Frank Machado knows what it takes to run a good restaurant. Start with quality that can be tasted in every dish and welcome every patron that walks through the door.
But a very good restaurant has something more.
“When you come to Elegant Bull, you get a tablecloth,” says Machado, who opened the deli restaurant on New Year’s Eve 1989. There are carpets on the floor, and those who serve you wear ties.
Attention to detail makes The Stylish Bull stand out, and compelled panelist Adam Gray to honor it as the 2022 Small Business of the Year. Gray introduced Machado, his wife Karen and their staff at the restaurant on September 15.
“The place is the same,” Gray said. “So does Frank. No visit to Elegant Bull would be complete without shooting the bull at Frank’s. But the food!”
Some of the dishes — steak de Lisboa, linguica and morsella — reflect Machado’s Portuguese heritage. But most are fine-dining classics like filet mignon, prime rib, lamb, and chicken prepared three different ways. And the ribs are unforgettable.
The Elegant Bull has been praised by Tulloch’s Journal, Merced County Times and other readers. Hundreds of online reviews offer thousands of gold stars.
Machado also credits his staff, including a son and daughter who work behind the scenes and wait staff, along with several members who have been at Elegant Bull for a decade or more. At the age of 92, he works at the restaurant every day.
“First, you try to treat your clients the way you want to be treated,” Machado said. “If they are not treated well, it will be difficult for them to treat that customer well. The second thing is quality.
And the secret ingredient? His wife is Karen.
“You have to have love and beauty and you have to have strength, that’s what it takes,” Machado said. “She has all three.”
Karen is a proud cancer survivor, and her journey continues to inspire. And it was Karen who first saw the potential in the small building south of Delhi. Frank was thinking of a place for breakfast; Karen tells him it could be something more.
As she puts it: Frank offers the bull; She brings beauty.
But why start a fine dining restaurant in a hard-working town of 12,000?
“You’re only the 10,046th person to ask that question,” said Machado, who grew up in Hilmar and now lives in Stevenson. “You’re on Highway 99. Millions of people pass by your restaurant every day. I love the small, conservative town of Hilmar, and Hilmar has a highway. But only thousands of people pass by, perhaps every day. You’re on Highway 99 – How do you get lost?
When Machado returned from the Navy in the 1950s, a cousin helped him get a job in Santa Clara. Soon after, a pizza parlor opened a nicer place, then another nicer one.
When he opened a berry farm in Santa Clara, beauty and atmosphere were his trademarks.
“Silicon Valley started in my restaurant,” he says, describing how his customers huddled around the table dreaming of the information revolution.
Assemblyman Gray said something else: “Don’t ask Frank what he thinks unless you really want to know.”
“I don’t do Republicans; I don’t do Democrats,” said Machado, the son of Azorean immigrants. “I’m a patriot. I want to do what’s best for America. Sometimes, Republicans and Democrats, they fight each other like America doesn’t make sense. And that’s wrong, no matter how hard times are.” .
It’s small businesses like Elegant Bull that help every Valley community in times of need, Gray said.
“What makes small businesses so important is that the people who run them know what can be done and what needs to be done. People like Frank who have been successful for decades believe in themselves, believe in their employees, and believe in their community. They don’t mind sharing their success, they don’t mind helping when asked. They do it every day.
— Assemblyman Adam C. Gray represents the 21st Assembly District, which includes all of Merced County and parts of Stanislaus County.