George and Ellen Kosmas have been serving the city of Turlock and the surrounding communities for more than 26 years when they created Edith’s Bakery, and their entrepreneurial endeavors within the restaurant industry expanded when they opened Crust & Crumb in 2016.
The business was booming up until the COVID-19 pandemic. Like most other restaurants and small businesses, they were unsure of their future. Despite the economic struggles, the pandemic also served as a unique opportunity to begin offering new menu items, one of them being a staple of Turlock history.
“We’re serving Red Steer sandwiches,” George said. “The real ones.”
The Red Steer restaurant was founded in 1968 by Stan and Ray Maggard. In 2009, the original building on Golden State Boulevard burned down as a result of arson. But in the midst of the 2020 pandemic, many community members began reflecting on the history of Turlock, including their love for the Red Steer sandwiches.
“Many people were bringing up Red Steer, and some of our older customers were saying how they wish someone would try to bring the food back in some way,” said Ellen. “And once people heard that customers were pitching the idea to us, we had people come in and try to give us recipes saying that they were the same ones from the original Red Steer.”
It wasn’t until Stan Maggard visited Crust & Crumb that the idea finally turned into a reality.
“Stan and George ran into each other outside and spoke for a long time, and he just ‘Let’s do it,’” Ellen explained.
With the blessing of the Maggard family, Crust & Crumb were given the green light to use the Red Steer branding. While there was plenty of excitement amongst customers, there were still issues that needed to be addressed.
“When the Red Steer menu was introduced, it was not ideal that we couldn’t welcome anybody into the restaurant to sit down and experience the food like they did back in the day,” George explained.
Ellen added the fact that there were no ways for people to watch the meat be sliced in front of them, which was a unique draw to the original restaurant. Not only did COVID-19 restrictions not allow for it to happen, but there wasn’t enough space for it to be possible. She explained that luck was on their side when it came to space becoming available as John and Sharon Jaureguy of Jaureguy’s Paint & Décor vacated the space next door.
“We needed more space, but it was not an easy decision, especially since this was in the middle of COVID,” Ellen said. “I mean, how could we buy more space when we didn’t even know if we could keep our main restaurant? We ended up doing it, but we had our doubts.”
The gamble proved to pay off, as the space has been filled with customers enjoying the original Red Steer menu ever since. Nevertheless, customers believed that there was still something missing.
“We did our best to follow the recipes, but people said that it wasn’t quite the same,” Ellen said. “That’s when we reached out to Raul.”
The Raul that Ellen referred to is Raul Miranda, who was the last head chef of the Red Steer back in 2009.
“The people coming in kept telling us about Raul, and at first, we didn’t know who Raul was,” Ellen joked.
Prior to the fire, he was a member of the Red Steer staff for more than 19 years. After the building was destroyed, Miranda tried his best to salvage it, but ultimately came up short.
“I tried to save it for around three years, but I ended up digging myself a pretty deep hole,” Miranda said.
Miranda then had to bounce around jobs, working at places like Olive Garden, Texas Roadhouse and 234 Bistro before serving as the pitmaster at Big Vic's BBQ. It was then that George eventually got ahold of Miranda’s number and gave him a call, which eventually led to them coming together in an all-important meeting.
“They sat me down and talked to me a little bit. They showed me their recipes and I had to change it all,” Miranda said. “I told George, ‘If you're going to do Red Steer, it has to be Red Steer. It can't be a knock off. It has to be the real thing or else it's never going to work.”
With his love for Red Steer still in his heart, Miranda officially decided to leave his position at Vic’s and join the team at Crust & Crumb. Since that moment, Miranda has seen his hard work and sacrifice pay off.
“There are third or fourth generations of families that I've been serving for two to three decades,” Miranda said. “I had one guy come in here a while back and told me he started tearing up because I served him his first Red Steer sandwich and he was like 11. It’s things like that that keep me wanting to come back. You don't get that kind of relationship at many other places.”
Ellen shared similar sentiments, expressing fulfillment with the fact that the hard work they put in to mirror the original sandwiches is finally paying off.
“At first, it was like, if it’s not one thing it’s another. Now, we can say with confidence that this is as close as it’s ever going to be as the original thing,” she said.
“It’s been great to see the community line up to try the sandwiches,” George added. “There’s a long legacy that comes with Red Steer and we’re happy to keep it alive.”