Gray names Elegant Bull Small Business of the Year

Frank Machado knows what it takes to run a good restaurant. Start with quality that can be tasted in every dish, then make every diner feel welcome the moment they walk through the door.

But a great restaurant, there’s something extra.

“When you come to Elegant Bull, you get a tablecloth,” said Machado, who opened the restaurant in Delhi on New Year’s Day in 1989. “You get linen napkins. There are carpets on the floor and those who serve you wear ties.

Such attention to detail makes Elegant Bull unique and led Assemblyman Adam Gray to honor it as his 2022 Small Business of the Year. Gray made the presentation to Machado, his wife, Karen, and their staff on Sept. 15 at the restaurant.

“The place is one of a kind,” Gray said. “So does Frank.” Going to the Elegant Bull wouldn’t be complete without shooting the bull with Frank. But the food!”

Some dishes—Steak de Lisboa, linguica and morcella—reflect Machado’s Portuguese heritage. But most are refined classics like filet mignon, prime rib, lamb and chicken, prepared three different ways. And the ribs are unforgettable.

The elegant bull was noted by readers of the Turlock Journal, Merced County Times and others. Hundreds of online reviews offer thousands of gold stars.

Machado credits his staff, including a son and daughter working behind the scenes and a wait staff with several members who have been at Elegant Bull for a decade or more. At 92, he works every day at the restaurant.

“First, you try to treat your help the way you want your clients to be treated,” Machado said. “It’s going to be hard for them to treat that customer well if they don’t treat them well. The second thing is quality.”

And the secret ingredient? This is Karen, his wife.

“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 whose journey continues to inspire. And Karen was the first to see potential in the small building just south of Delhi. Frank was thinking of a breakfast place; Karen insisted it might be more.

As she says: Frank provides the bull; she brings the elegance.

But why start a fancy restaurant in a hard-working town of 12,000?

“You’re only the 10,046th person to ask this question,” said Machado, who grew up in Hilmar and now lives in Stevenson. “You’re on Highway 99; millions of people walk past your restaurant every day. I love my little conservative town of Hilmar, and Hilmar also has a freeway. But every day perhaps thousands of people pass by it. You’re on Highway 99 – how can you lose?”

When 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 nicer place, then another even nicer one.

When he opened Berry Farm in Santa Clara, elegance and atmosphere were his trademarks.

“Silicon Valley started in my restaurant,” he said, describing how diners huddled around tables dreaming of the information revolution.

Assemblyman Gray noted something else: “Don’t ask Frank what he thinks unless you really want to know.”

“I don’t deal with Republicans; I don’t deal with Democrats,” said Machado, the son of immigrants from the Azores. “I am a patriot. I want to do what is good for America. Sometimes the Republicans and the Democrats, they fight each other like America means nothing. And that’s wrong, no matter how hard times are.”

It’s small businesses like Elegant Bull, Gray said, that help every Valley community in times of need.

“What makes a small business so important is that the people who run it 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 workers, and believe in their community. They don’t mind sharing their success and don’t mind helping out when asked. They do it every day.”

— Assemblyman Adam S. Gray represents the 21st Assembly District, which includes all of Merced County and parts of Stanislaus County.

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