By Kenneth LaFave
Two miles south of the busy strip of crowded restaurants on Gilbert Road is a quiet, spacious place. Many of the crowded restaurants give people what they think they want. The quiet place gives people what many of them really want: high-class, old-school cooking with a focus on meat entrees.
JC’s Steakhouse is a bit hard to find, slightly east of Gilbert Road at 25 E. Ray Road. The building outside is large but modest-looking. Inside, though, it opens into an inviting ambiance of high ceilings and hardwood, with room enough between tables to ensure comfort and privacy. There is a large dining room, a bar with high-top tables and a smaller dining area called the banquet hall, rentable for special occasions.
Owners Dennis Petty (who also is the chef) and Diana Blewer are there seven days a week, ensuring a hands-on approach to their business. Family is essential to the restaurant: The name combines the first initials of each owner’s father. Petty’s family history is the reason behind JC’s.
“My father, my grandfather and my great-grandfather were all chefs,” Petty said.
After working in restaurants throughout high school, young Dennis left his native Oregon and the restaurant business behind, vowing never to return to either. He was back after only six months. The business was in his blood and could not be denied. Eventually, after decades as a restaurateur in Alaska, he tired of the winters and moved to Gilbert.
With his long history as a chef, the classics are Petty’s passion. If you’re looking for a place that still serves Steak Oscar (top sirloin topped with crab and béarnaise sauce; $29.99), JC’s Steakhouse is that place.
But Petty also adds his personal touches. The menu specialty called Steak Diana ($30.99) is essentially the classic French recipe of Steak Diane, a New York cut with mushrooms in a wine sauce, but with the inspired addition of cracked peppercorns, redolent of another classic, steak au poivre. The result contrasts the snap of the peppercorns with the richness of the sauce.
Beef is far from the only animal protein at JC’s. The pork chops ($19.99), French-cut portions cooked to order, aren’t your grandma’s pork chops. The Alaskan salmon ($25.99) can be had as an entrée or, for lighter fare, atop greens in a salad ($15.99). And speaking of Alaska, Petty discovered reindeer sausage when he lived there, so JC’s menu is probably the only place in Arizona where you can find it ($17.99 as an entrée). Desserts include a traditional favorite that’s not around much anymore: bananas Foster ($6.99).
Petty’s partner in business and in life, Diana Blewer, came to the restaurant business from the corporate world. She met Petty at a restaurant he previously owned and after she learned the skill of bartending, they opened JC’s together in 2015. Ask Blewer for drink suggestions, and she’ll guide you in the right direction, from craft beers to traditional cocktails like the Old Fashioned and the Moscow Mule (or its variation, the Tennessee Mule, with whiskey instead of vodka).
JC’s Steakhouse is open for dinner from 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and 4 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. They recently added lunch hours, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Friday and Saturday nights feature live classic rock.