113 years ago the Pulitzer-Prize winner, John Steinbeck was born in the front room of a gorgeous 1897 Queen Anne Victorian home that still stands in downtown Salinas today.
The Steinbeck House is not only one of Salinas' historic landmarks but it's also a noteworthy restaurant for delectable lunches and teas. It is the perfect addition to any trek into Steinbeck Country especially since it is just a block down the street from the National Steinbeck Center. What's really amazing about this picturesque three-story Victorian home is that it is entirely run by volunteers, except for a hard-working chef, bookeeper and dishwasher.
In 1973 a group of eight women, known as the Valley Guild, purchased the home and converted it into a working restaurant which opened for business in February 1974. The venture was a past-time hobby to showcase their husband's produce from nearby fields. Today over 80 cheery volunteers continue to run the restaurant and keep the home in its pristine condition. The Valley Guild also operates the gift shop in the basement which holds a few of John Steinbeck's furniture pieces and sells Steinbeck's books, cookbooks, tea pots and more.
The shingled Victorian home is complete with delicate trimmings, a glass entry door, manicured gardens and plenty of windows. As I walked up the steps towards the entrance I could easily imagine myself relaxing on the comfy porch bench reading "Travels with Charley."
Once I entered I felt as though I had stepped back into the early 1900's. The interior was surrounded with decorative wallpaper, Victorian light fixtures and a detailed wooden staircase. A friendly waitress adorned in Victorian-era attire, soon sat us down in the Parlor Room overlooking Central and Stone streets.
Soon after she arrived with our beverages (you can't go wrong with the raspberry Steinbeck Tea) and a plentiful basket of fresh warm bread. This wasn't your average complimentary bread; the warm buttery rolls were sprinkled with a dash of rosemary and oregano. After the first scrumptious bite I knew I wasn't going to have just one.
Trying hard to resist my third piece of bread I finally took a look at the menu. The dishes change weekly with two entrée specials, four sandwich selections and a variety of tempting desserts. Today's offerings included dishes like chicken bundles, a Cobb salad, and a turkey wrap. I opted for the chicken apple brie sandwich and a side of salad.
In almost no time our entrees arrived piping hot from the kitchen. The fresh greens on my side salad looked like they had just been plucked from one of the nearby fields and the creamy Italian dressing was the perfect accompaniment!
My sophisticated adult grilled cheese glistened as it was laid down before me. The buttery slices of toasted bread were full of juicy chicken breast, crisp apple slices and a hefty amount of gooey brie cheese, delish! I took a peek at the dessert menu which included crème brulee and chocolate cheesecake and a frozen chocolate charlotte but unfortunately had to resist.
The prices are very reasonable at around $12 for an enjoyable sit-down lunch.
Complete tours of Steinbeck's boyhood home are available in the summer months and by special request. I for one would love to come back and see Steinbeck's room where he dreamt up stories like "The Red Pony" and "Tortilla Flat."
The Steinbeck House is open Tuesday-Saturday from 11:30am-2pm. The restaurant is also open for various special events like their Saturday Teas. For more information visit www.steinbeckhouse.com or call 831-424-2735.