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Their Reputation Is at Steak: The Hindquarter Bar and Grille is a local hideaway for meat lovers.

Pleased to Meat You

The Hindquarter Bar and Grille caters to Santa Cruz's carnivorous cravings

By Jessica Neuman Beck

If you're traipsing around downtown Santa Cruz and you find yourself longing for food of the meat-and-potatoes variety, you might find the selection on the mall somewhat limited. Rosie's is good for Irish food, and 99 Bottles is great if you're craving something fried, but what if you're in the mood for a big, juicy steak?

The Hindquarter Bar and Grille has risen from relative obscurity to becoming a place, as their motto says, "where the elite meat." Located on Soquel Avenue, mere blocks from the mall, it's easily identified by the big "HQ" sign in the parking lot.

And, as you might expect, they make a damned good steak.

"My favorite is the Jack's Pepper Steak," says Bob Cornell, the owner. It's a skillet-seared rib-eye cooked with cracked peppercorns and Jack Daniels.

Bob spent 15 years cooking at the Miramar, so he knows his food. The specials, which change daily, feature twists on the traditional: a porterhouse of pork, for example, or bruschetta with bleu cheese instead of goat cheese. Head chef Sam Yanez has been with the restaurant for 13 years, and he works closely with Bob to develop Hindquarter's signature dishes.

"We have lots of menu choices here," agrees Laurie Stephens, manager of the Hindquarter for the past seven years. "It's a local's place."

That means the menu always includes at least two fresh seafood dishes every night, as well as a full vegetarian menu for the less carnivorously inclined. They also use free-range chicken and organic greens.

But perhaps the most surprising item on the menu is a pasta entree featuring sautéed chicken livers with mushrooms, onions and capers in a marsala cream sauce.

"People either love it or hate it," Bob laughs. "The people who love it say, 'Oh, wonderful--they have this!'"

Bob considers the Hindquarter to be health conscious, but not a health-food restaurant. In the past, when they've put low-fat options on the list of specials, customers have let him know that the rich, high-calorie dishes are what they really look for at Hindquarter. "They come in here with that in mind," says Bob.

The restaurant has been around since the mid-'60s, but when Bob bought the restaurant in 1988, it wasn't the warm, cozy place it is today.

"We've certainly improved the restaurant over the years," says Bob. "We've added the patio and the lobby. Three years ago we completely gutted the bar and redid it. The dining room was completely refurbished in November, everything from new paint to new tables and chairs."

He was careful not to change the feel of the place, a look he's cultivated using dark wood accents and abstract, wine-colored artwork.

Customer feedback regarding the changes has been positive, and Bob and his staff take the opinions of their customers seriously.

In addition to hungry diners eager for a steak or some baby back ribs, the Hindquarter has a core group of customers who have been coming to the restaurant for years. The waitstaff knows them by first name and can tell you exactly how they like their food.

"There's a woman who loves frizzled onions on everything," Bob tells me. "And when I say everything, I mean everything. One of her favorites is frizzled onions on our cheesecake."

He laughs. "People let us know what they like, and we do it."

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From the January 14-21, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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