Chuck’s Steak House

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There used to be a number of Chuck’s Steak Houses in Los Angeles and I miss ’em. There are still Chuck’s around — the nearest one seems to be in Santa Barbara — but they do not seem to be a chain, exactly. They seem to be independently-owned places opened with the blessing (and perhaps, financial participation) of this guy Chuck.

Chuck was Chuck Rolles, a former All-American basketball player who opened his first restaurant in Hawaii in 1959. The concept was pretty simple. You could get a good steak, a baked potato or rice and a trip to the salad bar for a reasonable price, and you didn’t have to get all dressed up. One of the features of a Chuck’s Steak House has always been the casual, friendly atmosphere. Another was the self-serve salad bar, which at the time was a relatively new idea. Yet another is or was the simple menu, which at times has fit on the side of a little cask on your table.

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Chuck’s expanded in many directions with various partnerships and my main recollections are of one in Valley at (I think) Sepulveda and Ventura, and another on Third Street near La Cienega, near where I was then living. It was near a studio called the Record Plant where many rock musicians of the seventies recorded very famous albums. I don’t think I ever went to that Chuck’s without seeing someone who was super-famous in the music industry…and if you didn’t recognize them, an obliging waiter would whisper to you something like, “See that guy over by the bar? That’s Phil Spector.”

The Record Plant burned down one night and I have a feeling that contributed to Chuck’s exit from that area. But maybe the Chuck’s people just decided to give up on Los Angeles because that’s what they did. I liked the food there tremendously, especially the rice that came with your steak. You could substitute a baked potato for a few bucks more but the rice was so good, most people learned not to. Folks I dined with were always trying to figure out what they did to the rice to make it so good but the servers would just tell you, “It’s a secret.” A woman I dined with there once claimed the rice had been cooked, then stir-fried in sesame oil. I have no idea if that’s so.

Chuck’s spawned numerous imitators in the seventies. I went to at least three steak places that tried to replicate Chuck’s down to the nth degree…and they usually managed to get everything right except for that rice. None of them caught on. Only Chuck’s was Chuck’s and I wish we still had one in town.

53 Responses to Chuck’s Steak House

  • The crazy turk . says:

    I worked in chuck in south Melbourne by the ocean in Florida for two years . It was back in 1981-82 . I started with dishwashing and then the salad bar . In that time they paid me 4 $ an our and also writing the menu on lancer wine bottles paid for my tuition in the college. I remember bob and joe proffer ( the boss ) and the crew was bill baker as main chef and to my for backup . There was rob , Scooby terry and …. also a gorgeous hostess and cocktail waitress called reige. Those were fun years we were young and each had goals and they were good friends . I often think of those days and time is a cruel mistress .

  • Kurt Daniels says:

    My brother & I worked @ the Tustin location for years in the late 70’s. Jimmy Prat was our colorful owner & so cool! We had such a client, regular following. Folks drove over an hour for Su prime rib & hot “Squaw” bread @ our popular salad bar. Patrons also loved the grilled terrayaki Hawaiian Chicken & steamed artichokes. Hour + dinner waits every Fri & Sat nights.

    It may have been the most fun job I ever had & great, memorable part of my growing up years in the “Leave it to Beaver” small town days of Tustin, next to Al’s Woodcraft store off the 5 frwy/Red Hill Ave.

  • Larry Liberto (Lorenzo) says:

    Wow brings back so many memories!! Started washing dishes at the Chuck’s in the Marina del Rey at age 16 with Tom Nagy. We had a blast! We both went to Third Street. Tom started cooking and I started off busing. The celebrities were never ending which made it lots of fun! My job was to keep the salad bar stocked. One evening while I was restocking some veggies I encountered a gentleman with a very thick English accent and his wife. The way it worked at Chuck’s salad bar was you took a plate and a chilled bowl on top of your plate to fill with your salad. When your were done with your salad we would come by and remove your bowl and the You already had your plate because the servers brought the steaks and potatoes out on a tray and placed them with tongs on your plate. The English man and his wife we’re doing it wrong and I was trying to explain how it works but when I said, “after you are finished with your salad the waiter will come by and grab your bowls“ He quickly responded, “what did you say”? When I realized what he thought I said I was so embarrassed and just turned around and walked away! Great times working with Rich Massi, Tom and Terry Hogan, the Flame, Mike Kennedy, Gerry O’Niel, and all the rest!
    I still hear songs on the radio that remind me of the good old times at Chuck’s steakhouse !

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