Blues is a basic music form, often using just three chords and a steady rhythm. It sounds like simple music, but playing it right can take a lifetime to master. Likewise, steakhouses are playing with variations on a theme. Ideally, the beef is high quality, prepared simply, with style.
No, you won't find a lot of musical experimentation at a good blues club and you don't go to a steakhouse expecting fancy sauces or cross-culture fusion. Thank God. The foodie frenzy is fun, but sometimes you just want a huge steak prepared in a way that respects the quality of the meat.
Bob's Steak and Chophouse (2100 Costa Del Mar Road) in Carlsbad is the culinary equivalent of a superstar blues musician—we're talking Muddy Waters. The restaurant is part of a nationwide chain that started in Texas, but recently opened its first southern California location at La Costa Resort, which in decades past was known for having mafia clientele.
The goodfellas are long gone, but the restaurant plans to allude to the mafia past with its decor. This is a good idea: I know that if a steakhouse has even the slightest hint of mobster past, the food is probably going to be really good. You don't want to get Johnny Two-Nose angry, you get my drift?
Bob's has all the qualities of a great steakhouse: high quality meat in large (and expensive) cuts, relaxing booths and tables spaced apart enough so there's room for your expanding belly.
Let's talk about that meat: I had a 16-ounce filet ($59) that was flavored with kosher salt and pepper and cooked until there was a delicious black crust on the outside and a perfect mid-rare center. My friend, who has a culinary background, was impressed: "It's really hard to cook a steak that huge that perfectly."
He had the 22-ounce bone-in rib-eye ($48), which had lots of flavor and fat. I usually prefer the rib-eye to a filet, because it usually has more flavor, but I took the filet on the manager's recommendation. It was a good call.
There were a lot of happy customers at Bob's, like the guy celebrating with some co-workers who held up a huge piece of meat and loudly announced to his pals: "This is a Porterhouse."
All steaks come with a huge carrot flavored with butter and brown sugar and a choice of potato: baked, smashed or skillet-fried with onions and peppercorn gravy. I went with the skillet-fried and loved how the gravy complemented my steak.
Bob's also provides other steakhouse essentials: a damn good dirty martini with stuffed blue cheese olives, a comprehensive wine list and waiters who know the menu and provide good service that you barely notice.
Oh, and there are some tasty sides, including a very good wedge salad that has a creamy blue cheese dressing and thin bacon bits.
Bob's gets bonus points for having late 1960s-era Miles Davis in the background when I arrived, and a bowl of fruit sours when you exit. I honestly was so looking forward to those that I skipped dessert.
I don't always listen to blues, but there are times when no other music will do because it's basic and true. I feel the same way about steakhouses. They are a splurge for me on special occasions, and Bob's will definitely be a top choice for me again.