Sunday, November 04, 2018

The Smoke House - Burbank CA

The Smoke House
4420 W. Lakeside Drive  
Burbank, Ca. 91505

Established in 1946, the Smokehouse has been around a long time and is a reminder of days past. In some ways it reminds me of the Brown Derby, a chain of restaurants that were once a Mecca for all things Hollywood. They faded into history in the 1980’s.  Inside of the Smokehouse are similar framed photos of famous actors and Tinsel Town elite who are rumored to have dined there.  Costumed actors have frequented the restaurant eschewing the studio cafeteria’s offerings. The restaurant’s web site gives a bit more history and a list of films and TV productions filmed in and around the restaurant. A YouTube video history, with the tag line, “Where every diner is treated like a star,” can be found here.

The restaurant is located across the boulevard from the Warner Brother Studios and conveniently for us just around the block from my children’s Great Uncle’s Sark’s home.  We arrived a bit late. It had been a long drive to get there for a mini-family reunion. After riding in the car for several hours it was decided all eight of us would walk the short distance to The Smoke House for our late evening reservations.

I think we would all agree that a popular and long established restaurant should treat all of its customers in a gracious manner. That would, of course, include the obvious such as prompt and courteous service, adequate seating, well prepared food and certainly not making changes in customers’ food orders without first consulting them. Or, to quote a line from their video, “Where every diner is treated like a star.”  A short list but all of the items are important in providing for dining pleasure. We arrived at The Smoke House in good time for our reservation, were greeted warmly and shown quickly to our table. From that point on our expectations were largely unfulfilled.

Since we were in “Movieland,” for lack of a better term, let me set the stage. The restaurant in addition to the standard menu was featuring a special menu to celebrate their 1946 opening. All the selected items on the menu were $19.46 and those included the house salad. They also had a special; bottled wine at a greatly reduced price with an entree order. I would surmise that they prepared large quantities of the special menu items to serve quickly. Perhaps not unlike buffets featuring the display food all the while having a menu featuring foods not offered in the buffet.

This was our starting point; our group of eight elected to walk the short distance for our late evening reservations.  We were seated quickly although we were very cramped at our semi round booth with a small two person table added at the end.  The restaurant had a special menu to celebrate their 1946 opening. All the selected items on this menu were $19.46 and included the house salad. They also had a special on bottled wine at a greatly reduced price with an entree order.

Sadly since our group was so cramped I was not able to take photos of the other items ordered from the menu, only myself and my two sons, so this critique is not in its entirety.  I ordered the Chicken Piccata with mashed potatoes and asparagus ($19.46), one son ordered the same but with a stuffed potato ($19.46).  My other son ordered off the regular menu, the Filet Mignon and Lobster with pilaf and asparagus ($64.95).

Those who ordered from the special menu got their salads, if you ordered from the regular menu the salad was an additional cost.  My salad was way over dressed, swimming would actually be the term I would use.  I ate from around the edges; it was a typical dinner salad, nondescript.  My Chicken Piccata arrived with small French Green Beans in place of the asparagus, nothing was said about the replacement until the waiter was questioned, and he looked puzzled and simply stated “They must have run out of the asparagus.”  The Piccata was as it should be tangy from the lemon caper sauce, the mushrooms were cooked thru but not mushy, it was a good dish.  I did not get any butter for my mashed potatoes, which I overlooked.  The son who ordered the stuffed potato stated it was dry and the texture not to his liking.

I am going out on a limb here but since our service was the last of the evening, I think perhaps the stuffed potato was sitting way too long to be served.  You know that feeling of lateness when the wait staff are busily stacking chairs, rolling the tables and basically clearing all decks. The server with the task of filling the water glasses did his best. However, since we were so cramped his overreach to fill the glasses usually resulted in some splashing.  But he kept them filled.

The son who ordered the Filet Mignon and Lobster got a spectacular tail and a very nice filet cooked to his specifications.  He got the best dish of our group and even generously shared some of the filet with his cousin.  My brother in law ordered two orders of The Smokehouse’s “World Famous” garlic bread ($6.95 per order).  French bread cut into 1” slices and slathered with their own garlic/cheese concoction.  It was okay, but not to my particular taste, it reminded me of the packaged cheese you get in the macaroni box.  But as I said my taste but the others seemed to like it very much.

So in conclusion I would say the food was good and prepared well, but it was not spectacular or over the top, with the exception of my sons Lobster and Filet dish.  I will jump to a conclusion here and say that the items we ordered from the special menu were the last of the evening to go out from the kitchen and it showed.   Towards the end of our meal we had a hard time getting our servers attention, as I said the entire staff was busy tearing down tables and chairs and getting ready to close service.  But in retrospect our group although shoulder to shoulder had a wonderful time just being together.  It was an experience for us, a first time eating at the Smokehouse.  Would I go again….perhaps but if we all went as a group I would make sure we did not get the excuse of this was all they had to sit us in, since somebody else was having a birthday party in the large dining room.


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