Chances are, if you’ve been to Downtown San Juan Capistrano, you’ve eaten at Trevor’s at the Tracks—or at least heard about the popular establishment’s food and atmosphere.
Many readers of The Capistrano Dispatch have, enough so that they’ve consistently voted for Trevor’s in the annual Best of San Juan Capistrano People’s Choice Horseshoe Awards in numerous categories—for best restaurant, best vegan spot, best burger, among other honors.
In fact, Trevor’s has earned two distinctions this year: most medals awarded for 2022 (15 in total—eight Golden Horseshoes and seven Silver) and most medals awarded to date (70) since launching the “Best ofs” 16 years ago.
“We’re super grateful for how we’ve been received in town since the very beginning,” founder and owner Trevor Baird says. “We give our all. It’s lovely to see that reciprocated. We’re trying to be the best restaurant.”
Trevor’s at the Tracks opened in 2017 and is literally right by the downtown train station. The restaurant has become a place where people celebrate birthdays or to catch up with friends. Current menu items include Southwest steak Cobb salad with roasted corn and bleu cheese and a Turkish fig and fungi flatbread.
A lot of money and “painstaking trials and tribulations” went into starting Trevor’s, Baird says.
“The bones of this structure are so good, because it’s solid brick and mortar. It didn’t give us any trouble,” Baird says when reflecting on what went into starting the restaurant, which is in a historic former train depot. “It was (trouble) dealing with everything else in a build, dealing with subcontractors and all that stuff, but as soon as we opened, it was game on. Given our location, it’s such a draw.”
Some of the Golden Horseshoe awards that Trevor’s earned this year include Best Menu for Healthy Choices and Best Restaurant for Vegan Options.
“We’re very proud to provide those. It’s a growing population segment,” Baird says. “We’re more and more conscientious about our health these days, and we want to be a steward—more of an advocate, I guess—of healthier eating. Just because you’re out to eat doesn’t mean you have to eat poorly.”
Trevor’s aims to “have fun” with using fruits and vegetables.
“Historically, vegans have been able to eat salads, and that’s kind of it—and french fries,” Baird says. “To have a vegan tikka masala is cool.”
For carnivores, Trevor’s also won gold for Best Burger in 2022 for the fifth time.
“We try to get that burger award every year. It’s a good burger,” Baird says. “We put good stuff on it.”
Trevor’s was also named by readers in 2022 as the Best Family Restaurant. For Best Bar, it took home the Silver Horseshoe.
“We are trying to have something for everyone, which is a real tall claim. If you look at the menu, it’s a varied menu,” Baird says. “If you want the happening bar vibe, that’s there. If you want a more secluded table inside—warm, cozy, by the fireplace—that’s there.”
Joseph Tripi and Jessie Eckhardt earned Silver Horsehoes for Best Chef and Best Bartender, respectively.
“Both of them are terrific in their trade and masters of their trade, and I’m really happy to see them recognized,” Baird says.
Trevor’s also earned a Silver Horseshoe for Best Overall Customer service, its first medal in the category.
“We’re just imperfect people selling food and drink to other imperfect people. You can have a burger, but if that burger takes a half-hour to get to you, if it’s not cooked to your preference, that’s the stuff we have control over,” Baird says. “We try to give good service. That’s really the hardest part of this business, having consistently friendly service.”
“I try to hire people that care. You can train anyone to do most things in life, but you can’t train them to care,” he continues. “Fortunately, we have a lot of good people around here.”
The downtown area in general has become a hub for new popular restaurants. When asked if he feels Trevor’s kick-started that trend, Baird humbly genuflected and says Mayfield and Inn at the Mission San Juan Capistrano also opening make San Juan more of a destination.
“Our timing was good. I wouldn’t take any personal credit for the booming of San Juan,” Baird says. “It was only a matter of time before people really realized (the draw of Downtown San Juan Capistrano). I think Rancho Capistrano Winery started it all off. Redoing the theater started it all off.”
Like other Orange County locals, Baird—who grew up in Laguna Niguel—recalls coming down to San Juan for a movie and a visit to Ruby’s Diner in previous years, “but nothing else.” Times are now different, with crowds of weekend visitors patronizing Trevor’s and other places.
Trevor’s has bounced back from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a temporary closure during the initial days of the outbreak.
“We’ve seen pre-COVID levels of business nonstop. I would say it’s even busier. Looking at this last summer was a good indication,” Baird says. “Now it’s back to life in general. I do feel (the pandemic) has instilled a greater appreciation for things we took for granted previously, such as dining out.”
Baird calls the future bright for the downtown area and his namesake restaurant, specifically mentioning Heritage Barbecue getting Michelin recognition and the upcoming opening of River Street Marketplace around the corner.
“I’m thrilled to be right in the middle of it,” he says. “I’m happy that there’s more competition. Competition is great. I firmly believe that a rising tide lifts all boats, and that’s what’s happening right now.”