With hot new restaurants opening up all the time, we tend to forget some of the old standbys that have stood the test of time. If a restaurant has been in the same location and under the same management for 20 years or more, it must have something special. And so it is with such favorites as Valentino, Michael’s, Chez Jay, Chinois on Main, and a few others, including what is perhaps the oldest of the old, The Galley on Main Street.
This restaurant has been in the same location since 1934, although Captain Ron, the current owner, only took over in 1989. There is sawdust on the floor, pin up girls from the ‘40s on the walls of the men’s room, and snappy service without attitude. What now seems like funky decor might have been very modern at the time, with bamboo and vinyl booths and lots of pictures from the ‘40s and ‘50s on the wall. Retro music completes the scene. All of that is a nice break from the new hot spots, and it’s rare now to find a restaurant with real booths. Of course that makes it more difficult to meet the people at the next table.
The last two times I was there the bar was completely full at dinner time, and all three rooms were just about full. We got one of the last tables for three. Joni showed up to serve us, and we were quickly served three Anchor Steam beers at $6 each. Then came the salad with creamy Caesar dressing. OK, it’s not like the Caesar dressing in Tijuana; there are no anchovies, unless ordered extra for $2, and not much lemon flavor, but it’s good anyway. Very good bread came with it, although I would have preferred it warm.
While there are other selections on the menu, the Galley is basically a steak house. For $13 there’s an excellent hamburger, and for $32 a good filet. Last time I was there I had the jumbo porterhouse for $31, and it was a good cut and cooked to perfection. Big spenders can order the steak and lobster tail combo for $59. Spinach, heavily breaded onion rings, and lots of vegetables come on the plates, just like in the old days. Large portions for those in the market for a good solid meal, the old fashioned way. There’s a typical wine list, with bottles marked up at about three and one-half cost, but when ordering cheap wine the mark-up is less significant anyway. For me this is the kind of place where I drink beer.
For any non-steak person who happens to find his or her way here, order the bucket of steamed eastern clams for $17 and you will have a happy ending, as the saying goes.
A visit to the Galley is nostalgic for those of us who were here in the old days (but even I wasn’t here in the ‘30s) and a great tourist destination for visitors. But the reason it’s still here is not because of the decor, nor the location. This is a very good steak house with reasonable prices and good service.
If You Go
2442 Main St.
Santa Monica, Calif.
Merv Hecht, the food and wine critic for the Santa Monica Daily Press, is a wine buyer and consultant to a number of national and international food and wine companies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org