The Gaslamp Strip Club is named after the restaurant's signature "strip steak." This 21-and over steakhouse offers an old-school supper club setting, complete with curved leather booths, dim lighting, and a central grill around which guests cook their own steaks. Grill options include a range of premium steaks and kabobs, as well as poultry, seafood, and vegetarian options. An extensive cocktail selection, late night hours, and a casual vibe amid artwork by the famous "pin up" artist Alberto Vargas makes the Gaslamp Strip Club an ideal destination not only for a meal but for an entire evening.Read More ...
Maybe you're traveling and staying in a hotel room, or maybe it’s drizzling out and tailgating no longer seems like fun. Perhaps you live in an apartment without a balcony, or just own a really inefficient grill. Whether you’ve got a good excuse or no excuse at all, downtown’s Gaslamp Strip Club is an ideal destination when you’re in the mood for a barbeque but don’t want the hassle. This casual, 21-and-over steakhouse offers standard steakhouse fare with a unique twist: guests grill their own dinner.
Let me start out by saying that this is serious grilling. The two custom-made, professional-grade grills that command the dining room are the best grills I've used, hands-down. The surface area is at least nine square feet—maybe more—and the temperature is strictly controlled: 450 in the center; 400 around the edges. The best part, however, is the grill grates, whose thin design makes for absolutely perfect grill marks. Living in San Diego, I grill year-round, and the steak I cooked at the Gaslamp Strip Club was the best-looking steak I've ever pulled off.
While my steak may have been a beauty, it's certainly not the only one. The entire restaurant seems designed to help guests achieve a rave-worthy steak. Grill-side signs provide both tips and suggested cooking times for all steaks on the menu. Waitress float about the room, always willing to share strategies and secrets, suggest cooking times, and explain degrees of doneness. Believe it or not, very few people ruin their meal here.
But let’s not rush to the grill. There are plenty of diversions before grill time, and the restaurant's inviting, comfortable atmosphere is welcoming and leisurely. Despite the Gaslamp Strip Club's playful name—that's “strip” as in strip steak—the design and decor are tastefully appointed. The bar area and dining room comprise one large open space, with high ceilings and second-story windows that let in plenty of natural light and lend a loft-like vibe. When the sun sets, pendant lamps infuse the restaurant with a playful red glow, while an upbeat soundtrack of popular, mostly 90’s, hits fills the air.
The space is filled with a mix of modern features and 1950's-inspired decor. The tables are red versions of the ubiquitous metal diner table, while curved booths and chairs are upholstered in shiny black leather. Brick walls run the sides of the restaurant, while drapes partition a semi-private back room, which offers private grills and seating for 15-30. But the best feature is the stunning art collection—one whole wall of the restaurant is covered in framed original illustrations by Alberto Vargas, the talented pin-up artist whose airbrush-and-watercolor portraits routinely graced the pages of Esquire and Playboy.
Before we decide on our grill selections, we take a trip to the “self-service wine cellar,” a small, temperature-controlled room that looks like a small wine store. Small signs display each wine and price (surprisingly reasonable), and each of the bottles is displayed prominently, allowing us to view the wine labels. Having the time to browse, discuss, and make a decision in the privacy of a small room is a refreshing change from the pressure of selecting a wine with a waiter hovering over you. For those with more discerning tastes, the restaurant also offers a reserve list of library wines, as well as the famous "Dom and Steak" offer, featuring a bottle of Dom Perignon and any steak for $199.
We opt for more affordable extravagance, in the form of two specialty martinis. The “Blue Stiletto,” features Stoli Blueberri and fresh lemon in a sugar-rimmed martini glass, while the "Thigh High" offers a fresh concoction of grey goose l'orange, Tuaca, and cranberry juice. The restaurant has a full bar and a limited draft beer selection, and when it comes time to order drinks with our steaks, we opt for a Dechutes Black Butte Porter, a dark, smooth brew that goes well with everything on the table.
The menu is short and sweet, centered on a collection of steaks and kabobs, with an enticing array of sides. Ordering is simple and no-fuss: every steak comes with complimentary salad and garlic bread, and side dishes are big enough to share.
All of the steaks on the menu are 21-day aged, Midwestern corn-fed Angus, which are house-marinated in olive oil, balsamic, and herbs. There are also a handful of non-steak options, including Ahi tuna, chicken, and a variety of kabobs. Guests can add their own seasonings at the grill.
We opt for the signature, the Gaslamp New York Strip, a 12-ounce steak that has a good balance of flavor and tenderness. We also order the Sushi Grade Ahi Tuna marinated in peanut sauce, and a trio of Beef, Chicken, and Shrimp Kabobs. A platter soon arrives, with each raw selection carefully wrapped in plastic or waxed paper, along with a basket of uncooked garlic bread and two grilling tongs. It’s time to get grilling.
The best strategy, according to the staff, is to sear your steak in the center of the grill for the best grill marks, and then move it to the lower heat around the edges to cook. We strategically place the steak at a 45-degree angle from the grates, rotating halfway through for a perfect cross-hatch pattern. The sign near the grill tells us 5-7 minutes for medium rare, and we time our kabobs, fish, and garlic bread accordingly.
Back at the table, a feast has arrived. Side dishes are absolutely enormous, as is the family-style house salad, an oversized bowl of tender lettuces, crisp red and green peppers, slivered tomatoes, cucumbers, and croutons. It’s hard to decide where to begin.
We’ve seared the Ahi to a perfect light tan; my knife glides through to reveal pale purple flesh inside. Tender and light, the fish is tasty alone, but reaches its best when smeared with a dollop of the accompanying wasabi and a fresh dip in soy sauce. Each thin slice offers the tangy flavors of fresh sashimi, and I almost forget I'm in a steakhouse.
I eagerly try the NY Strip, which we’ve cooked just a hair over medium rare. While we can take credit for the preparation, the flavor's credit goes to the kitchen, thanks to the careful selection of quality meat and a marinade that ensures moisture and tenderness without overpowering the natural flavor. The first bite is tender, and the more it rests as we go through our meal, the more moist it becomes.
The kabobs are the most playful dish on the menu. Each skewer is packed not only with meat but with an assortment of veggies—portobello mushrooms, pineapple, red peppers, zucchini, and red onion. We’ve been served three accompanying dipping sauces: barbeque, peanut sauce, and spicy ranch. The combinations offer a seemingly endless array of flavors. I prefer chicken in barbeque, shrimp in peanut sauce, and portobello in spicy ranch. Like the steak, I find the beef cubes best unadorned.
All three sides we sample are deliciously rich, as decadent and over-the-top as rich gets. While there are healthier sides on the menu like sautéed asparagus and sautéed broccoli and carrots, we skip reasonable, heading straight for naughty. The Creamed Spinach is as good as creamed spinach gets, a lush, heavy sauce peppered with fresh bites of moist, cooked leaves. It proves the perfect foil between bites of steak, and is a great way to "pretend" to get your dose of vegetables with your meal.
In the same way, the Blue Cheese & Onion Potatoes Au Gratin seems an excuse to enjoy the luxurious flavors of blue cheese and caramelized onions. I have bite after bite of the creamy, flavorful concoction and am unable to detect a single note of potato. If anything, the texture is more like whipped potatoes than au gratin, but mostly it is bite after bite of gratuitous decadence—the flavors of tart, sweet caramelized onions and piquant blue cheese mixed up in a soft, gooey mélange.
White Truffle Mac and Cheese is the sure winner of the sides. A crisp parmesan and panko layer covers tender penne pasta, coated in a pale, creamy roux-based sauce. The unmistakable aroma of white truffles greets the nose, giving way to the smooth, luxurious flavors of milk and cheese. The sauce is liberal, and I delight in discovering it has seeped inside the hollow pasta, squirting out from the tubes with each tender bite. Were we not here for the steak, I’d be content to make this oversized dish a meal.
What would a meal of decadence be without dessert? The selection, like the rest of the menu, is short and sweet. We opt for the Crème Brûlée Cheesecake, or as my dining companion exclaims, "my two favorite desserts rolled into one!" The pale triangle of soft cheesecake cuts gently, the familiar tartness of cheesecake met with creamy caramel flavors. We have saved just enough beer in our glasses to enjoy the last few sips of porter with the dessert, a harmonious pairing that goes together as well as, well, steak and potatoes, sashimi and soy, or chicken and barbeque. Luckily for us, the Gaslamp Strip Club excels at all these simple pleasures.
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Love the place. Will come back next time in San Diego!!
Great location and excellent steaks!
Fun place to hang out and eat. Waitress was very nice and on the ball with whatever we needed. I'd recommend this place to any of my friends.