8 oz. NY Steak Sandwich – Smalley’s Roundup, South Main St., Salinas, CA

There are two distinct families of steak sandwich. The first is sliced or shaved steak, which is normally seen either the heading of “tri-tip” or is a roast beef or French dip sandwich that is gussied up and putting on airs. The second family of steak sandwiches is generally about as honest as a sandwich can get: a steak on bread, typically with some sauce. That is the beast we are dealing with today.

Smalley’s roundup is the most famous and tenured BBQ establishment located in the home of the California Rodeo. Beloved for its sauce and grilled selections, I hoped the quality would translate well to the sandwich medium. There are three steak sandwich options: the 8 oz. NY, the 5 oz. Filet, and a “BBQ Beef” option, which is sliced tri-tip. When dealing with the steak sandwich family that is “a steak on
bread,” I feel the key to a fine sandwich lies solely with the tenderness of the steak. Since the filet would be a more naturally tender cut than any New York strip, I wanted to put Smalley’s through its paces, as it were. You can often gauge the overall quality of an establishment by its basest offering.

I am pleased to report that the steak was tender and did not necessitate my tugging at it as though I were a dog with a chew toy. The sauce was flavorful and applied with just the right amount of gusto. The bread held up nicely without being anything special. The overall experience was one of a hearty, pleasing, and filling meal. Simplicity can often be richly rewarding.


Grilled Chicken Ciabatta – Monterey Coast Brewing Company – Main St, Salinas, CA

In the same way that you can find the measure of a chef in their omelette the measure of a restaurant can often be found in their grilled chicken. On many menus it is an afterthought, a slapped together kaiser roll, a few pieces of limp lettuce, a mushy tomato and a dry chicken breast. At the other end it can be spectacular with unique sauces, fresh or off-beat vegetable partners and moist chicken. The version presented by the Monterey Coast Brewing Company is a bit pedestrian but well executed. The real standout was the ciabatta roll, soft baked and with plenty of rosemary flavor. A hard crust on the bread would have brought the sandwich down, as the healthy helping of pesto rendered the chicken a bit unstable. The soft crust was a nice compliment then, perhaps showing a bit of thought behind a fine example of the grilled chicken sandwich.