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Our Valley: Fine dining at Vincent Hill

Posted: February 14, 2009 12:14 a.m.
Updated: February 14, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Vintage railroad cars decorate Vincent Hill Restaurant and Saloon in Acton.

 

Editor's note: Our Valley is a weekly feature about interesting or quirky people, place or things in and near the Santa Clarita Valley. Send story ideas to vlovato@the-signal.com. Above, Jose Paz Perez works in the press room as The Signal celebrates its 90th birthday for the Feb. 7 edition of Our Valley. For the story and others in the series, visit www.the-signal.com

You wouldn't know it when you zip by it at 60 mph on Sierra Highway, but Vincent Hill Station is the closest thing to fine dining you'll find in Acton, according to the restaurant's owner.

"People come in here and say ‘I had no idea y'all were here,'" said Laura Ferguson, Vincent Hill Station bartender.

Vincent Hill Station serves up steaks, seafood, salads, pastas and duck, all with an accent of French influence.

"The French influence comes through in our preparation and our sauces," owner Brady Watt said.

"We have an eclectic menu ranging from escargot to duck and lobster," Watt said.

Watt's a contractor turned restaurateur who bumped into a quirky piece of real estate in 1984.

"They sold antiques-slash-junk," Watt said of the former lessee.

Watt did some research when he purchased the quirky antique shop wedged between Highway 14 and Sierra Highway.

"This was a cafe in the 1940s and 50s," he said. Watt used pictures to restore the front of Vincent Hill Station to what the cafe's former grandeur, he said.

The restaurant screams railroad chic from the age when rail travel was as glamorous as luxury cruises.

Watt adorned the interior with chandeliers and staples of the railroad age. Watt looked into the area's past when naming his restaurant.

"This area was settled by an old homesteader named Vincent. The name is used on some of the maps of California," Watt said.

Vincent Grade is the name of the Metrolink station close to the restaurant. The name harkens back to the day of Southern Pacific Railroad, Watt said.

"This is the highest point for the rail line between Antelope Valley and Los Angeles," Watt said pointing to restaurant's front entrance where the sign reads 3,235 feet. During the days of the steam locomotive, Southern Pacific used an extra engine to move freight to the top of the grade. Once the train reached the summit, engineers disconnected the locomotive for the downhill ride to Los Angeles, Watt said. The bar in Vincent Hill Station is named Top of the Grade, Watt said.

The railroad theme reverberates across the Vincent Hill Station property.

Old Southern Pacific Railroad cabooses line the back of the property. Watt bought obsolete Southern Pacific cabooses at auction for between $4,000 and $8,000. Model trains adorn the inside of the restaurant, and Watt laid down a rail line in the front to add to the railroad aesthetic, he said.

Watt married his wife, Sarah Watt, nine years ago. She made an immediate impact on the business. Sarah spiced up the menu by rotating in seasonal dishes and adding weekly specials.

Diners can eat seasonal seafood such as mussels and clams during the summer months with heartier and heavier fare available in the winter.

"I can find a recipe and Carlos (the head chief) can make it his own," he said.

Chef Carlos Velasquez, works in sauces like painters work in water colors or oils.

"We take something simple like steak and add sauces to give it a unique flavor," Velasquez said.

" ... I believe we sell the best chops in the country," Watt said.

Velasquez adds peppercorn sauce and cognac sauce to make mouth-watering steaks memorable, he said.

Acton's growth corresponds with the restaurant's growth.

Vincent Hill Station expanded shortly after opening. An outdoor patio fills up on Sundays for open mic, he said. Word of mouth more than advertising accounts for the restaurant's success.

"We are a pleasant surprise," Watt said. "It was my dream to open a restaurant and we're still here 24 years later."

Vincent Hill Station is open Monday through Friday from 3:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Reservations are suggested.

For more information call (661) 272-4799.

 

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