By New Times
By Robrt L. Pela
By Lauren Saria and Heather Hoch
By Deborah Sussman
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Eric Schaefer
By Heather Hoch
Sometimes a man's got to do what a man's got to do.
Fifty weeks a year I suppress all the instincts that Freud warned us about. Instead, I sublimate them through dutiful rounds of household activities: shopping for groceries, cleaning the pool and chauffeuring the kids.
But every six months the ancient primeval urge, which drove my paternal ancestors from the safety of the cave and the security of the family, possesses me. I am gripped by an irresistible impulse I cannot tame.
I must have male companionship, bourbon and water, and a slab of prime rib.
Clearing the excursion with our wives, my friend John and I set out for two Valley restaurants that don't put umbrellas in their drinks or heart-healthy logos next to their menu dishes.
Our first stop was Treulich's, a Valley landmark for more than a generation. If Rip Van Winkle fell asleep during the Eisenhower administration and woke up today in Treulich's, he'd wouldn't think an extra hour had passed.
There are dark brown vinyl booths, dark red carpeting and wooden beams. Pictures of horses adorn the walls, and a portrait of John Wayne greets you near the restrooms. Just inside the door hangs a plaque announcing the weekly Rotary luncheon. There's not a potted plant in sight. Dim pool-hall lighting and slow moving ceiling fans complete the effect. Treulich's looks like the fanciest restaurant in a small Midwestern town in 1960.
The dinner menu is trapped in the same spot on the time-space continuum. It's heavy on meat, and you won't be bothered with any foreign-sounding sauces or methods of preparation. The poultry and seafood items don't cross any culinary frontiers either, unless Southern fried chicken and deep fried breaded butterfly shrimp are your idea of adventure. While I got primed with some bourbon, John warmed up with a scotch and soda and a forbidden cigarette. Fully fortified, we plunged back to the age of the hunter-gatherer, when manly men drank, smoked and ate red meat to demonstrate their virility. Unfortunately, the shrimp cocktail appetizer tested only my manly ability to withstand unpleasantness without complaint. It tasted like it had been around since the Nixon-Kennedy debates. Five medium-sized rubbery shrimp rested on a plate, surrounding a cup of cocktail sauce. When I ate out as a kid, I used to plead with my parents to shell out $1.75 for a shrimp cocktail. Every once in a while I'd find the perfect whiny pitch and they'd cave in. But I couldn't imagine anyone begging to eat this $6.95 appetizer.
A half-rack of baby back ribs, on the other hand, came meaty and smoky with a mild flavorful sauce. Meals here come with soup or salad, and we sampled each. I felt sorry for the clams in this night's New England clam chowder. No chef even raised a sweat over them. The chowder tasted as if the only kitchen implement wielded in its preparation was a can opener. I began to suspect that if it doesn't come from a hog or a cow, Treulich's is not going to be terribly interested in it. The chilled tossed salad provided confirming evidence. It was absolutely ordinary, just some romaine lettuce, a few slivers of beets, some packaged croutons and a forgettable dressing. Happily, though, a warm loaf of pumpernickel kept us from drinking on a stomach only a few ribs away from empty.
Most of the effort here does go into the meats, but my aroused desires never got entirely satisfied. Although nicely cooked just south of medium-rare, the New York sirloin lacked the marbling and juiciness that can anesthetize my carnivorous cravings for six months at a time. Accompanying the steak was some acceptable cauliflower absolutely ruined by an inedible citron sauce. My fork puckered before it even reached my lips.
The prime rib at Treulich's is probably the best thing going here. Tender, hefty and moist, it's full of flavor and hardly needed the little metal cupfuls of Ôjus" and white horseradish dip. But the rice alongside was a disappointment, as bland as any office cafeteria version.
Like the food, the service is Midwestern friendly and informal, with lots of ÔHow're you guys doin'?" When we asked about dessert, the waitress paused dramatically and announced she'd actually show them to us. While she went for the platter we amused ourselves by guessing what would turn up.
It wasn't hard. We just tried to imagine what Dobie Gillis and Maynard G. Krebs might have expected. Nothing looked particularly tempting, and the German chocolate cake and chocolate chip cookie pie we settled on added nothing but calories to the evening. As John got in his final smoke, we realized that maybe 1960 seemed like a great time only in retrospect.
If Treulich's is stuck in the Eisenhower era, Chubb's hasn't gotten past the Carter years. Dark plush booths ring the room, and there's lots of dark wood and dark green carpeting. Lighting is subdued enough to encourage napping. As at Treulich's, the walls are decorated with horse prints. (Query for restaurant consultants: Do you really think diners want to look at pictures of horses when they're eating meat?) But because we're in the late 1970s here, there are lots of plants and greenery and an intrusive music system piping in loud pop and soul.