RJ’s Spunky Steer is closing Dec. 31 in Murrieta – Press Enterprise

Customers gather in the newly opened RJ’s Sizzlin’ Steer in Murrieta in 2006. (Photo by Paul Alvarez, The Press Enterprise/SCNG)

RJ’s Sizzlin’ Steer in Murrieta is heading for a last roundup on New Year’s Eve.

The restaurant, at 41401 Kalmia St., will close on Sunday, Dec. 31, according to a Facebook post.

The family steakhouse has been part of Temecula and Murrieta throughout their boom years.

It opened in 1987 in what was then Rancho California, two years before the city incorporated as Temecula.

It was called Tony’s Spunky Steer, an offshoot of the regional Steer & Stein chain of family restaurants founded by a former Artesia dairy farmer named Tony Fernandes and his wife Vangie. Fernandez formed Spunky Steer in Chino when he split from his Seer & Stein partners.

The Rancho California location, on Jefferson Avenue, was run by their son and daughter-in-law, Robert and Cindy Fernandes, who were newlyweds.

Robert was killed in a car crash on Highway 79 at Winchester Road in 1989. His son Robert Jr., or RJ, was born a week before the accident, according to news reports and a 2018 profile of the restaurant by the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce.

In 1992, Robert’s Sr.’s brother Gary Fernandes,  who ran the Tenderloin in La Verne, died in a plane crash north of Rancho Cucamonga, according to news reports at the time.

After the father died in 1993, a charity golf tournament was launched in the three men’s honors.

A third sibling, Debbie Lourenco, ran a Spunky Steer restaurant in Redlands that closed in 2018.


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