Restaurant motifs that feature the "Old West" are about as much a cliche as a stuttering sidekick, a damsel in distress, or a well-dressed hero swaggering through a Hollywood backlot Western.
Those of us who dine out in the West have become accustomed to the obligatory stuffed animal heads, waitresses with prairie garb, and jargony menu that spouts quaint colloquialisms appropriately pronounced with a twang and the last syllable dropped. The dreaded and hardly ever ordered prairie oysters are usually mentioned, mostly to cause duress to blushing waitresses.Cowboy Grub has long served local diners with a somewhat antiseptic though nonetheless successful version of such a Western restaurant. In addition to most of the aforementioned gimmicks customers are greeted at the door by two gigantic steer heads mounted on the wall, each sporting its own toothpick. Pastel colors rather than barn wood highlight the well-lighted interior. The bountiful and well-tended salad bar is the focal point of the main dining area.
The menu features standard fare, with most of the sandwiches named after some shape or form of Western lore. The hamburger is called "C.R. The Wichita Kid," the ham sandwich ($4.90) is "Hy on the hawg," and the bacon or ham draped burger ($5.45), the "Bullshipper." The price for the 15 sandwiches includes beans, pan fried potatoes or small cup of soup.
Other specialties include quiche, steamed vegetable plate, Cornish beef pastry, chicken pot pie, beef stew, Texas-style chili meat with beans, and a half dozen Mexican dishes. These are priced from around $3 to $6.
During our recent weekend dinner, we sampled several of the sandwiches as well as three of the dinners. Like the motif, they were predictable, satisfactory, though a bit bland. As a visiting out-of-state friend opined, "If they had Rotarians in the Old West, they would feel right at home here."
A fairly standard barbecue sauce spiced up both the one-half roasted chicken ($8.60) as well as the beef ribs and pork pieces ($9.50), served on the side. The rib dinner's meat was tender, but more from overcooking than any specific preparation. The flavor was bland and the bones bleached white. The chicken, supposedly seasoned and baked with mesquite and hickory smoke, was also without distinctive flavor.
The one entree that lived up to its menu hype was the pot roast ($8.90) The meat was tender and awash in a tasty rich gravy. Other well-prepared items included the pan-fried potatoes, sauteed mushroom appetizer, homemade corn and sourdough breads along with the freshly made banana cream pie and lemon meringue pies. The cowboy beans were lifeless; two of the soups we sampled, the potato-cheese and tomato vegetable, were too salty, and the house dressing too sweet.
Other dinner entrees include chicken fried steak and chopped steak (both $8.60), 10-oz. top sirloin ($9.50), baked halibut ($9.75) and a half dozen fried prawns ($10.95).
Diners who like their Western fare tame along with one of the area's better salad bars, will find a trip to the Cowboy Grub very satisfying. Others who like a bit more adventure in their dining experiences might be a bit disappointed.
Rating: * * 1/2
The Cowboy Grub, 23501/2 Foothill Blvd., 466-8334. Open for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday. No reservations accepted. Accepts major credit cards and checks with guarantee cards.