Military brats follow their enlisted parents to various bases around the world, wherever they're called to serve. A similarly transient existence--only more dizzying-- is afforded their equine-loving kindred spirits: horse-racing brats.
This is a restaurant. That's open to the public. Really.
Sally Steiner is a horse-racing brat. Her dad began riding horses when he was 14, and became a jockey shortly thereafter. After retiring as a rider, he quickly shifted gears to training competitive thoroughbreds. As is the nature of the sport, he went wherever horses were running, never settling in any one place for more than months at a time, and took his family with him. Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Florida, New York, Chicago--all were among Sally's ports of call as she grew up.
Some might be fatigued by such an upbringing, but Sally's infatuation with horses only grew during that whirlwind courtship, and she eventually fell in love with a human too. His name was Joe Steiner, and his family was just as much a restaurant family as Sally's was a thoroughbred family. Joe's late brother, Fred, owned Freddie's Club and Diamond Lil's casinos in Renton. There was also a Freddie's Club in Auburn. It's since been renamed the Iron Horse Casino, but the onsite restaurant is still called Steiner's Diner.
Sally managed the backstretch café at Longacres for the last several years of the woebegone Renton track's existence. When Emerald Downs' owners opened the bidding to own and operate a restaurant onsite at the Auburn track, the Steiners cast their lot--and won.The Steiners' restaurant, located just north of the oval in the general parking area, is called the Quarter Chute Café. Befitting of the backstretch's gloriously diverse population, its menu is a mix between American and Mexican classics, at extremely affordable prices. The "Daily Double"--two syrupy flapjacks, two eggs cooked to order, and two links sausages or bacon (seems more like a boxed trifecta, really)--can be had for $4.25, and pitchers of beer are $7. Every Saturday and Sunday, from 8-9 a.m. (which is like noon to those accustomed to the equine industry's famously long hours), KJR-950's "Win Place Show" broadcasts live from the Quarter Chute's dining room, which is crammed with horse racing paraphernalia, pool tables, and even a teller to take your bets, so you never actually have to leave (during operating hours, anyway).
It doesn't look like it from the outside, but the Quarter Chute is open to the public. You'll have to exchange an ID for a visitor's badge at a security window upon entry, but the willingness to do so will give you an interactive experience unparalleled in pro sports, as top jockeys, trainers, owners, and grooms constantly pass through the Quarter Chute's doors.
In case you were wondering, the horse bug has afflicted the Steiners' offspring as well. Their daughter, Kelli, is an exercise rider for top Emerald trainer Vann Belvoir, and their son, Joey, is an exercise rider for Kentucky Derby favorite Lookin' at Lucky. There's no known cure for this particular affliction, and no one wants there to be either.
Quarter Chute Cafe, 2300 Emerald Downs Drive, 253-288-7888, quarterchutecafe.com AUBURN