Gol Brazilian Restaurant's cooks prepare top sirloin, bacon-wrapped pork, chicken hearts, and other meats in the traditional gaucho style—by skewering them onto metal rods and slow-roasting them over charcoal. Besides the succulent churrasco selections, a buffet of fresh, flavorful salads and hot dishes such as spaghetti carbonara and croquettes round out the menu. Patrons can sip fresh fruit juices, beer, or wine and finish meals with creamy flan and other desserts while observing the footwork of Brazilian soccer teams on the flat-screen TV.
Skewered cuts of sirloin, brazilian sausage, and pork ribs rotate slowly over a sweltering grill, their savory juices producing a rhythmic hiss as each drop hits the metal. This is churrasco, Xodó Grill's specialty. Once the traditional Brazilian barbecue has roasted to a tender finish, the staff slices off juicy morsels for customers to pair with 12 types of salads and a slate of hot dishes from the colorful buffet. Heaping plates of fried yucca, picanha, and cheese bread await the scales, which customers use to pay by the pound and Lady Justice uses to smuggle extra cuts of steak.
Housing three restaurants under one roof, The Flame invites guests to enjoy traditionally prepared Brazilian and Japanese dishes along with American bar-and-grill fare. With this Groupon, valid for either Brazilian barbecue or Japanese hibachi, guests can summon meat carvers toting rotisserie-roasted goods, such as slow-roasted pork loin or picanha-style top sirloin, to tables to shave fresh slivers onto naked plates for Brazilian churrascaria ($29.95). This all-you-can-eat feast comes with access to a hot, cold, and antipasto bar, so you can stock up on sides to complement meaty selections in a culinary harmony unseen since the California Raisins dominated the airwaves. Diners can also step into the hibachi grill to enjoy a multicourse Japanese meal with appetizers, soup, salad, vegetables, and the meats of your choice, such as baby lobster and filet mignon ($44) or salmon and teriyaki chicken ($26), prepared before your eyes.
From inside The Vintage Steakhouse, it would be easy to pretend that a passenger on the trains passing just outside the window is engrossed in a pristine early edition of The Sun Also Rises, smoke swirling off the Chesterfield perched absentmindedly between his fingers. Without much effort, you might conjure a woman in the bar car, gratefully sipping a Southside and sending up a wordless celebration of the reversal of Prohibition.
That’s because restaurant resides inside the historic Capistrano Depot, which, despite its 1894 build date, bears an unmistakably art-deco vibe evocative of the 1920s or ‘30s. A trio of arched windows is the focal point of the main dining room; when trains aren’t sliding past their decoratively gridded glass, diners can peek through bougainvillea and willow trees to the 200-year-old adobes planted behind them. Inside, knotted wood planks run across the 18-foot ceilings, a near match to the hardwood floors glistening beneath.
A smaller dining room sits in the adjoining Dining Car, a fully restored 1927 Pullman train car upholstered in warm reds and golds. Candlelit tables for two line each side of the car, under which couples’ intertwined feet rest softly upon the regally patterned carpet. The ambience is a bit more social in the Chef’s Alley room, an 1887 freight house with its own cocktail bar and more contemporary décor.
No matter where parties choose to dine, they’re presented with a thoughtful menu of hand-cut steaks and seafood accented with local, organic produce. The chef prepares all dishes over an open-flame mesquite grill, giving everything a juicy, so-that’s-what-fire-tastes-like flavor. A chef’s selection of veggies and the patron’s choice of potato accompany the entrees, which range from filet mignon in a cabernet demi-glace to prawns sautéed in a sauvignon-blanc sauce.
These rich sauces pair perfectly with the more than 150 varietals that populate the restaurant’s wine list. Though heavy on French and Californian selections, the temperature-controlled wine cellar also has a few Spanish, Australian, and Italian bottles tucked away. The cellar also stores a few cases of bubbly for the prix-fixe Sunday brunch’s bottomless champagne special, ensuring a festive follow-up to the smooth live jazz that plays every Friday and Saturday night.
The chefs at Mill Creek Cattle Co. serve up an expansive menu of slow-smoked meats amid a boot-stomping array of vivid Wild West–inspired décor. Each morning, the Mill Creek meat mavens awake to blend another batch of custom barbecue sauce—a tangy mix of bell peppers, onions, chili peppers, tomato sauce, and secret seasonings—to be slathered on slabs cooked over an aromatic, citrus-wood smoker. Tuck teeth into the harmonious flavors of the pulled and occasionally pushed pork ($14.95), or compose melodies on the meaty xylophone of the original baby back ribs ($21.95 for a full rack). The fried steak ($15.95) tramples appetites under a stampede of battered beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cornbread, served with a side of honey butter churned by extraordinarily strong bees. A 25-ounce root-beer float ($3.95) helps to soothe oversauced incisors, and hot chocolate ($2) can provide a mahogany hue to prized coonskin caps.
Although Gulliver’s Restaurant’s name comes from the writing of Jonathan Swift, its menu draws inspiration from inns and pubs throughout the England countryside. Gayot praised the eatery’s commitment to hearty comfort food, claiming that “the steaks are thick and juicy, and the Yorkshire pudding adds just the right authentic Olde English touch.” This British influence appears throughout the menu, from the fish ‘n’ chips to the sweet english trifle. Prime rib slow roasts inside a specially designed oven, and cuts of prime steak age in-house, leaving ample time for the chefs to forge a variety of new American cuisine, which demonstrates a similar commitment to satisfying, homestyle flavors. In addition to baby-back ribs and crab cakes with honey mustard, the menu also includes decadent options such as Maine lobster tails in molten gold.
Even the Zagat-rated eatery’s ambiance manages to evoke the feel of a roadside cottage. Lit by a row of electric chandeliers, the main dining room’s wood-paneled walls feature an astonishingly vast collection of framed pictures, mounted tankards, decorative plates, long-stemmed pipes, and prints by illustrators of Gulliver’s Travels. The lobby area’s fireplace contributes to this cozy ambiance, although patio seating is also available for alfresco dining.