The Starving Musicians

Where to Eat in This Town

by Rick SparhawkNovember 2012

The Riviera Club

Riviera Supper Club
The Riviera Supper Club is an all-American chop house that is somewhat easy on the wallet and surely worthy the consideration of starving musicians.

This month we visited a jewel of a restaurant in La Mesa, straight out of a scene from “Mad Men”; the Riviera Supper Club’s Turquoise Room is a hip, throwback to a late-fifties upscale “chop house,” catering to the young, mischievous executive types. Fade in some good live music.

We nestle down in a comfy booth stitched in honest-to-God red naugahyde, and I swear I hear the Rat Pack somewhere across the dimly lit room. It’s bustling, the cocktails are flowing, shoulders are rubbing, and the chatter is unintelligible.

The drama unfolds as I order myself “the Art Snob”: fighting Cock 103-proof bourbon, ginger ale, bitters, and an orange twist. Jim opts for their Sidecar: brandy, orange liqueur, lemon and lime juice, served up with a sugared rim. The martini glasses seemed appropriate for the scene. We were now in full character.

There is a sense of anonymity in the surrounding clamor so we are inclined to remove our Ray-Bans®. No one will recognize us as the Starving Musicians, so no need to disguise our importance. The scene unfolds as we take our cue from the waiter. “I’ll have the mac ‘n’ cheese and the sirloin steak.” Jim goes for the dry-rubbed flat iron steak and their famous tater tots. If we read the menu correctly, we can just afford these prices. The modest cost of the meal does have a slight catch, however: whether you like your steak rare, medium, or extra well-done, it’s all up to you, because at the Riviera Turquoise Room, you’re the chef! That’s right, your selected cut of meat is brought to your table…raw.

The less experienced watch as you stride with coolness to the communal firepit. Heads turn and the cast of onlookers sense the skill by which you take charge as culinary director. You are spellbinding as you flail salt, pepper, seasoning, and sauces to bring life to the meat. And so they covetously gaze as you char your selection to perfection like the ultimate grillmaster you know yourself to be. Ours were perfectly medium rare, of course. A feat so inspired it was worthy of an Oscar.

For dessert, we felt compelled to order up the supper club’s signature offering, a generous slice of bacon chocolate cake, large enough to share. The sweet/salty treat was a surprising finish to the dinner.

In the back of the room, musicians casually filter in one by one. After some impromptu “sound check” jamming, we’re treated to a set by Vanja James and her band, that night’s scheduled entertainment. It seems the perfect score for our film noir. We confirm with management the artists are being compensated and that the club fits our model for an undercover review by the Starving Musicians. Lights! Camera! Action! We hunker down for the evening with a second round of some very tasty Martinis and dig the cool tunes. All in all we’ll give this club a B-Maj and can readily recommend it to our readers.

Pleasant eating,
The Starving Musicians

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