Menu Please: Carnegie’s – The Devil is in the Details

Andrew Carnegie was a Scot who emigrated to America and made an enormous fortune in steel. In 1889 he wrote an article titled Wealth, promoting his view that with great wealth came great responsibility. When he turned 65 in 1900, he began philanthropic works with his amassed millions, including funding the construction of 1,679 libraries in the United States. One of those was built in Redding in 1904 where Library Park now lies. It was demolished in 1962.

Just west of that long-gone brick edifice, on the southwest corner of Yuba and Oregon, was the old three-story Western Hotel. (In those days West Redding was chockablock with hotels and boarding houses.)  The third floor was removed after a fire and the hotel apparently continues as residence rentals to this day. The ground floor hosted some offices; a place called Cafe Filosophy briefly occupied 1600 Oregon Street  before the Carnegie name came around again.

When Carnegie’s opened in 1998, there weren’t many places for lunch within walking distance of the courthouse or the many associated offices nearby. Though more restaurants have opened up  since then, it’s still very popular and usually fills up during the noon hour. Service is friendly and efficient.

Cashew chicken salad sandwich on whole wheat rye bread with tomato basil soup, $11.99

The menu says the cashew chicken salad consists of chicken, celery, green onions, cashews, raisins, and mayonnaise, but all Femme de Joie could taste was raisins. She likes raisins to a point, but this was overwhelming. Maybe she got the scoop of salad where all the raisins were hiding. Maybe whoever made the salad went bonkers with the measuring cup.  It was impossible to taste chicken or cashews or anything but raisins. She did pull out a small pale green square of vegetation that at first seemed to be cucumber; on closer inspection it proved to be celery which was a bit squidgy and past its expiration date – leading M. de Joie to feel that the day’s chicken salad had been mixed with some older chicken salad. And raisins.

Carnegie’s is justifiably famous for their tomato-basil soup, a lightly creamy tomatoey blend with an herbal hint. It would have been even more delightful if it had been hot.

Half order of chicken Caesar salad, $8.99, with Cheddar ale soup, $3.49

A half-salad was a generous portion, quite enough for lunch. Chopped Romaine and tender bitelets of moist chicken were tossed with a lemony dressing and showered with feathery shards of Parmesan cheese, making a light meal feel as hearty as if it had bits of steak in it. Cheddar ale soup tasted like exactly both – the salty mineral graininess of Cheddar as well as the bitter bite of ale. It might appeal to adults more than children with those grown-up strong flavors. If it had been hot, it would have been excellent.

Reuben sandwich on whole wheat rye with potato salad, $11.99

One of the few grilled sandwiches on the Carnegie’s menu, the Reuben was packed with mild and lean pastrami and a nice icing of melted cheese. However, Femme de Joie noticed something was not quite right. Prodding around with her fork, she deconstructed the sandwich and eventually found what she was looking for: an extremely thin scatter of sauerkraut threads mashed into the mustard. Perhaps Carnegie’s customers leave most of the sauerkraut behind and so they’ve decided to tone it down, but a Reuben without sauerkraut, or with virtually none, is an ordinary pastrami sandwich. Potato salad on the side was delicious, made with red-skinned new potatoes, slightly sweet and freshly made.

Carnegie’s is in an appealing casual space with lots of light from tall and wide windows as well as a more intimate upstairs seating area. The menu is kept simple so that service is fairly fast even when it’s busy; portions are fair for the price. But there are some problems in execution – lukewarm soups and sandwich fillings that miss the mark. Those aren’t big things individually, but after three  consecutive meals with a noticeable flaw in each, Femme de Joie wonders if anyone in the kitchen is getting feedback from customers or if people are just eating and silently acquiescing. It wouldn’t take much to straighten the problems out – a little attention to detail and voila!  Really good food.

Carnegie’s, 1600 Oregon Street, Redding, California 96001. 530-246-2926. Open Monday & Tuesday, 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM, Wednesday through Friday, 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM with limited menu. Cards and cash; no checks. Vegetarian and vegan options. Beer and wine. Street parking.
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.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Chamberlain, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com

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.

If you appreciate being able to read posts like this one, and want to ensure ANC's ability to provide more content like this, please click here to demonstrate your support and become a paid subscriber.

Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.

5 Responses

  1. Avatar KarenC says:

    I did not know Carnegie’s was still around. Seems like it would be a good location for a fast lunch with the working crowd downtown. Too bad it missed the mark with you. As said, paying attention to detail is of much importance for a successful eating establishment. I prefer a place that is consistent.

  2. Avatar Zach says:

    Only one small problem with this article: a Reuben sandwich is made with corned beef, not pastrami.

    • Femme de Joie Femme de Joie says:

      Dear Zach,

      True, that. But that is what Carnegie’s calls it on their menu, probably because calling it a Rachael Sandwich would lead to confusion, especially since a Rachael sandwich (in some parts of the USA) is made with turkey, not pastrami. And the turkey variation can also be called a Georgia Reuben, which is popular in Michigan, not Georgia. Or it can be called a California Reuben (again in Michigan ) and might include cole slaw (in place of sauerkraut) and barbecue sauce (yes, Michigan again: what’s with Michigan having to be different?) in place of 1000 Island Dressing.

      M. de Joie needs to go lie down quietly in a dark room now. This has worn her to a frazzle.

      Thanks for reading,
      Femme de Joie

  3. Avatar Chris K says:

    I had heard that this place in the evening was pretty much a hang out for the owners friends and cronies.
    I went in there one evening at around 6:30 pm and was treated like some sort of imposition, definitely an “outsider”.
    I won’t be going back.