Stretching my belt with steak, ribs and fettucini alfredo
THE SANTA CLARA
April 28, 2016
I live pretty modestly. I reside in a small dorm room, buy most of my clothes at Target and my idea of extravagant spending is going to see a movie that isn’t a matinee. I’m a ham and eggs man. So it’s rare that I live the high life.
But last weekend, I ate a ritzy feast at Henry’s World Famous Hi-Life, a San Jose institution since 1960.
Famous for their perfectly-cooked steaks and slow-smoked baby back ribs, Henry’s is located in the heart of San Jose’s Little Italy district, a cozy neighborhood in the center of the city.
Although the food is world-class, the decor at Henry’s Hi-Life is pleasantly understated. The barn-red exterior of the building gives way to a homey, wood-paneled interior, which gives the restaurant the look and feel of a hunting lodge.
You enter through the bar that’s decorated with Bay Area sports memorabilia and neon beer signs. The sounds of Johnny Cash, Ben E. King and Creedence create an old-school rhythm in the time-warp bar, making it feel like a place that should be exempt from no smoking laws.
Henry’s drink menu lists more than a dozen beers, two dozen wines and two dozen whiskeys. Their food menu offers a more streamlined selection of mostly carnivorous plates that all equally enticed. In the end, I managed to narrow it down to a few options.
The 20 oz Porterhouse steak was the showstopper. Skilled chefs cook the meat over a massive open pit grill. My steak was flawlessly executed—complete with grill marks, a deep red center and seasoned only with salt and pepper. It was refreshing to eat a steak untainted by McCormick spice blends, A1 sauce or any other cheap flavor tricks. At Henry’s, they let the meat do the talking, and it told me that it was delicious.
But if eating well over a pound of steak isn’t your thing, Henry’s has plenty of other options—namely their baby back ribs. The ribs have a clean flavor—not over smoked and liberally seasoned with brown sugar, which creates a sweet, caramelized crust. Similarly mouth-watering is the BBQ chicken, which is moist and also rather sweet.
Non-meat options are slim at Henry’s, leaving vegetarians and pescatarians to content themselves with the fettucine alfredo or BBQ salmon. Though the salmon looked flavorful, I went with the fettuccine, to which I added grilled chicken and broccoli florets. Like every other fettucine alfredo I’ve ever had, it was incredibly rich—packed with equal parts cream, butter and cheese. Simply inhaling the dish’s intoxicating aroma probably tacked on 200 calories to my already gluttonous undertaking. Nevertheless, it was divine.
All meals at Henry’s come with a side salad, baked potato and garlic bread. The salad isn’t worth crossing the street for, but the baked potato and garlic bread are revelatory.
The potato comes topped with herb butter, green onions and a liberal dollop of sour cream. The garlic bread comes soaked in butter and is accompanied by Henry’s signature red sauce, a warm and comforting concoction that tastes like a cross between tomato soup and BBQ sauce. Universes collided when I boldly topped my potato with the red sauce, and I’ve been dreaming about it ever since.
As I waddled out of Henry’s, proudly stroking the curvature of my gut, I savored the satisfaction of having lived the high life. It’s not often a guy like me gets the opportunity to eat royally.
But at Henry’s World Famous Hi-Life, you don’t have to be a king to eat like one. All you need is an appetite.
Contact Jimmy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.