Enticing scents welcome you as soon as you step into Salt Creek Grille’s Dana Point restaurant: the smoky aroma emanating from the mesquite wood grill, a tantalizing whiff of Asiago cheese and melted garlic butter as a server passes by with complimentary starter bread. But you’d know you were in an American steakhouse even without the smell of grilling beef. The upscale space is instantly homey, drenched in rich colors and natural wood tones that feel cozy rather than somber. Spacious booths offer a clear view into the kitchen through long glass windows.
Peruse the menu while sipping on the signature All American mule; it’s light and crisp, and balances the richness of the bread. Unlike the traditional Moscow mule, a server explains that this drink is Americanized with the addition of bitters and Texas-crafted Tito’s Handmade Vodka.
Bacon is an ideal way to begin any meal, and the horseradish-stuffed jumbo shrimp come enveloped in a thick, yet perfectly crisped variety. It acts as an insulating blanket that keeps each bundle warm—a delicious contrast to the mule, which stays cool thanks to the chilled copper mug. The horseradish offers a nice kick without overwhelming the delicate flavor of the shrimp, and its spice is complemented by the syrupy sweetness of the chipotle honey dipping sauce.
Tip: Check out the online menu for rotating drink specials available Monday through Thursday, including half-price draft beers on Tuesdays.
Another shareable starter is the house-made potato chips. A far cry from even the highest quality bagged version, they’re ultra-fresh with the ideal amount of salt. Enjoy their taste alone or use them as a vehicle for the creamy onion dip.
Chips practically beg for a juicy hamburger, and the restaurant’s signature Creek burger doesn’t disappoint. The patty, a combination of ground short rib, chuck and brisket, is topped with chunks of melted aged white cheddar, caramelized onion and bacon jam and peppery baby arugula. A heaping pile of truffle Parmesan fries is served on the side.
To get your beef fix minus the bun, indulge in the coffee-encrusted New York steak. This house favorite is incredibly tender and drizzled with a sugary bourbon caramel that pairs well with the bitterness of the coffee and pungent flavor of Point Reyes blue cheese. Try it with the refreshing, summery watermelon side salad.
Don’t forget to place an order for the chocolate souffle before getting too far into your entree. It takes 25 minutes to prepare, and there’s no need to wait and gauge your stomach’s capacity for dessert, anyway—one whiff of this cocoa-lover’s dream and you’ll find room. The tableside prep acts as an enticing preview: Chocolate ganache is poured into the center, and it’s finished with fresh whipped cream.
Hours: Monday to Friday, 4-10 p.m.; Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
– Written by Katherine Duncan | Photos by Jody Tiongco