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Classic Hits: Fit for a Cowboy

Casa Orinda’s venerable menu is still drawing crowds.


Yelp, Amy W.

When I reviewed Casa Orinda 20 years ago, the four-piece fried chicken plate was $12.95—up from $2.95 when it opened in 1932. Today, that lightning-hot chicken registers at $22.95 and is still worth it, served aside whipped potatoes, a lightly crisped and creamy biscuit, and a mishmash of garlicky, buttery veggies.

That chicken reigns supreme, but the oversize menu draws crowds with its roundup of steak and veal dishes. By 5:15 p.m. on Saturday (it’s open until 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday; Sunday until 10 p.m.), the bar and its lodge-like lounge—complete with moose head-mounted fireplace—was full, while dining rooms two and three, with their cowboy and Native American motifs, were nearly so. While the kitchen gives in to specials of kale and beet salads (the latter was a good save for an oily dressing), the forgotten classics are best.

Casa’s ice-cold bay shrimp cocktail with a crisp upright romaine leaf was firm and sweet, while veal sweetbreads—a sublime cut that’s all but disappeared from menus—was mushroom-rich.

The service is homey and my slightly dry chicken breast (the moist thigh and leg had filled me up) was whisked into a to-go box. Which brings me to my main complaint: What ever happened to doggy bags? 20 Bryant Way, Orinda, (925) 254-2981, casaorinda.net. Dinner daily.