When Frank Machado opened the Elegant Bull restaurant in Delhi on December 28, 1989 the plan was simple: He would cook, his wife Karen would waitress, and together they would do the dishes.
“That first night Frank came running to the front of the house to see why I wasn’t putting in any orders,” recalled Karen. “We were so busy I hadn’t had time to get back to the kitchen.”
The next week they put an advertisement in the local newspaper for restaurant staff.
Maybe Machado should have known better after 25 years in the Bay Area restaurant industry, but the Elegant Bull was supposed to be his first step into retirement. Well, technically his second. Originally from Hilmar, Machado initially planned to return to the area for at least one year to reconnect with family.
“I was going to retire and sit around. I bought cattle, pigs, everything,” said Machado. “I thought I was Noah stocking the ark.”
However keeping livestock proved mundane for Machado, so when a little restaurant went up for sale in Delhi he jumped on it.
After a long career in the restaurant industry — his first place was a pizza parlor in Santa Clara which he left upon its success for the fine dining industry — the Elegant Bull allowed Machado to once again tap into his culinary expertise. Though never attended culinary school, Machado instead learned by hand in the kitchen amongst a handful of Bay Area chefs.
“I don’t think much of culinary school, really,” said Machado. “It’s fine, but teaching day by day can’t compare to the pace of a real kitchen.”
Machado likened cooking in a restaurant to a mother cooking dinner for her family — all of the food must be ready at the same time. Except there aren’t three or four kids at the kitchen table, there’s a house full of people.
While some said it was crazy for the Bay Area restaurateur to open up a place in Delhi, the Machado’s are proud to still serve some of their original customers.
“We’ve made a home for ourselves,” said Machado.
Today, Machado may be ‘of a certain age’ but he can still be found perched on his chair in the kitchen flipping steaks.
The menu at the Elegant Bull boasts surplus sized pork chops as well as racks of lamb, steaks, ocean fresh fish, pastas, and even some of what Machado calls the “exotic stuff” like octopus and escargot. Plus, it’s also the only restaurant around that serves soup and salad with every meal according to the couple.
This December will mark the 26th year of the Elegant Bull, meaning unlike many small businesses, it weathered the Great Recession of 2008.
“We did alright. We paid our bills,” said Machado. “We managed.”
Today it seems Machado is still in a period of ‘managing’ as he has listed the restaurant on the market, though he has yet to find a buyer. He’s met qualified chefs, but there’s yet to be one that meets the character of the restaurant and is willing to take on the job.
The Elegant Bull is a unique place, tucked off the South Street exit on Highway 99. For those that don’t have the time to dine in either in the formal dining room or bar, to-go orders are available from the takeout menu that exhibits the restaurant’s family environment: “Thank you from Frank and Karen Machado” it states.
While those words may in time be replaced or erased once the restaurant is sold, in the meantime Machado himself can still be found chatting with guests and cooking their dinner — still keeping busy in his ‘retirement.’