Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Hoping Not to Be Derailed at Trevor's

Trevor's at the Tracks
26701 Verdugo St.
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

It used to be that San Juan Capistrano was a sleepy little town, which only came alive for the Swallow's Day Parade, Mariachi Festival, and the steady stream of school buses rumbling into town loaded with kids visiting Mission San Juan Capistrano. Now, thanks to a myriad of restaurants, many of which feature live music every night of the week, the Downtown District hums with activity every time we are down this way.

One place we had not been to yet in this downtown area was Trevor's at the Tracks. They opened for business in early 2017, replacing Sarducci's. Trevor's is housed in a building that dates from 1894 and was used as the San Juan Capistrano train station for many years. Now the building host both Trevor's and the Vintage Steakhouse, both of which are steps from the north and southbound trains dropping off passengers.

No train rides for us on this evening, as Katie and I were here to have dinner with her mother, who was enjoying the single life for the week, while her husband was off training for his new job venture. The three of us arrived at Trevor's just before 6pm on a recent Thursday. There are three distinct dining areas to this restaurant. The patio area appears to be the most popular, especially with the happy hour and the live music loving crowd. There's also a more formal dining room, and then there's the area we were seated in, which is a long hallway, running parallel to the train tracks a mere few feet away. The trains did not come rumbling in, as they had to slow down to drop off their weary travelers, so it was very easy to keep your conversation going as life went on outside the restaurant.

Trevor's food offerings would appeal to a large range of people. There's really something for everyone on this menu, which they tout as locally acquired ingredients, with a globally inspired tinge to it. The menu is broken up into plenty of appetizer options, seafood, flatbreads, starters featuring meat, and a whole host of starters that feature items from their trackside garden. Rounding out the menu are entree salads, sandwiches, and more substantial entrees. The man behind the menu is Executive Chef Joesph Tripi, who has been with this restaurant since its inception, and before that held the same position at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery. Let's see which side of the tracks our meal at Trevor's will land.

When I told one of my friends I was coming to Trevor's, they made me promise that I would try their Brussel Sprouts ($15) and not wanting to disappoint a friend, I totally complied. Don't think about the soggy Brussel sprouts you had as a kid, and instead, think of a roasted, almost crunchy Brussel sprout, which is made even better with some cranberries, goat cheese, and a balsamic drizzle over the top of them. I really liked the different layers of flavor popping through this at different spots. You had the earthiness of the sprouts themselves, the cranberry coming through in bursts, the creaminess of the goat cheese, and the tang from the balsamic. The end result was a balanced appetizer that I can see myself getting again for sure.

Not content with just the one thing before my main meal would arrive, I tried this Southern Seafood Chowder ($6) as well. The first few spoonfuls of this were really quite good, as it had a nice rich flavor to it. As I dug deeper the seafood that was in this was what I'd call a little iffy. I then recalled a passage in Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, which told of chef's secrets, like how they get rid of fish that was ready to turn by placing it in chowders. Not saying that's what was going on here, but there was a very stringy piece that I had on my spoon and pulled it out at just the last second. Not sure what it was, but it was definitely not something I wanted to eat. I lost my appetite for this chowder after that.

Both Katie and her mother opted for entree salads on this evening. Let's start off with Katie's selection, the Karate Chop Chicken Salad ($16). This is Trevor's rift on a Chinese chicken salad. It included a base of romaine, with ginger soy chicken breast pieces, napa cabbage, bok choy, shredded carrots and bell peppers, sesame seeds, and a peanut ginger vinaigrette. Katie was pretty vague when describing her love for this salad. She said she loved the flavors and the freshness of the veggies, which is her usual response when I ask her if she liked something or not. She's been here many times for lunch with her coworkers and has yet to try anything else other than this salad. A creature of habit I guess.

Lynn went with this more substantial Southwest Steak Cobb ($19) as her meal on this evening. From across the table, I could tell that I would have liked this salad. It was made up of a whole host of items, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, jicama for crunch, queso fresco, roasted corn, cubes of avocado, and it was all tied together with an interesting chipotle blue cheese dressing. Again, this salad had a bunch of textural elements that kept you interested. The blue cheese chipotle dressing was delicious, and I liked the cubed pieces of avocado as well. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention the sliced flat iron steak that was served medium rare on side of the plate. It was a decent steak but needed to be seasoned a bit more if eaten on its own. Eating it with the salad really helped it out.

None of the bigger meal options really spoke to me this evening, so I had to decide from either the burger, the Reuben, or the Cuban sandwich. From the picture above, you can see that the Cubano ($18) won out. This was a pretty traditional Cuban sandwich, with its roasted pork and ham, Swiss cheese, pickle, pepperoncini, and Havana aioli on crusty panini pressed bread. When done right, this is one of the most balanced sandwiches around. This one was pretty solid. I did need a little extra of the aioli to counteract the pickles and mustard on this. Both the pork and ham were savory and present. A good crunch from the bread too. Good, but did not blow me away like others have. This came with fries which were nicely fried, with a good crunch to them.

I'm always a sucker for a cookie, and I felt like a sucker after getting this one at Trevor's. Not sure if they make this Chocolate Chip Cookie ($2) in-house or not, but I'd describe this as one of the most chalky cookies I have had. It was hard all the way around, very heavy, and the chocolate chips were not very visible in this disappointing cookie. It was not any better when I placed the half I had not eaten in the microwave at home. It defied logic that it stayed as hard as ever even after being heated. Skip this cookie, unless you need a doorstop.

I know brownies get a lot of love and are way more popular than blondies, but I can not recall having a blondie and not liking it a lot. That streak continued at Trevor's with this Maple White Chocolate Blondie ($10). This blondie was topped with candied pecans, maple bourbon ice cream, and a caramel sauce. After the hard cookie, I was a little worried that the blondie was going to be the same, but it was baked well, with a good cakey feel to it. I was also pleased that they topped this with plenty of ice cream, even though I did not get a lot of maple flavor from it. I'd definitely get this dessert again.

There were some hits and misses on this visit to Trevor's. I liked the dessert and the Brussel sprouts, but the chowder and the cookie were both a letdown. My Cuban sandwich was fine, but nothing really made it anything more than an average version of my favorite sandwich. I get the feeling that the real draw for Trevor's is the picturesque outdoor patio where they have live music featured every day, except Mondays, when they are closed. The food seems to be just fine, but nothing that would probably draw us back, unless we were in the area. Our server did a great job keeping tabs on us, without being too obtrusive. Prices were a tad high for what you get, but that's to be expected in this high traffic area of town, where people seem to love to soak up the atmosphere of the passing trains and music wafting through the air.

Out of five mousetraps, (because the building that houses this restaurant dates from 1894, which is also the same year that the mousetrap was invented), five being best to zero being worst, Trevor's at the Tracks gets 3 mousetraps.

For more information about Trevor's at the Tracks, head to their website here:

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