us to a table. Presently she came around and took our drink orders – one margarita ($5.00) and one tall (24 ounce) Bud Light ($4.00), which were brought quite promptly to the table.

Despite the steakhouse name, Dry Creek Station has fish, salad, and pastas on the menu, as well as inexpensive ($4.50) desserts. There’s a wine list but it isn’t automatically brought to the table – it’s standard pours (Robert Mondavi, Rodney Strong).

All dinners come with a salad. This was bagged salad mix that was actually quite fresh (not always the case) with a little cup of dressing.

All-you-can-eat barbecued ribs, $12.95, including choice of potato and bread.

We do miss the old Hatch Cover and their occasional special of BBQ beef ribs, but Dry Creek Station’s ribs have put that longing to rest. Slathered with a dark BBQ sauce, very meaty and tender ribs fell off the bone at the slightest prodding. A second plate of ribs was brought at our request. A. del Signore said these were easily the best beef ribs he’d had in a restaurant.

16-ounce prime rib with Au Jus, $14.95

This may have actually been more than a pound of prime rib. The crusty exterior had a strong salt-rub taste and the interior was cooked exactly to order. Mashed potatoes were creamy and house-made, with more of that country gravy. A thimble-sized container of horseradish proved to be explosively hot so it was more than ample. The odd little slice of grilled bread on the plate was pretty tasteless but did soak up some of the au jus.

Understand that this is not a steakhouse on the level of, say, Morton’s of Chicago, or Ruth’s Chris, or the House of Prime Rib. You might stand around waiting for someone to notice you before seating you – no hostess. There’s no complimentary bread basket. Salads, though tasty, are minuscule.  The forks and knives are just one step up from plastic picnic ware – Femme de Joie’s fork actually bent as she attempted to detach a sliver of gristle with the cheapest steak knife on the planet. And it’s LOUD – by 6:30 we were leaning across the table to yell to each other.

But the food is good, portions are generous, and prices are extremely reasonable. Service is friendly, though they could use another server on the floor. This is a solid local place with loyal clientele who pack it every night, so get here early.

Dry Creek Station, 22025 Highway 299 East (9 miles east of Redding), Bella Vista, CA 96008. 530-549-5386 or 530-779-0098. Open for breakfast Monday-Friday, 7 AM – 11 AM and Saturday-Sunday from 8 AM – 12 noon. Open for dinner daily, 5 PM – 9 PM. Cards and cash; no checks. Parking lot on-site. Vegetarian options. Full bar. Website and sample menu at http://drycreekstationhouseofsteaks.com/

Femme de Joie’s first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more or send her an email at femmedejoiefood@yahoo.com.

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Femme de Joie
Femme de Joie's first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more or send her an email at femmedejoiefood@yahoo.com.
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17 Responses

  1. don williams don williams says:

    Sounds like my kind of place. I love a good country gravy. Do they have homemade biscuits.

    • Femme de Joie Femme de Joie says:

      Dear Don,

      Dry Creek Station does have biscuits but the menu doesn't indicate if they are homemade. But the gravy is good enough that it might cover up any sins of industrial-made biscuits.

      Thanks for reading,

      Femme de Joie

  2. Avatar Chris B. says:

    My late husband and I went here before the fire at the insistence of some friends of ours. We kicked ourselves for not going sooner. Doesn't sound like it's much different (although the service sounds bette r now!). I think it's about time for another trip for chicken fried steak or ribs this time – yum!

  3. Avatar jacki g says:

    ….can't believe you said, "swivet"….most entertaining review!

  4. Avatar James says:

    I still have yet to eat there. The last time I was at the DCS was when I made a rest stop before the fire gutted it. From reading this review, looks like I should check it out for myself.

  5. Avatar Laurie says:

    We have eaten there before the fire and after the fire. The food has always been very good and an excellent value. The difference for us is that previously the decor had been very woodsy, with a warm, log cabin-type ambiance, and now it is sort of sterile, generic coffee shop bland. In such a competitive restaurant market, I think you have to make that extra bit of effort to provide atmosphere along with your food.

  6. Avatar Grammalyn says:

    Their food is delicious; however, it is so noisy that we don't go there very often. Each meal we have had has been so good – their beer batter prawns are really fresh and tasty. I would highly recommend them, but wish there was some way to cut down on the noise a bit.

  7. Avatar All Knowing says:

    I have not been back since before the fire and I am sure the decor is far superior than the old remodled Bella Vista Tavern/Store was. I, too got the ribs, which I thought tasted like 3 day left overs and could not force myself to get seconds. Classic tactic of the "greasy spoon." Now that was then and I do believe another try is in order after all this time and many drives past that over full parking lot. I really have not enjoyed a great chicken fried steak since Tubby and Ann's on Hwy 273 which has been gone for, what… at least 25 years. We shall see.

    • Femme de Joie Femme de Joie says:

      Dear All Knowing,

      Tubby and Ann's! Hadn't thought of that place in many years – M. de Joie only has a couple of very faded memories of being inside it, and remembers nothing at all about the food. She thinks it might have closed about 35-40 years ago.

      Thanks for reading,

      Femme de Joie

      • Avatar FJM says:

        Tubby & Ann's food was amazing! Prawns, ravioli, steaks…you name it. Amazing. Service was great. Atmosphere/decor was dark, red, dark, red – that's about all I remember! I know they've been closed less than 30 years because we took my daughter there as an infant/toddler and she's 27 now.

  8. Avatar denise says:

    I was a bigger fan of Before the Fire food there. Seems like the steak is tougher. But you know it is always lively, so I'm the only one who thinks so I guess.

  9. Avatar Patricia Anderson says:

    My husband and I went for dinner right after they reopened…..WAY TOO NOISY for us….gave us both a headache…..haven't been back.

  10. Avatar JH says:

    Chicken fried steak is my comfort food. I'm so going!

  11. Avatar Ginny says:

    My family and I go there often. Ones from the Bay Area make it a must every trip they come up. Yes, it is too noisy, (Understand the owner is working on fixing the noise level), but the food is excellent! Always go away full. Like the 9 oz Rib Eye. For $9, it is a steal! Either go very early or late, but worth the trip.

    Many seniors go out to DCS. So do many of the other locals, and those up 299-e. Worth the trip as the food is very good. If something isn't right, they will make it right.

  12. Avatar KarenC says:

    Went there before the fire and thought it to be very good. Quieter, perhaps because of all the wood.

    Went there after the fire…too noisy, lot's of flies, did not like the layout of the restaurant. Not sure having to walk by the prep stations to get to the rest rooms is good design. The prep stations are very busy. But, if the locals love it, that is all that counts. I wish all restaurants well, it is a tough business. I always appreciate your critiques.

  13. Avatar SoSisQSue says:

    We went to DCS on Wednesday and it was very good. The prices are good on steaks, but after the reviews I sure wish I would have tried the ribs! Tubby and Ann's had the best Prime Rib ever and the absolute BEST onion rings, I grew up in south Redding and went often as a child with my parents and often also as a young adult. I think it closed about 25 years ago. I've been married 22 years and it was before we got married!

  14. Avatar bobbi & todd says:

    we have been going to dcs for about 12 years now, coming home from wakeboarding on Shasta lake hungry & tired always the best steak, prawns, great bar and now steamer clams! excellent! prices are the best in town, everyone needs to go there and eat drink & be happy!