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Surrey With A Fox On Top

The Red Fox Room Restaurant

History is the often told by the victor. If these walls could talk, they would be of victory and of a great journey. The original Red Fox was an old inn in Surrey, England in the 16th and 17th centuries. Now on El Cajon Boulevard, a piece of that very inn rests in vigilance over the timeless patrons that talk and sing in these halls. Adjacent to the Lafayette Hotel, the Red Fox Room serves up great steaks and jazz to an eclectic crowd.

Supposedly, the actual wooden walls of the Surrey Inn were transported from England to Santa Monica in 1926 to be a part of Marion Davies beach front mansion. In the fifties, this property turned into a hotel and eventually became dismantled. But the walls were saved and stored and now have their resting place here. If you look around the room, you can sense the age in the wood. The mantle over the fireplace depicts the story of Rebecca and Isaac out of the bible in three different carvings, and bears the date 1642.

Aside from the lustrous tudor paneling the bar is a sight to see. You are greeted at the front door by a stained glass and wily fox. As you enter, daylight shrinks back in fear and you are transported. Taking a moment to adjust your eyes, you have a view through banisters into the dark dining room. There are 9 large booths and impressionistic landscape art on the walls. China plates and gravy urns sit atop the wood panels making the room feel at once country cozy and medieval.

The lounge is taken over by the low top piano bar and the higher cocktail bar. The latter is surrounded by comfy padded barstools. Behind the cognac display is a stained glass wall that portrays colorful bottles and glasses of wine. A nice contrast to the otherwise muted browns and oranges in the room. The hanging wrought work lamps spray soft burnt orange light creating a rustic ambiance. There is a stuffed fox hidden up in a corner among beer steins and glassware that is enjoying refreshment from a martini glass.

Now, I am a big fan of Michelob beer and this is the only bar I have ever seen that has actual, original Michelob on draft. That is a treasure alone. There is one other tap and several bottled selections which are diverse considering the type of establishment. I noticed several wine by the glass offerings and a full bar. The prices are cheap and the pours are more than fair. The bartenders, like the guests, are just fun, and real people. This is definitely more than just a neighborhood tavern, though.

There are 5 seats or so that sit around the piano and share a focus for the musicians. Behind that, you’ll find plenty of dark seating around cocktail tables and banquettes. The music here is always early jazz standards, but done karaoke style. When I first started coming here, Shirley Allen was a whirl at the ivory playing bass organ with her feet at the same time. She is now sadly gone, but well replaced by New Directions. This group seems cornered by the antics of their muted trumpeteer, but the other players will vary on piano or even drums. The vocals are provided by any number of talented regulars that hang out here and call it home. I got to hear “Fly Me To The Moon” and several others on this visit. They play Wednesday through Sunday night and are a treat.

The restaurant is open for both lunch and dinner it is all about the steaks. This is an old school continental style steak house with a few other options. This place is not for vegetarians as there is only one option, sautéed mushrooms. You can get eats here until 1 am on the weekends which can come in real handy.

This is a menagerie of different eras sitting gracefully on top of one another, forming layers of historical significance, with pure musical pleasure. A hit on my list any night of the week.

Details »
  • City: San Diego
  • Phone: 619-297-1313
  • Name: Red Fox Room
  • Address: 2223 El Cajon Boulevard