There is a lot to love about Red Tracton’s but I’ll start with its rich history. First off, there was a Red Tracton, and he was a successful Los Angeles restaurateur for many years with locations on La Cienega and in Encino. His daughter Tracy Tracton, Red’s daughter grew up in those restaurants and is now the owner of Red Tracton’s in Del Mar. Her stories about the celebrities and athletes who frequented her dad’s establishments could fill a book. Red’s decision to locate his San Diego restaurant across the street from the Del Mar Racetrack was no mistake. He knew his celebrity clientele came down to Del Mar for race season and as a result, Red Tracton’s has been associated with race season here ever since.
That said, Red Tracton’s is open year round and draws a large following of patrons who appreciate the classic, operated East Coast style steak house supper club reminiscent of days gone by. It is very nice to have a place in North County that has some history and character, not to mention great food. I can best liken it to walking into that club in Goodfellas, full of well-dressed folks of all ages indulging in classic supper club dinner staples, live entertainment, and a see and be seen atmosphere. Old money, big eaters and hipsters converging on RT’s for change of pace from the trendy themes that dominate many of the restaurants that dominate restaurants in the area.
The menu is heavy on steakhouse staples and its gigantic portions of the finest “Prime” beef including Prime Rib, crab legs, gigantic Australian lobster tail, rib eye, calf liver, blackened jumbo shrimp, sirloin au poivre, ribs, veal and crab ravioli, colossal baked potato, and of course their famous lobster bisque. Just FYI, it’s not all huge portion decadence. They do have salads including all the classics like the wedge, Cobb, Caesar, and Tracton’s “Salad Exceptionale”. Top any of them with their superb Green Goddess salad dressing that is available for purchase as well. I met Tracy for lunch there recently and tried the “light side of Red” menu including a salad special that was my definition of a perfect lunch salad…light enough not to induce a post lunch nap, but hearty enough to satisfy, and very healthy. There is also a separate bar menu that offers many of the items from the dining room menu in smaller portions and some great looking appetizers.
While it is nice that they offer lighter fare, it’s not what I’m going to Red Tracton’s for. Go hungry, and prepared to indulge on a big piece of meat, seafood, or pasta. The prime rib truly is melt-in-your mouth and a massive portion. My suggestion is to mix it up and share with your table mates because there really is so much good stuff to choose from. Oh, and for a night, maybe skip the crafty cocktails and beer and go with a dry or dirty martini and a glass of a big red wine to go with your dinner. Going to Red Tracton’s is an excuse to indulge for a night and live large.
Besides the food, there is a vibrant bar, piano bar and lounge scene happening at Red Tracton’s with a very interesting cast of characters and even the occasional celebrity, especially during race season. It’s all wonderfully old school and one of the best people watching venues anywhere. Piano bar performers include Bobby Cruz and Mike McKenna with Tuesday being local’s night with Keni Yarborough. Of course the bar scene picks up during race season when a dance club opens that packs them in.
Between writing this column and hosting the show on KPRi and the research dinners that go with it, I have to be very picky about the places I want to revisit, to become a regular at so to speak. Red Tracton’s was just added to that very short list. It’s a cool place with great food and service to match. Plus Tracy Tracton is just a genuine woman who I’m glad to have had the opportunity to meet.
Red Tracton’s is located at 550 Via De La Valle, in Solana Beach. 858.755.6600. Check out their full menu and more at www.redtractonssteakhouse.com