By Kelley CarlsonPerhaps it’s due to the dim lights, big red leather booths and tables draped in white cloth in the main dining room. Or maybe it’s guests in seats that intimately surround the piano in the lounge, as tunes ranging from Sinatra standards to pop music are played live five evenings a week.
“You won’t find anything else like this here,” owner Tracy Tracton said. “We’re unique to the area.”
The family-owned and operated Red Tracton’s was originally established in the Los Angeles area in the 1960s. First located on La Cienega, it was near the Forum and Hollywood Park, which were at the peak of popularity.
“It (Red’s) was a sportsman’s hangout back in the day,” Tracton said.
After about 35 years, friends of Red — Tracy’s father — persuaded him to relocate across the street from the Del Mar racetrack, and the restaurant opened during the 1988 racing season.
“He almost had a built-in clientele,” Tracton said. Many of the customers were horse owners, trainers and jockeys, and a number of them continue to dine at Red’s today. Subsequently, much of the decor is influenced by the establishment’s “regulars” and location — there are racehorses etched in glass; jockey statues; winner’s circle photos, including some of Del Mar Futurity victor Icecoldbeeratreds, named in honor of Red; and silks from Sid and Jenny Craig’s Epsom Derby winner, Dr. Devious. And naturally, the TVs found in the bar and in the Triple Crown Room (used for private functions) are often tuned in to horse racing telecasts or other sporting events.
Patrons will find an array of meats, seafoods and salads on the menu. First-timers who love meat can’t go wrong with a full bone cut of prime rib, along with a gigantic baked potato and a Green Goddess Salad, Tracton said.
Tracton emphasized that shrimp can be served several ways — blackened, golden fried or scampi style.
And while there isn’t a children’s menu, Red Tracton’s is kid-friendly, she said. Entrees for the younger crowd include chicken fingers, hamburgers and barbecue ribs. “Kids love this place,” Tracton said. “They grow up here, then they bring them (their kids) here.”
Happy hour and late-night bar menus are available, featuring items such as prime-rib sliders, onion rings and a Buffalo Chicken sandwich.
Also, Sunday brunch is offered during football season only, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
According to Tracton, the establishment is busiest during Del Mar’s summer racing season, weekends and holidays. The restaurant’s quieter periods are in the spring and October.
She also emphasized that because the main dining room is fine dining, long pants are required on males. However, the lounge/piano bar and the Starlight Terrace are more laid-back. “We’ve kept an old-school ambience and customer service, along with great quality food and large portions,” Tracton said.
Red Tracton’s• Address: 550 Via de la Valle, Solana Beach
• The Vibe: Elegant, business casual
• Signature Dish: Our Famous ‘Prime’ Rib
• Open Since: 1988
• Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
redtractonssteakhouse.com• Phone: (858) 755-6600
• Reservations: Recommended
• Patio Seating: Yes
• Take Out: Yes
• Happy Hour: 3-6 p.m. daily
On The Menu RecipeEach week you’ll find a recipe from the featured restaurant online at lajollalight.com. Just click Get The Recipe at the bottom of the story.
This week: Red Tracton’s Blackened Fish