Three things often come to mind when people think of Salinas: agriculture, the California Rodeo and John Steinbeck.
The famous author who called this unique area home even has an entire museum dedicated to his famous works like “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Of Mice and Men” and “Cannery Row.” Just down the street from the National Steinbeck Center lies Steinbeck’s childhood home now coined The Steinbeck House. This adorable Victorian-era home is not only one of Salinas’ historic landmarks but it’s also a noteworthy restaurant for delectable lunches and teas. After my last visit to the Steinbeck Center I decided to pop over to the author’s home for a full Steinbeck experience and lunch.
After a quick stroll down Central Avenue I arrived at the 1897 Queen Ann style home. The picturesque three-story building looked as though it belonged along Ocean View Boulevard in Pacific Grove. The shingled home was complete with delicate trimmings, a glass entry door and plenty of windows. As I walked up the steps 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 soon greeted my dining crew and I and sat us down in the living room overlooking Central and Stone streets. It truly felt as though I had been invited over to have lunch at a friend’s house.
Nancy, our attentive waitress, quickly took our drink orders. She raved about the Steinbeck tea so we all took her up on her professional expertise. Nancy soon returned with large glasses of the scrumptious raspberry tea, mixed with a dash of pink lemonade and a maraschino cherry to top it off. It was the perfect beverage on a warm autumn day! She also brought out a plentiful basket of fresh warm bread. This wasn’t your average complimentary bread; the warm buttery biscuit was 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 options are limited but the selection changes weekly in order to keep things fresh. Today’s offerings included items like the chicken country captain, Cobb salad, and hot roast beef. I opted for the turkey-avocado wrap which came with side of salad.
In no time Nancy came out with the freshly prepared entrée. The fresh greens on my side salad looked like they had just been plucked from one of the nearby fields and the wrap had a hefty amount of thick turkey slices, bacon, green onion, avocado and shredded lettuce. I couldn’t wait to dive in!
The salad was definitely fresh and I ate up every last leaf before moving on to the wrap. The spinach tortilla wrap was moist and luckily held all the savory contents inside. The burst of salty bacon and luscious avocado was delightful. A side of honeydew and oranges made my meal complete. I also took a peek at the dessert menu which included crème brulee and mocha ice cream cake. Unfortunately I had to resist, too bad their bread wasn’t up for dessert!
The prices are very reasonable at around $11 for an enjoyable sit-down lunch. What’s really amazing about this place that it’s entirely run by volunteers, except for one hard-working chef. The cheery staff is part of the Valley Guild who collect monies to keep the house in its pristine condition. They also operate a quaint gift shop in the basement with everything from Steinbeck’s books, cookbooks, tea pots and more. Complete tours of Steinbeck’s boyhood home are available in the summer months. 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.”