Cant Beat Their Meat
Photo by Joy BastGetting a decent steak in Orange County is a real grind. Most steakhouses in the upper bubbles of OC consist of themed joints that offer little more than ball-busting prices and appetizers cut to look like Disney characters.
Two seasoned bartenders have saved us. With Stubrik's Steakhouse, Craig "Stub" Voorting and "Rik" Barclay Cudd have created a dark and imposing sanctuary that exudes East Coast atmosphere while serving up the best damn steak this side of the nearest factory town.
Stubrik's opened a little more than a year ago in aging, almost-forgotten downtown Fullerton. What was once a sleepy antique shop filled with overpriced knickknacks and old people is now a hauntingly charming, long brick room with high-backed booths and an exceptionally sexy vibe.
The best part is the dark. Candles flicker upon each table, providing just enough light to read the bistro-style menu chock-full of deliciously described sirloins, rib-eyes and fillets. Voorting and Cudd have created a haven so far from the nearest Black Angus it's scary.
The food is simple and just about perfect. Steaks are marinated in a supersecret recipe for 24 to 36 hours. Chef Sterling Fog is always in the kitchen, cooking, seasoning and updating Stubrik's menu. As Voorting explains, "It's all about what Stub and Rick like."
The boys put out an extensive menu featuring ample old-fashioned American fare at reasonable prices. While steak is the obvious entrée of choice here, there is also a pretty decent selection of white meat and fresh seafood.
The steaks are tender, juicy cuts of USDA choice Iowa beef prepared to order. Fog meticulously follows a cooking schedule so rigorous it must have been created under Bismarck, maintaining that his staff must attain an unbroken focus in the kitchen to ensure a high-quality steak.
Larger steaks can be butterflied (split horizontally) and served with seasoned vegetables cooked in a light butter sauce, with potatoes on the side. Each piece of meat is succulent, even if you prefer yours well-done.
The weighty beef stroganoff is a house favorite that would satisfy the most ravenous trucker as well as snooty types with more discriminating palates. No dinky potatoes bobbing in a slop of gruel served here: this is the real deal. Fog uses a combination of marsala and red wines to create the tasty base for his famous stew. And Voorting insists that the stroganoff be simmered slowly to flavorful perfection before being served. The Stubrik's way produces a side benefit: the stew's pleasing home-style aroma always fills the restaurant. Topped with a warm sour-cream sauce and filled with the same choice beef as the steaks, the fresh, hot concoction is the perfect counterpunch to cold, unforgiving OC nights.
A simple wine list offers a variety of chances to get toasted while enjoying any cut of meat. We enjoyed the deliciously dry and supple Chianti.
Sweet and attentive Amber Cacciata is one of the waitstaff's seasoned pros; she obviously knows her meats as well as her bosses, offering up prime suggestions for any hungry type.
But what really keeps those diners coming back for more is the sophisticated yet no-frills way Voorting and Cudd approach their ever-changing grub. "We have been experimenting ever since we opened," says Voorting, who vows to continue cooking up new ideas until they feel their customers are completely intrigued.
If you have new ideas you'd like to run by the owner, head out front to the bar, which Voorting usually tends. But four nights a week, you'll be shouting over live music—most of it loud and grating. The owners claim amplified blues and Irish drinking music are the house favorites. However, from the looks of the drinking crowd, it's all about the upstairs pool tables, not the house band.
Whatever the customers' interests, the management is rightly proud to have developed a strong late-night scene. And because hanging out can sometimes sharpen the appetite, dinner is served here until midnight every night.
You may be surprised at who pulls up a plate beside you. "People who work at other steakhouses come to eat here after they get off work," Voorting boasts. "It's all about the steak."
STUBRIK'S STEAKHOUSE, located AT 118 E. COMMONWEALTH AVE., FULLERTON, IS OPEN DAILY, 11 A.M.-MIDNIGHT. (714) 871-1290. DINNER FOR TWO, $20-$36, FOOD ONLY. FULL BAR. AmEx, MC and Visa accepted.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Orange County dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.