Consistency. That’s the key to Ian McPhee’s culinary success in Templeton, California. The chef/proprietor of McPhee’s, which has been a popular bar and grill in California’s central coast for fifteen years, believes consistency is vital. And that applies not only to the food but to his staff, many of whom have been around for over a decade.
McPhee’s looks pretty nondescript on the outside, but once you enter you notice it’s surprising capacity: it holds about 150 patrons. The main dining room is attractive with fine wood paneling, lighted by well placed sconces along the wall. The tables are set with floral oilcloth with lazy circling ceiling fans above.
Don’t miss the bar, even if you’re not planning on imbibing.
The solid wood bar top is a true antique, dating back to the 1800’s, while the building itself is the oldest in Templeton.
McPhee’s has an open kitchen where you can watch the staff, including Ian’s son, Max, prepare the grilled specialties and other menu delights.
The entire McPhee family, in fact, works in some capacity with the restaurant. Wife, June, is responsible for the décor as well as having created the crème brulee. Daughters Abby and Holly have served as managers, while Ian creates the oft changing menu despite his lack of formal culinary training.
The food is a fun blend of traditional steaks and chops along with a smattering of highly creative concoctions, such as the complimentary spiced relish plate consisting of cumin carrots, crushed peppers, roasted onions soaked with golden raisins and marinated pepperoncini. Wowee!
If that’s not enough to get you started there’s a wonderful Spicy Seared Rare Ahi Tuna with wasabi crème fraiche and caviar ($9.95). The caviar is soaked in a wasabi bath, which is served with the tuna over a crunchy three-cabbage slaw tossed with cilantro, ginger and soy. Another specialty: Kung Fu Baby Back Ribs ($13.95), cooked in an open pit of whole oak logs over charcoal. The sauce? Sorry, it’s Ian’s secret, although I was able to get one ingredient out of him: star anise.
Meat eaters will relish the 13-oz Oak Grilled Rib Eye ($39) with three salsas, a goat cheese stuffed poblano chile and jalapeno cheese mashed potatoes. The steak is thick and tender, cooked to perfection after six weeks of wet aging. I’m not usually a fan of red meat, but I couldn’t stop “tasting” this savory dish.
There are specials every evening. The night we were there we were lucky to sample the Seared Mano de Leon Scallops ($23) with tender fingerling potatoes, Applewood Bacon from a local rancher, and a summer succotash featuring seasonal corn, edamame and tomatoes. The large scallops, topped with a remoulade, are perfect…no fishy flavor.
Ready for dessert? Yes, that was a rhetorical question. If you’re a chocoholic, no question what you’ll order: the Chocolate Decadence Cake ($7.95), a flourless bittersweet cake with a caramel lime sauce. Caramel lime, you question? So did I, but friends, trust me….it works!
Other selections, also at $7.95, include a hot fudge sundae with toasted Macadamias, white chocolate cheesecake and June’s famous crème brulee.
And for those not sure whether or not to indulge, as Ian states clearly on the dessert menu: “One Time Won’t Matter.”
416 S. Main Street
Templeton, CA 93465
Published on Dec 31, 1969