Thursday, December 1, 2016

Back to Black Angus

Black Angus Steakhouse
1350 North Tustin Ave.
Santa Ana, CA 92705

People ask me all the time where I'm going to be eating in the next few days. I guess that after doing this blog for seven years, my friends and family now know me as the restaurant guy. When I told people we were going to be eating at Black Angus, more than one person thought they had gone out of business. I think the main reason for this is based on where I work. I work in South OC, and our only Black Angus, in Lake Forest, shuttered about six years ago. After this lunch, I can assure everyone that Black Angus is alive and kicking, and still serving some pretty impressive steaks and other items.

We were recently invited into the Black Angus located on Tustin Avenue, right across from Western Medical Center. This partially hidden spot has been here for years, churning out steaks, seafood, salads, and starters for decades. In fact, my sister got her start bartending in this very location, back in the Square Cow Fun Bar days, which were many years ago. I had some pretty good times coming here when I used to work nearby and took full advantage of their great happy hour specials. Being back here really brought back a flood of memories.

Speaking of specials, they still have some good ones going on. Their coupons in the Sunday circulars are legendary and offer many great deals. Black Angus also still has a killer happy hour, which runs from 3 to 7, Monday through Friday, and goes all day on Tuesdays and Sundays in their re-branded Bulls Eye Bar. Happy hour specials are plentiful here, with many options available in the $4, $5, and $6 price levels, while people with heartier appetites will want to take advantage of their Wagon Wheel Sampler Platter, which is $5 off during this truly happy time for your wallet.

Not much has changed in the dining room of your local Black Angus. They still have the western motif going on here, with some of my favorite booths in any restaurant. The high-backed, southwestern patterned booths offer one of the most private, and comfortable dining experiences out there. A table where you can take a break from your hectic day, and immerse yourself in the aromas of steak wafting through the busy, yet quietly relaxing restaurant.

On this particular afternoon, I brought along my good friend Ozker, who had not been to Black Angus for a good many years. We were greeted by District Manager, Jeff Gadberry, who is a 40-year employee of Black Angus, and a man that knows this company inside and out. His excitement over the food and beverages we were going to be having was infectious. He really got both Ozker and I pumped up for what was in store for us.

Black Angus is really committed to overhauling their beverage program, by introducing cocktails made with seasonal ingredients, that will show new patrons, and long time customers that they are not just living on their storied past, but want to feature fresh and modern cocktails. These two handcrafted drinks are on their new fall menu, which debuted earlier this month. The top picture was my favorite of these two, the Jack's Berry Margarita ($8.75). This is a different spin on your typical margarita. They pair Sauza Blue Reposado tequila, with Jack Daniels, a fresh lime agave mix, a splash of cranberry, and then garnish this with whiskey-spiked cranberries. I really enjoyed this take on a margarita, because it did not feature the sweet and sour feel of humdrum margaritas. The Jack Daniels was front and center, but the tequila and the cranberry helped balance this out a bit. Not being a Jack fan, I was a little less enthusiastic about the straight forward Old Fashioned Jack ($11.25). This was a heavy pour of Jack Daniels, which was joined in the glass by some very flavorful orange-cinnamon bitters, which sweetened up the Jack. I loved the inclusion of the bitters here, which do not get used nearly enough. Glad to see Black Angus rectifying that.

Since we started with two drinks, we definitely needed to balance that out with some food, and out first for us were these Fire-Grilled Fresh Artichokes ($9.99). This would be Ozker's first time having artichokes, and he's now hooked. Usually, artichokes are too much work, for too little of a payout, but these had a lot of the pulpy portion of the pedal included, which was made even better by the sauces served with this. I could not decide which one of these house made sauces I enjoyed better. I alternated evenly between the lemon aioli and the pesto mayo. Really a good starter.

Since we had our first food at Black Angus, I guess it was time for another round of drinks. I felt like we were on vacation. This round of drinks was definitely way more up my alley. Lately, I've been all about Moscow Mules, and at Black Angus, they have different variations on the usual ginger beer, vodka, and lime beverage. I was given the Tennessee Mule ($8.25) to try. Again, I'm no fan of Jack, but this was a nice spin on your typical Moscow Mule, which used lemon instead of lime, substituted Jack for tequila, and then was finished off with Q Ginger Beer. For JD fans, this is sure to be a winner. I also got to sample the Tropical White Sangria ($8.00). White wine, spiced rum, pineapple, mango, and a hint of citrus brought to mind the tropics, and the earlier part of my day melted away, sip by sip.

So I was four drinks in, and had only had artichokes up until this point, so it was definitely time for some more food, and Black Angus delivered with this very solid BBQ Chopped Chicken Salad ($14.99). I'm always a little skeptical about chicken in restaurants because most of the time they overcook it into shoe leather, but that was not the case here. This tender and juicy chicken was joined in this salad with diced tomatoes, black beans, corn, cheese, tortilla strips, chopped greens, ranch dressing, and a drizzle of barbecue sauce. I couldn't get enough of this southwestern inspired salad and took a good deal of it home for dinner later on that night, and it held up perfectly.

Now this is what Black Angus is known for. Also on their fall menu, this Big Ranch 20 Ounce T-Bone ($32.99) will satisfy any meat eater you may know. You get two steaks for the price of one with this, as the New York strip and the filet are framed by the T-bone. Ozker and I could not get enough of this. It came to our table cooked perfectly medium rare, was well marbled, and full of flavor. With this dinner, you get to choose two sides, and we went with the grilled asparagus and the au gratin potatoes. Both of these sides were superbly done. I loved that the asparagus was grilled, and it really absorbed a lot of flavor from the grill. The potatoes had a real comfort food feel to them, and I enjoyed the crunch from the broiled bread crumbs on top of this. Added a nice textural component that went well with the rich and cheesy potatoes underneath.

My steak of choice when I'm in a steak restaurant is the Ribeye ($28.99). This 16-ounce chunk of meat had all the characteristics that I love about this cut of beef. It had some fat running through it, which provided big bursts of flavor, and it was also made even better with the addition of bistro butter, which is offered for a dollar extra and would be well worth it at double the price. For this entree, we got their very satisfying Roasted Brussels Sprouts, which were done nicely in a brown butter, and the homey Mac and Cheese. Ozker would not stop raving about this mac and cheese version and quickly claimed it when we were boxing up our leftovers.

It had been about five minutes since they had brought out a cocktail, so it was definitely time for another one. This was my favorite beverage of the afternoon, the Hand Shaken Mojito ($8.50). At Black Angus they offer four styles of this Cuban cocktail; mango, berry, ginger, and this one, the classic. It had a clean, refreshing tinge to it, and was one of the better versions I have had. Very well done by the bartenders at Black Angus.

Just when I thought we were done, we were presented with this Large Cold Water Atlantic Lobster Tail ($32.99). There's nothing like the audible gasp that you hear when a lobster tail is placed on a table, and Ozker and I could not stifle our excitement over this lobster. It was fork tender, had a slight sweetness to it, and went down like a warm blanket when dunked in the drawn butter. A very impressive end to the entree portion of our meals.

The last item on the Black Angus fall menu is a must for people who love pumpkin everything, and I know there's lots of you out there. This Pumpkin Cheesecake ($6.50) was heralded by Ozker as being one of the best he has ever had. The graham cracker crust is the base for the autumn inspired pumpkin filling. I liked that the pumpkin seasonings were all present, but were not all in your face. Very good, but next time I'm going to have to give their carrot cake a try.

So now you can see that the reports of Black Angus's death were greatly exaggerated. To be honest, I came in here not really expecting too much, but I was pleasantly surprised by our meal, and would not hesitate to return very soon. Black Angus is a great option for people that want to get more value for their money than they would be able to get at one of the high-end steakhouses that serve everything ala carte. Here, the 21-day aged steaks not only includes the beef, but also comes with two side items, and their legendary warm molasses bread as well. They even offer their Campfire Feast, which includes an appetizer and dessert for 2, for less than $30 a person. That won't even get you in the door at those high-end steakhouses. This will definitely not be our last time at Black Angus.

We would like to thank everyone at Black Angus for this fun and delicious afternoon. It was great seeing everyone's passion for this restaurant that has been around for over 50 years, and it's very commendable to see that they are changing with the times, while still keeping lots of things the same. We would personally like to thank District Manager Jeff Gadberry for the wonderful hospitality, and taking the time out of his busy day to share his vision and passion for this iconic brand. We really enjoyed getting to meet you, and getting to know your team at this Santa Ana Black Angus location. We also would like to thank PR guru, Jill Fox at JCutler Media Group for coordinating this visit, and for setting this up. It was great working with you, Jill.

If you would like to find your local Black Angus or would like more information, you should check out their website here:

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