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The Gambling Cowboy – A gourmet chophouse


Last updated 11/12/2016 at Noon

The "Blueberry BBQ Short Rib" is a multi-faceted delight drenched in a delicious Blueberry BBQ Jalapeno Glaze. Nathalie Taylor photos (The "Blueberry BBQ Short Rib" is a multi-faceted delight drenched in a delicious Blueberry BBQ Jalapeno Glaze.)

The Old West was never like this!

Fresh Scottish salmon – at a chophouse? Yes! This restaurant not only shines at steaks, but at seafood, and everything else I tasted.

The Ehmcke family – Bill, Nitza and Rene – invite guests to participate in their dream – the dream that was a “gamble” seven and a half years ago when they first opened The Gambling Cowboy, Chophouse and Saloon, located in Old Town Temecula.

The décor has a western flair with Tiffany-style lamps complete with beaded fringe – something familiar from old TV westerns. Fringed tablecloths, high beamed ceilings and a saloon-style bar add to the western ambiance.

Appetizers at the establishment are inventive and delicious. The jumbo Bacon Wrapped Scallops I sampled were golden and tender. The smoky robust flavor of the bacon was the perfect complement to the mild scallops. A creative brie and chive cream sauce, swimming with delicate snips of chive, flavored the scallops delicately. I was surprised to get such an excellent seafood appetizer at a steakhouse.

Embrace your inner cowboy with a selection from the dinner menu. The Gambling Cowboy offers a variety of beef entrées – filet mignon, prime top sirloin, rib-eye, prime rib…and for real country flavor try the Country Fried Steak, which is slathered with homemade sausage sage gravy.

On the dinner menu, the Blueberry BBQ Short Rib caught my eye. When the server placed the dish in front of me, he said with a smile, “You won’t need the steak knife.” I actually thought I might need it because the entrée was one…huge…short rib! I have eaten many short ribs in my life, prepared various ways, but this was one of the largest and best I have tasted. This boneless short rib was a multi-faceted delight, braised and drenched in blueberry barbeque jalapeno glaze, dotted with whole blueberries and blackberries. The jalapeno was not too hot, just sweet and flavorful. It enhanced the meaty flavor of the short rib. It was “fall-apart-tender,” and I didn’t need the steak knife – just as the server predicted.

An outstanding roasted corn and gorgonzola risotto was served with the short rib. The gorgonzola had a mild taste, as opposed to others I have tried, which were more pungent.

St. Louis-style Whiskey BBQ Pork Ribs in bourbon brown sugar BBQ sauce – sounds amazing doesn’t it? I didn’t get a chance to sample this, but I am compelled to return for a taste. My husband was based in St. Louis, so I spent a great deal of time sampling that special style of ribs. Those delicious memories linger – I can’t wait to try their version!

The Gambling Cowboy is a family affair with Nitza handling the books, as well as the restaurant’s décor, and her daughter, Rene, running the operation. Rene also creates the menu and works with Chef Robert Gaffney developing recipes. “He sees my vision, and it is so appreciated.”

Rene was in the restaurant business for twenty-five years before her father took a gamble on her idea and they opened The Gambling Cowboy. Why was it a gamble? Because when they purchased the establishment it was a good time to buy a restaurant, but not necessarily a good time to operate one.

Starters at the "The Gambling Cowboy" are inventive and delicious. Tender "Bacon Wrapped Scallops" are served with a creative brie and chive cream sauce. (Starters at the "The Gambling Cowboy" are inventive and delicious. Tender "Bacon Wrapped Scallops" are served with a creative brie and chive cream sauce.)

Mr. Penfold, the previous owner of the restaurant, (which was then called Penfold’s), was a great help to the Ehmcke family. Rene complimented him, “He was very pivotal in what we do here. He made sure that we were successful; and he gave us pointers. He had a lot of faith in us and was a great mentor.”

Why does Rene continue in a business that rewards her with long hours and hard work? “It is about the feeling of feeding someone a good meal – it’s not about the money – it is a different kind of payoff,” she said.

Join me in experiencing the variety of luscious tastes available to diners at the Gambling Cowboy. It’s more than just a “chophouse.” It’s a “gourmet chophouse.” They even serve herb-roasted artichokes, calamari…and…oysters on the half shell. The “Old West” was never like this!

The Gambling Cowboy is located at 42072 5th St. in Temecula, Calif. Call (951) 699-2895 for large party reservations and general inquiries. For further information access the website at:


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