Editor’s Note: This week we introduce a new feature, Date Night. Jennifer Ayvazian and her husband Armen are newlyweds living in Castaic and real foodies. (They got married at The French Laundry, they clearly know how to throw a good party!) Together they’ll test out spots in the SCV looking for dateworthyness. With that, we welcome Jennifer to the eatSCV family!
The continued search for the perfect date night restaurant brought me and my better-half to Backwoods Inn one recent Saturday night. Walking in, our first impression is that the restaurant is very rustic, with sawdust on the floors and fun antiques and vintage collectibles on the walls. A quick trip to the bar before dinner and we were greeted by a very bright and friendly bartender (a common theme through the night!). I was quickly underwhelmed by their wine selection, which consisted of “Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon” as explained by upbeat bartender. I opted for a Cabernet and my partner the Merlot. I was actually a bit surprised to realize that while looking upon other diners that wine was a popular selection here, despite the limited assortment. They do have as reasonably stocked liquor cabinet as well, if that is more your taste.
The hostess let us know that our table was ready, so we paid out our bar tab and were led to a nice booth in the corner and provided us with menus. The selection is aimed at steakhouse offerings, and the appetizer selection was deliciously homey with offerings like potato skins and coconut shrimp. We opted for the cheese bread with pepper jack (other options include American and jack). For entrees I chose the prime rib cooked medium rare and my partner the rib eye cooked medium.
Each of our steak selections were accompanied with soup or salad: myself opting for salad with bleu cheese and Partner opting for soup of the day (vegetable beef). The salad was nearly literally drowning in dressing, but as I could quite likely drink bleu cheese dressing straight from the bottle is seemed just right for my palate. The soup was hearty with large chunks of vegetables and beef, but I found it highly lacking in any umami flavor that I often enjoy from beef broths.
When our appetizer arrived, I found the bread to be very underwhelming in flavor, and did not even realize that the cheese bread is a helping of Backwoods garlic bread with melted cheese until our server mentioned it. I found the bread lacking in any garlic flavor, but was not lacking in pepper jack (which was a bit on the heavy side compared to the serving of bread, but who am I to complain about too much cheese…).
Our steaks came shortly after, served with a choice of potato (we both selected the Backwoods “own creation” stuffed baked potato). My prime rib was served with traditional au jus and creamed horseradish. We were also interested to learn that Backwoods stocks with A1 sauce as well as HP sauce (not that I would ever dare to put either on a steak).
We both found our stuffed potatoes to be tasty, filled with baked potato mixed with shredded cheese, green onion, and sour cream. It was more-or-less a loaded baked potato, just pre-mixed.
The steaks, we both agreed, were not the highlight of the meal, which made us both a bit disappointed. I found my au jus to be lacking in flavor, and while my prime rib was cooked well, I did find it lacking in a certain juiciness that I enjoy from a good prime rib. The steak itself was also under seasoned to my taste. My partner’s ribeye was slightly undercooked (more on the medium-rare side, not that I’d complain!) but did have a decent marbling on it that we enjoyed. I was slightly confused by the wedge of orange and limp piece of lettuce that was placed on our plates as a garnish, but that was easily enough pushed aside.
We were much too full to order dessert, which I’m really kicking myself for now!
Overall, atmosphere was good, service was attentive and friendly, food was average. It was a fun night out, and we enjoyed how our booth felt both intimate as well as open and relaxing. I would be interested in going back to try their lunch offerings, which are also offered at a lower price point than many dinner offerings.
Jennifer Ayvazian drags her husband Armen out so she can write Date Night for eatSCV.com. Jennifer also helps coordinate eatSCV’s Foodie Fridays and volunteers as an event coordinator for feedSCV. Jennifer attended culinary school and frequently travels for dining experiences worldwide. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org