Where: 3361 W. Eighth St., Los Angeles, 90005. Cross Street: Ardmore Avenue
When: Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dinner, 4 to 9:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday and Sunday, 4 to 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday
What to Try: Molly salad, crab cakes, filet mignon
Noise Level: Moderate to high
Meeting Room: No
Parking: Complimentary valet
Price Range: Appetizers, $5-$16; entrees, $13-$23
Reservations: (213) 382-8449
Los Angeles has some serious attitude. Visit any number of the city's hotspots and you will leave with the distinct impression that they are doing you a favor by letting you spend your hard-earned dollars inside their hallowed walls. Though this strategy works in the short run, eventually the public catches on. We all eventually tire of the elitism and feel the pull towards those old favorites, the ones where every man is a king and the corner booth isn't reserved for someone more important. Taylor Steakhouse certainly fits the bill with its lack of pretension and fair prices.
In the heart of Koreatown, Taylor's is unknown to many despite its 53 years in business. Originally occupying the corner of Western and Olympic avenues, Taylor's made the move in 1970 to its current home on Eighth Street, a colorful neighborhood that can seem intimidating to non-locals. Beverly Hills it isn't, but the family-run steakhouse has adapted to the changing scenery by offering complimentary valet service.
At the entrance, today's specials are written out on a white board: meatloaf, rack of lamb, and a few other favorites of the meat-and-potatoes crowd. Lighting is lacking, though: Even during lunch the dining room is as dim as a movie theater, so we freeze in the doorway. An employee swoops in, dutifully depositing us in a humongous red leather booth. Temporary blindness is a small price to pay for such prime seating.
Taylor's is surprisingly busy for Tuesday, and it's barely noon. The room is filled, mostly with men, for two hours solid. The waitress is cordial and accommodating but makes no apologies for the fact that she is busy. Thankfully, the menu is straightforward and requires little hand-holding. After reciting the specials and sides, she takes our order and scurries off to help the next batch of patrons. As our eyes continue to adjust, we spy a row of regulars perched on barstools watching the game.
The d & #233;cor is nothing fancy a glass box near the door holds sports memorabilia and a few framed press clippings line the walls. You can imagine how the smoke hung beneath the low ceiling before the city outlawed lighting up indoors.
The Molly salad, named for a former waitress, arrives first. At $4.95, the mammoth wedge of iceberg lettuce is quite a deal for two, topped with diced tomato and sweet Bermuda onion, and drenched in an enticing mix of bleu cheese and vinaigrette dressings. The Cobb salad is nearly as good. Served on a large platter with bacon, egg, and grilled chicken breast each sorted into their own quadrants, the salad is ideal for picky eaters and enough for at least two.
The crab cakes are offered either as an appetizer or for a few bucks more as a complete meal when accompanied by the vegetable of the day and choice of potato. There are no wild garnishes or complicated sauces, but they are packed with large strands of crab meat. There isn't much for seasoning the accompanying white wine sauce is bland but thanks to the superiority of the product, that's just fine.
Though the sides are somewhat limited at lunch, what is offered is solidly good. The potatoes are mashed with the skin on and with enough butter to forgo the gravy. The vegetable of the day, summer squash, is impressively herbed and saut & #233;ed to perfection. It is surprisingly appealing and sophisticated considering this is a place that doesn't seem to spend a lot of effort fussing with the spice rack.
The lack of zest is the only real complaint with the fare. The swordfish terribly overdone due to the clumsily thick cut, we conjecture is missing some flavor and the lemon caper sauce on the side has nary a hint of either lemon or caper. The lunch steak, a seven-ounce cut of filet mignon, suffers from the same shortcoming, but add some salt and it's great. The meat is tender and juicy, cooked medium rare, just the way we have asked. The carmelized onions atop are a sweet though unnecessary counterpoint to the naturally flavorful cut. One bite and you will realize why this place has stayed in business for over half a century.
Taylor's also refuses to put on airs when it comes to dessert. Rather than a written menu, the waitress rattles off half a dozen options including chocolate cake and cr & #269;me brulee. We go for the cheesecake and the red velvet cake, a favorite among regulars. The former is fluffy with that slight tang that is the mark of greatness. Served plain, it needs no embellishment. The latter is sweet and dense. It might have been better if it hadn't been refrigerated, but we aren't complaining.
Taylor's authentic retro vibe and down-home treatment set it apart from the plethora of ritzy steakhouses that have proliferated in L.A. as of late. Taylor's Steakhouse may not be the exclusive clubhouse for the "in" crowd, but that is part of its draw. When we are done patronizing places that couldn't care less about our business, it is the perfect place to come back to. While Groucho Marx famously said, "I don't care to belong to any club that will have me as a member," maybe a meal at Taylor's would have changed his mind.
Reviewer Lindsey Styrwoll can be reached at L_Styrwoll@yahoo.com.
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