Richard Foss

Restaurant Review Torrance Roadhouse blues

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Texas Loosey's happily informal food and music have been rocking it for over three decades

Texas Loosey’s Carly Gaston serves the Corpus Cristi Burger. Photo by Brad Jacobson

by Richard Foss

The South Bay has a time machine, but it only takes you to 1982. That was when Texas Loosey’s Chili Parlor & Saloon opened, featuring pretty female servers in salacious uniforms, loud Southern rock, cheap cocktails in lurid colors, and a boisterous atmosphere that fit the era of big hair and padded shoulders.

And I almost forgot to mention, they served food too. Chili was right there in the name of the place, but they also offered burgers, ribs, nachos, Mexican items, and any bar snack that would sop up a drink. The place was completely of its time, a raucous, raunchy roadhouse incongruously located on an otherwise quiet section of Palos Verdes Boulevard.

If you visited the place when Ronald Reagan was in the White House you’d immediately recognize it now. The music is a more subdued and less regional; they’re not blasting Molly Hatchet and Lynyrd Skynyrd at top volume, but the uptempo rock kept the energy level high on the night we visited. The signs by the door advertise live music and karaoke nights, but neither was scheduled when we were there.

The menu has evolved more than the décor and includes modern items like a wedge salad, rice bowl, and tilapia in lemon-caper sauce, any of which would have been mysteries to the early denizens. We considered ordering something contemporary but when we asked our server for recommendations she unhesitatingly steered us toward the items the place has always been famous for: burgers, steaks, and barbecue. We might have asked her for her impressions of how the current food and atmosphere compared to the early days had she not volunteered the information that it had been open for a decade when she was born. She did note that she’s happier with her current uniform of jean shorts and tank tops than the bikinis and chaps that scandalized the neighborhood in the early days.

She had warned us that the portions were large but we decided to order some onion rings as a starter anyway. What arrived was a plate with gigantic rings stacked around a pole, an amusing presentation that makes sense because the ones at the bottom don’t steam the way they do in a basket. They weren’t to our tastes because we like a light, crunchy batter and this was very thick and heavy. The highlight was the “tornado sauce” that came on the side – it had a mild wasabi kick that kept us eating rings we didn’t really like so we could eat more sauce.

For mains we decided on a barbecue sampler platter of chicken and pork ribs and a ribeye steak topped with blue cheese, mushrooms, and onions. The chicken had been mesquite-grilled by a pro and was moist and smoky, while the ribs were tender but a bit bland. They weren’t bad, but didn’t have the smoky, spicy character that you get from real Texas barbecue. Whoever ran the grill that night knows what to do with a steak too, as the ribeye had a caramelized crust and was done just to the medium rare we requested. I’d get it without the blue cheese, mushroom, and onion topping next time because we found it the mix very salty. We scraped it off and devoured the steak happily.

Our meals came with a choice of sides, and we selected a baked potato, “bunkhouse beans,” cilantro-lime rice, and of course the chili. The bunkhouse beans were hands down the best thanks to a tangy tomato-based sauce with just a hint of peppery heat, and the two starches were about what we expected. The chili was mysteriously bad and lacked any hint of cumin, oregano, or peppers; when we first tried the chunks of meat in a bland gravy we actually thought our server might have made a mistake and brought something else. When we asked whether it is always this bland she said that sometimes it’s spicier than others, and he might be having an off day. I certainly hope so, because this had no flavor and we only ate a little of it.

The thing to drink here is beer or margaritas, though they have a few decent bourbons in case you want to honor the Southern theme of the place. On that particular evening we were being moderate so we didn’t explore that side of the menu in detail.

A meal at Texas Loosey’s is affordable – burgers with sides are eleven to thirteen bucks, and the ribeye was the most expensive item at $27. If you’re in a mood for a party atmosphere with a Texas theme this may be your favorite hangout. You shouldn’t expect haute cuisine because that’s not what they’re trying to do, but the service was friendly, the portions large, and they do know how to run a grill.

Texas Looseys is at 22252 Palos Verdes Boulevard in Torrance. Open 11 a.m. – 12:30 a.m. Mo-We, 11 a.m. – 1:30 a.m. Thu, aa a.m. – 2 a.m. Fri, 9:30 a.m. – midnight Sa-Su. Parking lot, wheelchair access good. Menu at texaslooseys.com, phone 310-540-9799.    

 

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