Frank Machado knows what it takes to run a good restaurant. Start with the quality you can taste in every dish, then make every customer feel right at home as soon as they walk in the door.
But a great restaurant with a few extras.
“When you come to the elegant bull, you get a tablecloth,” said Machado, who opened the restaurant in Delhi on New Year’s Eve 1989. “You’ll get linen napkins. There’s rugs on the floor, and the people serving you all wear ties.”
This attention to detail sets the elegant bull apart and has forced Assemblyman Adam Gray to name it the 2022 Small Business of the Year. Gray introduced Machado, his wife Karen and their staff on September 9. 15 in the restaurant.
“This place is unique,” Gray said. “Frank too. Going to a classy bull is not complete without shooting the bull with Frank. But the food!”
Some dishes – Lisboa steak, linguica and morcella – reflect Machado’s Portuguese heritage. But most are refined gourmet classics like filet mignon, prime rib, lamb chops and chicken, cooked in three different ways. Ribs are unforgettable.
The elegant bull was celebrated by readers of Turlock Magazine, the Merced County Times and others. Hundreds of online reviews provide thousands of gold stars.
Machado credits his staff, including a pair of sons and daughters who work behind the scenes, and a wait staff, several of whom have worked at Elegant Bull for a decade or more. The 92-year-old works in the restaurant every day.
“First, you try to treat your help the way you want your clients to be treated,” Machado said. “If they’re not treated well, they’re going to have a hard time treating that customer well. Second is quality.”
And a secret recipe? That’s Karen, his wife.
“You have to have love and beauty, you have to have power, and that’s what it takes,” Machado said. “She has all three.”
Karen is a proud cancer survivor whose journey continues to be inspiring. It was Karen who first saw the potential of this small building in South Derry. Frank wants to find a breakfast spot. Karen insists it could be something more.
If she said: Frank provided the bull; she brought grace.
But why open a fancy restaurant in a hardworking town of 12,000 people?
“You’re only the 10,046th person to ask this question,” said Machado, who grew up in Hilmar and now lives in Stevenson. “You are on Highway 99; millions of people pass by your restaurant every day. I love my conservative town Hilma, and Hilma also has a highway. But maybe there are only thousands of people every day Pass it. You’re on Route 99 – how can you lose?”
After Machado returned from the Navy in the 1950s, a cousin helped him find a job in Santa Clara. Soon, he opened a pizzeria, then a better place, then another better place.
Elegance and ambience were his hallmarks when he opened his berry farm in Santa Clara.
“Silicon Valley started in my restaurant,” he said, describing how customers crowded around tables dreaming of an information revolution.
Councilman Gray pointed out another thing: “Don’t ask Frank what he thinks unless you really want to know.”
“I’m not a Republican; I’m not a Democrat,” said Machado, the son of Azores immigrants. “I’m a patriot. I want to do what’s good for America. Sometimes, Republicans and Democrats, they fight each other like America doesn’t make any sense. No matter how tough the situation is, it’s wrong. ”
Small businesses like Elegant Bulls help every Valley community when they need it, Gray said.
“Small businesses are so important because 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, in their employees, 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 representing the 21st Congressional District, which includes all of Merced County and parts of Stanislaus County.