California Dreaming is a steakhouse, well regarded, with two locations, one in Kennesaw and one in Duluth. The Duluth location is near the intersection of I-85 and Old Peachtree Road, and whenever we head to Mall of Georgia, we pass by this eatery. It’s been on our “try it” list for some time, and as our wedding anniversary approached, it seemed the appropriate time to try California Dreaming out.
The restaurant is very large, and also very roomy. Light brown wood is everywhere, making thick tables, the backs of booths, structural components. It’s kind of a relief from more cramped steakhouses. It also, on a per entree basis, tends to be more expensive than eateries such as Outback or Longhorns. That said, the total cost of our meal was relatively modest.
Among the first things that attracted our attention was the hot vegetable salad. We had it served as an appetizer. Half hot veggies, half bed of cold lettuce, it took about 3 minutes for the 3 of us to demolish the hot greens. It’s quite an attractive collection of greens, including thin slices of palm, artichokes, peppers, etc.
They have interesting variations on nachos at this restaurant and my daughter zeroed in on the seafood nachos as her entree. It was a tasty mix of “alfredo” sauce, shrimp, salmon, and chips. The sauce was very cheesy and had a nice dusting of paprika, enough to give the sauce a hint of heat. The chips and sauce alone were worth eating, and a welcome respite from white cheese based nachos. The small shrimp and thick chunk of salmon gave the whole dish a lot more zest.
My wife, after a lot of back-and-f0rth, ended up with the petite filet and fried shrimp combo. She rarely buys steak at a steakhouse, usually preferring to get ribs or chicken dishes. At one point she was strongly leaning towards the tequila chicken wings and some ribs. As it turned out, she really liked the shrimp she had and was a little indifferent to the steak. My daughter tried some of my wife’s steak and liked it. The consensus, though, was her shrimp were the best thing we tried at this restaurant, a complete success.
I ended up buying California Dreamings’ New York strip. I was tempted by the marinated sirloin, but I wanted to try one of their meats without the marinade first. I asked for a medium rare cut of meat and almost got it. As my wife really prefers well well done steak, I thought it would be a stretch for an eatery to do both perfectly and deliver plates at the same time. What I got was medium well on the end I started eating, growing redder as I proceeded along the steak. The steak, once I looked more closely, was wedge shaped, thinner on one side, thicker on the other, which certainly couldn’t have helped the cooking.
That said, I was happy I had pink and the steak was tender and very good tasting. As the steaks at California Dreaming are choice and not prime, the steak was a little chewy and not buttery. I’m pretty happy with a little chew in an otherwise tender steak. The “Pittsburgh” style crust added some crunch and flavor to the meat and the serving size was large enough I took half of it home. Thinking about it afterwards, the only way to make the strip better to my tastes would have been to sprinkle freshly crushed peppercorns on the steak (I should have asked).
Service was good here, attentive and not too intrusive. The music was largely Christmas themed and to my tastes, a little loud. In total it was a very good meal, a calm meal with few failures and a lot of dishes new to us. I know one complaint about this eatery is that they use culinary themes repeatedly across multiple dishes, and after a few visits it gets to be the same. But as this was our first visit, and a wedding anniversary, I can say I was heartily pleased with the efficient tasty meal we were presented.
Verdict: Good steak house with a number of interesting dishes. Highly recommended.
1630 Cross Pointe Way
Duluth, Ga 30097
Note: perhaps because of Gwinnett County’s large Korean community, there is a menu for this restaurant in Korean on California Dreaming’s web site.
745 Chastain Road
Kennesaw, GA 30144