Wednesday, January 11, 2006

More Fun Than A Barrel Of (Exiled) Monkeys: Damon's, Glendale

Speaking of paradise, I think I need a drink.

The other day, I escaped the office for less than an hour, my destination some pseudo-paradise otherwise known as
Shakas in Monterey Park. And yeah, it was nothing to write home about, but it nevertheless managed to satisfy some serious cravings for both Spam and seeing the sun. It's certainly no Hawaii, though.

Hey, but if it's a fake Polynesian paradise you're longing for, why not go for the real deal? And no, by real deal I don't mean a REAL Polynesian island; I mean real-deal fake Polynesia. For that, my friends, you go to Damon's Steakhouse in Glendale where you can dine on steak and mai tais under cheesy thatched roofs and fake palm trees.

Like so many other places without windows that I know so well--the office, the
Cuban place I went to in Little Tokyo just a little bit ago--Damon's also has no windows. But because Damon's might as well be some dark, secret-handshake Tiki lair, the whole no windows thing actually works. Walk through either the single front or back door and you're suddenly transported to one of those old school theme restaurants in the likes of Trader Vic's or San Francisco's Tonga Room; one of those places that Jet Setters or wanna-be Jet Setters could feel like they were actually jet setting. It's also a little reminiscent of Vegas with its colorful, old carpeting and eccentric but friendly waitstaff whose median age is somewhere around 65. Come to think of it, much of the clientele here is of retirement age.

There's so much Polynesian kitsch here that you have no choice but to get into it. One does not simply sit in a booth at Damon's; one sits in a bamboo hut. One does not simply go to the ladies or mens room here; one goes to WC's whose doors are marked appropriately with either a hula girl or hula guy and the words "wahine" or "kane" on them. I have not been to Damon's in probably, oh, three years or so, and was saddened on this recent visit to find out that the so-tacky-they-were-cool stuffed monkeys they had hanging from the ceiling had since been removed, deemed "too old and dirty" by the restaurant's new owners. "Eww, that's no fun," I whined to our server after she had told us of the monkeys' fate. "Yeah, well that's what we thought too when they took them away, but fortunately, they've pretty much kept everything else the same," she replied. Hmm, we'll see about that.

"Those assholes kicked us out!"

You can't go to a place like Damon's and not have one of their tropical drinks like a mai tai or a chi chi. And in this case, our server was right about things staying the same despite change in ownership, because my mai tai was as strong as I remember it. OK, so perhaps I'm a bit more of a lightweight now, which explains why I was extremely happy even after one of these yummy, pineappley and citrusy rum concoctions.

Oh my! What a good mai-tai!

And which is probably why I didn't mind that the petit fillet I ordered was just OK. I seem to remember the same menu item being of a better quality beef the last few times I've been to Damon's. Either that, or the hunk of beef that was sitting on my plate was cooked medium instead of the medium-rare that I'd asked for. I think it may have been a combination of both that caused my fillet to be a teeny bit dry and overdone in some spots. Oh well, what do you expect for 19 bucks, right? Certainly not the prime, prime stuff. And it's nothing a few more sips of mai tai can't cure.

Like a sponge: mai-tai absorbing petit fillet and potato

For 19 bucks, you also get a choice of salad or soup, and a choice of twice baked potato, rice or some other choice I can't remember...veggies, I think. I always go for the salad--one of lettuce, beets, and French dressing--which is served in individual clear plastic salad bowls; it's old school, but nevertheless refreshing...a little tangy and a little sweet. For my starch choice, I usually pick the twice baked potato, an Atkins-dieter's worst enemy consisting of fluffy mashed potato stuffed back inside its earthy skin and baked. The other starch choice, the rice pilaf, is a buttery version of Uncle Bens in my opinion, but whose purpose, like the potato, is more than just to taste good, but also to soak up the excess rum that's been consumed since arrival. (And that's exactly also why no one ever picks the vegetables--no alcohol absorption factor!)

Cool salad in a cool bowl

There are other old schoolish steak and chop-type of dishes here: prime rib, other cuts of steak, chicken and fish, all served with the same types of mai tai-absorbing sides. Like the meal I had here that night, the rest of Damon's menu items not haute cuisine by any means; in fact, they're the type of meals that you'd probably see retirees eating as Early Bird Specials. To me, Damon's is all about the cheese factor, and except for the fact that those monkeys were exiled, I suppose the new owners managed to keep the Damon's experience intact. Whether you're a jet-setter or a retiree, everyone comes here to have a good time...with mai tais and chi chis and steaks and fake palm trees and all (but no monkeys)...right here in downtown Glendale.

Damon's Steakhouse
317 N. Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91203
(818) 507-1510


eatdrinknbmerry said...

Looks like fancy Island's. Did they servers wear any polynesian flair like in Office Space?

elmomonster said...

No monkeys!? Oh well, there're no monkeys in Disney's Tiki Room either...and it's still trippy.

I like the prose in this review. Flows so naturally. Kudos to you even if there weren't any monkeys.

Daily Gluttony said...


Whereas Islands is chain-restaurant cheese, Damon's cheesiness is actually kinda cool! It's been around for like 40 years so the servers are all old, ornery "call you honey" types--no blonde, bubbly actress types here.


Thanks! Wow, I forgot about the tiki, tiki, tiki room! Yup, that's right there along w/ Damon's too!

Mike said...

I've been curious about Damon's for years, spying it as I slink into Porto's. Do they ever offer up cheesy live music like the Tonga Room?

Kirk said...

Pam - I think Cheesy real-fake(or is it fake real) Polynesian Mai Tai Umbrella Drink type places are getting popular again! BTW that Petit Filet, looked really "petit" - was it a size '0'? Faux-lynesian bothers some of my friends back home, but so long they don't do a Ham Steak with a pineapple on top and say it's Hawaiian Food I'm ok....

Daily Gluttony said...


Yeah, and because of the whole "no windows" factor, it's hard to get a peek inside! Well I hope my post took some of the mystery factor out.


Everything ends up coming back into fashion at one time or another, eh? The petit fillet was about the size of my fist, which was totally enough for a gal my size, though some people with bigger appetites may have argued otherwise.

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Do you think fanny packs will ever be in fashion? If so, i'm wearing it next 'thursday' haha.

Daily Gluttony said...


Oh, hell yeah! And even if it's not, wear it, 'cause it's the only way I'll be able to ID you guys! =)

eatdrinknbmerry said...

haha me and BoLa wearing fanny packs that say "i Heart food" - we don't wanna steal all the attention away.

Passionate Eater said...

They should've just washed their funky monkeys, instead of junking those mo's.

I know what you mean about "Polynesian kitsch," places like that mutilate Hawaiian culture for commercial purposes. But ... I "do" like their cool looking drinks with the umbrellas and coconuts. I guess I am a closet fan, just like how I eat at my neighborhood P.F. Chang's--when no one is looking of course.

Daily Gluttony said...


Agree about the monkeys...poor things! Like I said to Dylan earlier, the Polynesian kitsch works in this place 'cause it's so old school, but I do hate it when places like Islands do it! Then it's totally tacky!

Anonymous said...

If You haven't been to Damon's Steakhouse in Glendale; Go immediately and Sit at the Bar. Drink 2 Mai Tais and I Gurantee you won't be able to drive for a few hours......I Guarantee it.

Billy Duehanne

iggy-reilly said...

Damon's is an institution... did not know it changed hands... thanks for the reminder to patronize the joint...

Anonymous said...

Damon's is the best place in so cal

Mellie Helen said...

I remember going to Damon's even back in its OLD location on Central Ave. (before the Glendale Galleria was built in '76). Oh, I'm sorry to hear of the demise of the dusty monkeys! But I will always have fond memories of Damons. If/when I ever make it back to my hometown, I will be sure to visit Damons. Do they still toss the salad and spin the bowl at tableside? And I just adore the polynesian kitsch factor!!

Anonymous said...

Damon's is awesome....Great steaks..and check this youtube video

Anonymous said...

Damons opened in 1936 over on Central Ave.Been going there since i was 3 yrs. old I am now 63. mem

Shelley said...

Damons is my favorite place hands down. Five chi chis, one prime rib or ribeye with that blue cheese peppercorn sauce, house salad and twice baked potato please.

I wonder if I can convince my husband that I need a night out?