While inquiring about the best restaurants on Catalina Island while walking down Crescent Street along the Harbor, all the locals agreed that Steve’s Steakhouse was tops for steaks.

So there you have it, an informal Catalina Island dining poll.

After climbing the stairs to the second story bistro I immediately met Steve. But wait, this was Steve Junior, the first mate, and Steve Senior was the Captain of the galley and the former manager of another famous Catalina Island eaterie, Armstrong’s (seafood mostly).

Steve Senior grew up on the island and I presume his son did, too. Steve is a congenial fellow and he runs a tight ship, and after setting up — reservations for that evening I am off to explore the town of Avalon.

Sure you can find buffalo in the hinterlands of Catalina Island, they have been there since the 1920s when they shot the Zane Grey feature “Vanishing Americans", and you can still try to beat Zane Grey’s still standing Marlin records, and Winton Churchill caught a hugh marlin here in 1929, and the largest Great White Shark caught in California was along the Channel Islands, and they still harpoon Swordfish around these waters, and the fresh seafood oftentimes comes directly from the living ocean right outside Steve’s Steakhouse enormous bay windows.

So get to Steve’s Steakhouse early to get a window seat because when I circled back for my dining odyssey the place was packed and I squeezed into a two person table close to a window. Nearly everyone in the joint seemed to be a southern California tourist, but I am certain locals dine here, too, after all they recommended Steve to me.

First I have to tell you about Steve’s exceptional Martini list from the bar, which you won’t find on their website at www.stevessteakhouse.com. I think Steve conceived some of the drinks in a semi lucid state because they are truly unique.

The Catalina Blue Martini includes Absolut Citron Vodka, Delmeyer Island Blue, garnished with a lemon twist.

Steve’s Key Lime Martini must be a dessert, right?  Later in the evening I did have a slice of his most famous tangy Key Lime Pie, but this is a for real Martini, made with Absolut Vanilla Vodka, Ke Ke Lime, a splash of pineapple juice, and served in a graham cracker crumb rimmed glass! Hah, ha – I bet you can’t wait to try one.

The Cadillac Martini consists of 1800 Tequila, Grand Marnier, sweet and sour, served in a sugar-rimmed glass with lime.

The Melon Martini includes Absolut Melon Vodka, Midori, served chilled, straight up.

The Ultimate Martini is made with Keith Creek Bourbon, Sweet Vermouth, and a dash of Angostura Bitters.

I think Steve is navigating off the charts with these hipster drinks: Absolut Appletini is made from Absolut Vodka, Delmeyer Apple Pucker, and a Cherry! Or how about the Lemon Drop, with Absolut Citron Vodka, Grand Mariner, Sweet and Sour, served in a sugar-rimmed glass.

Steve’s Steakhouse is high powered mixology and protein extraordinaire. Americana steakhouses all serve the appetizer basics, but Steve pops onto the menu Fried Coconut Shrimp that is hand dipped and served with a Caribbean sweet & spicy sauce ($13.95); plus there is a gigantic Shrimp Cocktail with cocktail sauce and lemon ($12.95); or the Calamari Strips ($8.95); or the Oysters on the ½ shell ($12.95); or the Oysters Rockefeller, served fresh and hot with spinach, cheese, and spices (14.95); or the Sashimi sliced Yellowfin Tuna with wasabi, ginger, and soy sauce (11.95); or the sliced blackened Ahi with wasabi and soy sauce ($15.95).

All the main entrées at Steve’s come with salads or soups, and I recommend the Tuna Salad with veggies on top of greens with a generous portion of Albacore tuna salad. Albacore is only caught on long lines and is not netted with other fish that are often killed needlessly ($12.95). Hey, Avalon has its own Tuna Club, the oldest fishing club in the U.S., dating back to 1998. The building is along the harbor when walking to the Casino.

Dinner Menu

All dinners come with your choice of the special Romano potato, baked potato or rice pilaf, sautéed vegetables, or sliced tomatoes, and sourdough bread.

From the Turf

All steaks are USDA Choice. Any steak with sautéed onions add $2.95, sauteed mushrooms add $3.50 and with both sautéed onions and mushrooms, add $4.50; add a salad for $4.50.

If you go to a steakhouse you have steak and not seafood, so from Steve Junior (this is truly a family operation) I ordered up the petite six ounce Filet Mignon ($23.95, the nine ounce is $29.95); meanwhile Steve Senior was back in the kitchen grilling 10 ounce Top Sirloins ($22.95), 10 ounce Teriyaki Top Sirloins ($23.95), 12 ounce marbled Rib Eyes ($25.95), perfect 12 ounce New Yorkers ($25.95), and whopping one pound cuts of T-Bones ($29.95). 

My Filet Mignon came with homemade Bernaise Sauce — no need for steak sauce.  The two Steve’s know how to grill em.  They have a great reputation for their Baby Back Ribs cooked slow and low served with delicious BBQ sauce  (1/2 rack — $19.95, full rack — $25.95).

Other turf items include the Chicken Bernaise, a breast marinated in olive oil and spices, grilled, and topped with Bearnaise Sauce ($19.95); Teriyaki Chicken ($18.95); Rack of Lamb marinated in olive oil, rosemary and thyme ($28.95).

Winston Churchill in 1929, with his
Marlin caught off Catalina Island

Okay we discovered Steve’s Martinis.  Let’s see if he has the Marlin!

From the Surf

All fish is broiled or sautéed to your liking by the Steves.  All come with your choice of the special Romano potato, baked potato, or rice pilaf, sautéed vegetables, or sliced tomatoes, and sourdough bread.

The Calamari is marinated in clam juice, dipped in eggwash, breaded and sautéed in butter; Steve call’s this the poor mans Abalone ($17.95); the Ahi Tuna is seared medium rare and is caught in the waters locally ($22.95); the Swordfish is also harpooned locally when available ($24.95); the Broiled Jumbo Shrimp is served with drawn butter ($19.95); the Jumbo Shrimp Avalon-style is sautéed in lemon butter and wine with tomato bits, served on garlic toast; a house favorite  ($22.95); plus there are market prices on the the Australian Lobsters and Alaskan King Crabs and the Catch of the Day that is always changing (so maybe Marlin are on the menu!). But wait, there may be a chance for Marlin on Steve’s Surf and Turf menu.

Surf and Turf

Steak and Shrimp is a generous Top Sirloin with fried or broiled Shrimp. Upgrade to Ribeye, New York or Filet, Priced accordingly ($30.95); the Steak and Lobster is a generous 10 ounce Top Sirloin with a seven ounce Australian Lobster tail (market price); Steak and King Crab is a generous 10 ounce Top Sirloin with 1/2 pound of  King Crab (market price).

The two Steves opened their restaurant six years ago and they also serve lunch and other delights, such as Fish and Chips, Shrimp and Chips, Scallop and Chips, and veggie platters, The only thing missing are the buffalo chips!

The bar arena offers domestic and imported beers and root beer out of the can. Try the hard to find Lost Coast Great White beer for $4.75. They also have 14 ounce cans of Guinness for six bucks and New Castle for $4.75.

Steve has one of the most extensive wine lists on the island, with many unusual choices, such as these Chardonnays by the bottle: Hess Collection ($34); Cakebread Cellars ($68); Ferrari-Carano ($50); and Far Niente ($85).

Steve’s Reds: Robert Talbot Pinot Noir Landmark Vineyards ($75); Rosenblum Zunfandel Lyons ($70); Twomey Merlot Napa by Silver Oak ($100); Joseph Phelps Insignia ($190); and Opus One ($220).

Steve’s Cabs by the bottle: Provenance Vineyards ($55); Hess Collection ($75); Jordan Alexander Valley ($75); Alexander Valley Vineyards Cyrus ($85); Jarvis Cave Fermented ($90); Silver Oak, Alexander Valley ($100); Fisher Coach Insignia ($105); Cakebread Cellars ($110); Stag Leap Cellars Fay ($125); and Silver Oak, Napa Valley ($160).

Steve's Steakhouse
417 Crescent Avenue
Avalon , CA 90704

Plus they have champagnes: Korbel (split $6.95 /bottle $23.95); Veuve Clique Yellow Label ($70); Moet Chandon White Star ($70); Dom Perignon ($210.00). Check their website for other alcohol and wine selections.

Eventually they will probably carry the wine pressed from the Wrigley family vineyards that are growing on the other side of the island at the Escondido Ranch. Served with Juicy Fruit!

Okay, the Steves may or may not have Marlin on the menu, depending on the luck of local fishermen. But I bet the sophisticated fishermen sip martinis at Steve's.

If there is one "Cuisine Queen" on Catalina Island , it has to be Judy Smith who co-owns the Channel House Restaurant, a patio style restaurant sitting along the waterfront.  Judy has managed or owned almost every restaurant on the island for nearly four decades, including the Galleon and the exquisite Catalina Country Club.

When I met Judy she informed me that she was slowly moving into the digital age with her new cell phone, but not other modern devices such as email and websites,, so consequently the restaurant has no present URL.

So let’s see if Judy is serving Martinis and Marlin!.

I must admit that the Channel House has the most impressive western style replicated bar in town.  The hand carved and polished mahogany and mirrored wall is more like a piece of furniture that fils well in the laid back ambiance.

Judy does have Classic Margaritas mixed with Jose Cuervo Gold, Triple Sec and lime juice, and Golden Margaritas made from 1800 Tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice, and Purple Cadillacs of 1800 Tequila, Cointreau and Chambord.  And then my taste buds caught the DiSarita, made from DiSaronno Amaretto, Cuervo Gold, Triple Sec, and Margarita Mix.

Okay I discovered lip smacking Martinis. Judy’s bartenders whipped up the Classic Martini with Bombay Gin and Vermouth over ice, strained and garnished with an olive, or they can hand you a Red Russian, made with Stolichnaya Vodka and Chambord, garnished with a twist of lemon, and last on their list is the Cosmopolitan, made with Ketel One Vodka. Cointreau, with lime juice and a splash of cranberry juice.

Zane Grey lived in Avalon, and caught Marlin
and other billfish in the Atlantic and Pacific.

Okay, Judy passed the Martini test! Now back to the Marlin quest.

Judy knows how to run a superb restaurant and her reasonable prices are only surpassed by the quantities of food.  She has one of the most extensive appetizer lists on the island, and the Crab Cakes popped off the menu and into my mouth. The fried Zucchinis were a delight, and lo and behold, she even serves Escargots!

I think Judy has the only Shrimp Louie Salad in Avalon.  The steamed Vegetable Platter was a meal of its own.

The Channel House chefs offer six pasta selections, including the Checca Pasta made with fresh tomatoes, green onions, and basil, with garlic and olive oil on Angel hair pasta.

Okay, now for the Marlin selections. But wait, what the heck is a Catalina Sand Dab that I found while trolling the seafood section? It is grilled with lemon butter, and the Cippino is also a local fish that Judy has landed into her seafood galley. But I didn’t see the Marlin mixed in with the Scampi Provencale, the Calamari Steak, the Steamed Clams, the Swordfish, Halibut, Broiled Mahi Mahi, or the in season Lobster Tails or the Alaskan King Crab Legs or Salmon Steaks.  Wow, what a wonder menu!

During an extensive stay on the island you could come back to the Channel House and never try the same thing twice. Judy also probably has the only Coq au Vin on the island. She has the most extensive poultry and meat list, too, from Chicken Marsala and Chicken Oscar and Island Chicken to Rack of Lamb, Filet Mignon, Steak Sandwiches and Tournedos of Beef Rossini.  Other steaks include the New Yorker, Pepper Steak, Top Sirloin, Prime Rib, and Chopped Beef Maitre D’, or Baby Beef Liver, or Beef Stroganoff and half racks and full racks of Baby Back Beef Ribs.

Judy can serve you combinations of steak and lobsters or scampi or shrimp or calamari.

The Channel House is also open for lunch, with a full array of sandwiches and burgers, including Swordfish Burgers and Frisco Burgers, but no Marlin Burgers. Come back to Judy’s to find out what a Roasted Tri-tip Dip is.  For vegans the best bet is the Antigua, made from avocado, tomato, red onion, mushrooms, sprouts, cream cheese and black olives.

Channel House
205 Crescent Ave
Avalon, CA 90704

There was one last chance for Marlin — on the Hot Entrées section that included Mahi Mahi, Swordfish, fried Shrimp, Liver and Onions, and the Catalina Sand Dabs. What the hell was a sand dab? Alas, no Marlin in the fish and chips section either. There are rattlesnakes on Catalina Island, and I didn't find any rattlesnake croquettes, either.

So it was a cup of expresso with one of Judy’s famous desserts. Judy is known for creating all her food items handmade fresh and baked on the property, including her cakes and pies that often appear at wedding ceremonies around the island.

The Catalina Country Clkub

By Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine.

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