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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
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