One of the best traditions at work is taking colleagues out for lunch on their birthdays. I am fortunate to work alongside food obsessives in a food paradise (626, represent!), so these outings are as gustatory as they are celebratory.
For my 36th birthday, I forwent our usual Sichuan spots and hotpot haunts in favor of an unlikely neighborhood institution: The Venice Room in Monterey Park. What can I say—as a certifiable old person, I like to dine in old places.
Family-owned and operated since 1955, The Venice Room was truly unique in ambiance and in format. The Venetian-themed interior was dusty, dated, and dingy, but truth be told, quite charming too.
The specialty here is cook-your-own steak. For just $8.95, my colleagues and I were treated to a cornucopia of delights including an all-you-can-eat salad bar, a baked potato, a stale-ish French roll, and a raw slab of New York Strip steak.
A plethora of dried spices were on hand for us to season our steaks before throwing them on the restaurant’s communal grill. I sprinkled mine with salt and pepper and topped it with a few pats of butter for good measure before letting it char up nicely on the flames. My French roll was given a similarly simple but effective treatment.
Pro tip: Set a timer to remind yourself when to flip your steak and when to take it off the heat.
As my steak cooked to my desired doneness, I ate a really sad iceberg salad with Thousand Island dressing.
Finally, it was time to feast. Considering that the steak was seasoned by me and cooked by me too, I was more or less completely responsible for the tastiness of my meal.
Fortunately, my steak turned out nicely. Its crusty char was more impressive than what my home grill tends to yield, and its texture was plenty juicy. The steak wasn’t an otherworldly Wagyu kind of experience, but totally solid given the price point and chef (wink, wink).
Lunching at The Venice room was radically retro and far tastier than I anticipated. Consider this a PSA to support your local institutions. They need us old people.
The Venice Room
2428 Garfield Avenue South
Monterey Park, CA 91754
One year ago: Weekend Brunch at M.B. Post – Manhattan Beach
One year ago: Al’s Place – San Francisco
Two years ago: Du-par’s – Pasadena
Three year ago: Faith & Flower – Los Angeles (Downtown)
Four years ago: Steel City Pops – Birmingham
Five years ago: See | Hear | Taste | Transmission LA: A/V Club
Six years ago: Salt’s Cure – Los Angeles (West Hollywood)
Seven years ago: Salumi Artisan Cured Meats – Seattle
Eight years ago: The French Laundry – Yountville
Nine years ago: Afternoon Tea at the Park Hyatt Saigon
Ten years ago: Lacroix at the Rittenhouse – Philadelphia