What a concept
Sacramento, CA 95818
Iron Steaks is pitched to me as the poor man’s Morton’s. It’s more than that and less than that. It’s less costly and less pretentious, and its menu more varied and its creations more creative. Consider, as a lone example, Iron’s tomato bisque with crab meat, roasted garlic and—is the first bite ever a shocker—slivered almonds.
Sure, there are plenty of slabs of beef to bite into: filet, rib-eye, New York, porterhouse. But there’s also chicken, lobster, salmon and ahi. And, at lunch, there are ponderous, guacamole-slathered vegan burgers nestled in beefy multigrain buns that give every impression of being handmade patties. No measly, preformed Boca pucks here, thank you very much.
For symmetry’s sake, it would be nice if the owner of Iron was named Rod, but the restaurant is brought to a grateful Sacramento by Willie’s Burgers and Chiliburgers’ creator, Bill Taylor. Since September, Iron has taken up residence just off Broadway—the former home of Fuji. Lunch began happening in mid-October.
The austere but spacious interior makes Fuji seem rococo in comparison. White walls are dotted with rows of fist-sized, sculpted white bird head and half-torsos, which my fellow diners liken to Peeps, the marshmallowy bird-shaped sweet whose sugar content spells death to diabetics. The plaster Peeps are one of the contributions to the restaurant made by Taylor’s wife, Stephanie, a local artist.
Lunch and dinner are both pleasures. At dinner, the conscientious and knowledgeable Stacey advocates the $7 crab cakes as a worthy appetizer. “They’re crabby,” Stacey says, which is exactly what my pal Don and I would be if they weren’t.
Stacey skillfully tantalizes us into ordering coleslaw, which is Taylor’s creation. Again, Stacey hits the bull’s-eye: The dressing is sweet and creamy, Taylor is clearly some kinda Renaissance dude. I go cuckoo for coleslaw at lunch, and several of the five women I’m dining with opt for it. All share Stacey’s enthusiasm.
Iron’s concept is family-style eating. Cole slaw and the other side dishes are enough for two. As is Don’s and my $20, 14-ounce rib-eye. Cooked as we wanted it, tender, juicy and well-seasoned, the rib-eye is taken from its cast-iron skillet and placed on our table’s brick, which is similar to the bricks atop every other table.
Since Stacey hasn’t hit a foul yet, when she says potato pancakes, we say, “Yes, ma’am.” The dish sounds far more pedestrian than it tastes. Iron’s bread allows you to channel your inner beignet, since that’s what it is. Don enjoys a little too thoroughly my butchering of beignet’s pronunciation. Stacey, aware of who is paying the freight, is more circumspect.
In the only page torn out of the Morton’s playbook, the french fries are called pommes frites. None of the fries are wearing berets or smoking teensy Gitanes, so if there is some physical distinction between frites and fries, it remains elusive. The menu says they are “shoestrings European style.” Whatever. The adventure is what to dip them in. Iron torments by forcing diners to choose from roasted-garlic mayo, teriyaki, bacon ranch, honey Dijon, mango chutney and the slaw sauce. Impossible to go wrong.
At lunch, of the six types of sliders, the mango-guacamole chicken wins raves. As does the 8-ounce New York steak sandwich in its baguette and blanket of caramelized onions, lettuce and tomato. No shame accrues to those seeking an infusion of A1; a bottle appears promptly. There’s a bevy of accouterments for the burger, many free, cheeses $1 extra.
Besides the vegan burgers, one of the vegetable-preferring women opts for the $9.25 portobello sandwich with lettuce, roasted peppers, grilled zucchini, tomato, lettuce and provolone. Oohs and aahs abound.
Finally, the antithesis of Morton’s, there is no corkage fee, which is a kindhearted, classy gesture from the Taylors. This is fun, reasonably priced fine food. Authoritative—by any objective standard.