116 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, bookkeeper 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 you walk up the steps towards the entrance you can easily imagine yourself relaxing on the comfy porch bench reading "Travels with Charley."
As soon as you enter you will feel as though you had stepped back into the early 1900's. The interior is surrounded with decorative wallpaper, Victorian light fixtures and a detailed wooden staircase.
Lunch service begins with a choice of beverages (you can't go wrong with the raspberry Steinbeck Tea) and a plentiful basket of fresh warm bread. This isn't your average complimentary bread; the warm buttery rolls are freshly baked and sprinkled with a dash of rosemary and oregano.
Menu offerings change weekly with two entrée specials, four sandwich selections and a variety of tempting desserts. One particular favorite is their chicken, apple and brie sandwich. The sophisticated adult grilled cheese includes buttery slices of toasted bread with juicy strips of chicken breast, crisp apple slices and a hefty amount of gooey brie cheese. Be sure to order a side salad of fresh leafy greens from the Salinas Valley!
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.