The Cowboy Star640 10th Ave.East Village619-450-5880 www.thecowboystar.com
The next stop on the meat-a-palooza tour, a continuing adventure with my newly carnivorous friend Simon, took us to The Cowboy Star, a modern steakhouse in East Village. We gathered together for his birthday, but it also happened to be Nov. 5, the day after my world got a little brighter, so there was much cause for celebration.
A 1930s Western also shares the restaurant's name, and the movie's plot, about a cowboy who becomes a movie star, has a bit in common with the restaurant's look. There are some frontier-themed accents, a couple of cowhide-covered chairs, a few 10-gallon hats and an early-era country-music soundtrack, but for the most part, the style is much more New Hollywood than Old West. The contemporary design of sleek wood, metal and leather won an Orchid award at the recent Orchids & Onions event highlighting the best and worst in local architecture.
The gang met up for The Cowboy Star's happy hour, which is served only at the bar—on this particular night cheerfully tended by Garth, a longtime popular barman around town. The restaurant's signature cocktails are $5 during happy hour, 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday—all the food on the bar menu is an extra 20-percent off for those two hours. We tried a couple Wrangler Juleps, a pretty standard but good mint julep, and liked the clean citrus flavor of the Wagon Wheel Gimlet. Anxious to get our order in before the 6 p.m. cut-off, we asked for the tournedos, three mini beef tenderloins topped with oven-melted blue cheese in a rich, brown sauce. They were slightly overdone, but filet mignon is always so tender that in this case, it didn't much matter.
Our next shared plate was a small cast-iron skillet that held big housemade venison sausages and large cheddar-cheese biscuits. And the baked mushroom caps, stuffed with spinach, cream cheese and bacon, made great cocktail bites. Intrigued to taste the in-house riffs on oft-eaten cured meats, we tried the charcuterie board, which holds slices of a nice duck prosciutto, bresaola—an air-dried salted meat, made here from buffalo—and some excellent salami, with toasted bread from Sadie Rose Baking Co., another East Village resident. We also got a salad of bibb lettuce and made sure that our now mostly meat-eating friend had a couple of bites. Contemplated but not ordered this trip was the steak frites, which features a bavette steak (a favorite cut), with a red wine sauce and fresh, hand-cut fries.
On a previous lunchtime visit, I'd tried the bison burger and found it absolutely delicious, lean but juicy and pink, with a topping of cumin-spiced mayo and roasted Anaheim chilies. A bottle of sarsaparilla, a pre-cursor to root beer, added some Western flair. My lunch date's petite steak, that day an ample New York strip steak, was also perfectly prepared.
All the meat on the menu comes from the adjoining butcher shop, which is open to the public. It arrives from various sources and is all higher quality—naturally raised and hormone-free—than you'll find in most restaurants and supermarkets. However, if you differentiate between pasture-raised animals that have been solely fed grass and feedlot cows that eat corn, be aware that only the cuts from Estancia Beef, shipped from a sustainable ranch in Uruguay, are 100-percent grass-fed from start to finish. Other meat, including the American bison rib-eye from Oregon's Painted Hills and the beef from Meyer Ranch are mostly grass-fed but finished on grain.
Feeling gleeful and celebratory, I ordered a bottle sparkling wine to share among us, along with a warm Julian apple cobbler and spectacular homemade brown-butter ice cream, and we made the first of many toasts.
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