The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2014

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Page 82 of 136

82  /  the tasting panel  /  december 2014 PREP T he modern bustle of downtown San Diego's East Village is on full display as I walk a block and a half to the restaurant/bar/butcher shop Cowboy Star: A steady woosh of cars zips past as I wait for a light to turn green, and the bleat of a car horn is heard in the distance. These noises disappear into dust the moment I step inside and hear the melancholy yodel of Hank Williams faintly filling the air. The whiskey-stocked bar is flanked by a couple of black cowboy hats. Photos of legendary Hollywood Westerners of yore adorn the dining room. I pop my head into the restaurant's adjacent butchery, where third-generation butcher Ruben Trujillo eagerly whips out a tray topped with a quartet of freshly cut rib-eyes for me to inspect—a bonanza of beef, if you will. It is all very cool and very Old West in here, but there's also enough contemporary polish going on to prevent it from being the bar brawl and backroom poker game version of the Old West. Items like small-batch libations and steak tartare are around to keep things from drifting into the novelty zone. This modern gleam is no accident: "When the partners came up with the idea of Cowboy Star, they wanted to capture the essence of the rough-and-tumble cowboys that came out of Hollywood in the '20s," explains Cowboy Star's Beverage Director, Garth Flood. "Back then, guys like Gene Autry and Tom Mix would ride a horse for eight hours, clean up afterward and go into town for a Martini. That's the kind of vibe we're going for here." This gussied-up undertone is well represented in the contemporary seasonal Chopped How the West Was COWBOY STAR IN SAN DIEGO USES BUTCHERY AND WESTERN INTRIGUE TO CREATE A UNIQUE NEIGHBORHOOD JOINT by Rich Manning / photos by Leigh Castelli Butcher Ruben Trujillo and his team hand-cut all of the steaks found on Cowboy Star's menu.

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