When Stubrik’s opened in 1999, Bill Clinton was president, Prince’s song “1999” was hyper-relevant, and Y2K had everyone freaked out that planes were going to fall from the sky. More important, I was still a single lad that year, and the thought of where to take a date (well before Tinder) usually turned into a meat-and-potatoes endeavor. One of the places I took a gal was the newly opened Stubrik’s on Commonwealth in downtown Fullerton; I got a top sirloin slathered with blue cheese, and she ordered a salad. The ’90s were crazy like that.
Fast forward 20 years, the old-school steakhouses of yesteryear seem to be forgotten. Possibly a victim of hip, fast-casual dining, there’s just something about that experience of brick walls, red heat-lamped meat and candlelit tables that fulfills a certain need in American dining. “Sometimes I just want a frickin’ steak with a baked potato—how hard is it?” moans my wife every month or so.
And she’s right. I searched high and low. Not only are the classics gone, but the existing few have such bad reviews it’s not worth rolling the dice. Then, I had an aha moment: “I wonder if Stubrik’s is still open. . . . I haven’t been since I was single.”
Not only is Stubrik’s still open, but it’s also hoppin’. I was surprised to see a digital waitlist feature on its website, with a solid 50-minute wait on a Saturday night. I put my digital self in line, drove down and was seated on arrival. Thanks, internet!
“We just revamped the cocktail list,” notes Nick Lombardo, Stubrik’s manager. Although updated, they’re far from some wax-mustachio’d mixologist’s creations. At 12 bucks each, the drinks are somewhere in the middle of modern classics, but with a dive bar twist, which makes them balanced on the sweet side. The daiquiri, for example, has Plantation Pineapple Rum (a touch sweet), Rumhaven Coconut (also sweet), lime (sour), cane syrup (sweet-sweet) and pineapple juice (half-sweet). Thankfully, the drink has enough ice to dilute into something you’d find on vacation.
“Definitely get the 16-ounce bone-in pork chop with that,” suggests Lombardo.
After chomping on flaky crab cakes and skateboard-wheel-sized stuffed, beefy mushrooms, the bone-in pork chop is delivered. The perfectly rested, grill-grid-seared, steaming sweet pork tempts me to grab the bone as if it’s a caveman’s handlebar, but I resist. Each cut with the wood-handled knife is effortless. A quick swipe of the protein through the Burgundy mushroom sauce yields a bite worth sharing. I don’t often think of ordering pork at a steak joint, but holy hell, this thing is a must-get.
“Didn’t you take me here when we first started dating?” asks my wife of 19 years.
“It must have worked,” I reply.
Stubriks Steakhouse & Bar, 118 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-1290; stubriks.com.
Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, level 1 WSET in Wine, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest happening this June!