Williams, Arizona in April
There are quite a few cool looking signs in Williams. You might expect that since it's on the old Route 66 on its way into the Grand Canyon.
You have to be extra impressed with a steak house that has a snazzy neon cow sign at the rear entrance...
...as well as the front entrance! And look at the awesome cow that I got to pose with. There is just no way we could pick another place besides Rod's!
This is the front room, which was filled with cow stuff all the way up to the stained glass cow in the ceiling light.
There was a fireplace with some kind of cow art above the mantel. On the wall beside Don we had a double cow feature, with a nice cowhide, as well as a cow skull.
There was a nice display of cow dishes on the wall shelf.
The paper mat had a little history about Rod and how he opened the Steak House with his wife in 1946. The brief history mentioned a teenage dishwasher name Lawrence, who was hired by Rod. That dishwasher grew up and now he owns the place. I love stories like that.
I'm glad we spotted the festive neon sign before we did a food search on the internet. I read reviews later and I guess traveling just makes diners grumpy. I didn't have steak, so I can't really say. But maybe these people were just coming in with ridiculous expectations. I came here because I loved the sign, but my my tuna sandwich, cold slaw and Mexican cheese with beef and veggie soup was delish! Don's Prime Rib Dip was exceptionally good! Moist and tangy and perfect for lunch. And big bonus points for the china! I loved the sweet Hereford on the center with the fence & cow design circling the rim!
This photo near the front door shows you that Williams is not a big city. There were quite a few motels along the road, which probably get packed with summer travelers to the Grand Canyon. I didn't get a chance to sit on the saddle in the corner...or the cow outside.
I love having an excuse to powder my nose. On my journey to the restroom, I got to check out the rear dining areas. Look at that mighty steer on the wall. Lots of cowboy décor to enjoy!
My journey continued into the basement. You have to love a basement with white brick and neon. It made me think I was wandering the bottom of a ship.
Love My Ladies Room!
I loved the tiles and colors in this mod room. You can spot me flashing my camera. I promise you no one else was present.
I've had a thing with rating restaurant bathrooms since I was a kid. Back in the day, I would have given this one an A for green tile and an A for giving me an excuse to explore the basement.
Cows To Go
I was pretty excited to have a little cow card souvenir to help me remember my lunch. I would love to return sometime for an evening meal with steak and potatoes. Then I could see both neon signs lit up!
Roadside Diner AND Dinosaur Park?
Don and I were headed on Route 66 from Las Vegas to LA and we were starved. We spotted the billboards but honestly, I wasn't really up for a crowded, gimmicky dining adventure. I just wanted some food. But when I spotted that sheet metal dinosaur from the highway, I told Don there was no way we could keep driving.
We pulled off at Ghost Town Road (near Yermo, CA) and drove past the giant juke box entrance to the parking lot. It was a huge lot with cars, semis and... yikes, a tourist bus! It was indeed a tourist trap, but at least one that was actually built in the day of poodle skirts and malt shops. How bad could this be?
Windows and Doors
The place was confusing with numerous add-ons to the original building. The diner opened in 1954 with 9 counter stools and 3 booths. The owners lived in the attached house with the blue windows and doors. When the current owners expanded the diner, they began serving food in the rest of the house and sunroom. A gift shop was added at the other end.
I really do love Hollywood stuff, but sometimes Betty Boop and Elvis stuff wears me out. What does that have to do with a fifties diner, really? Then I found out that the owner Peggy Sue and her husband Champ came from the LA in the 1980's to re-open the old diner and brought their memorabilia collection with them. It was actually pretty nice having so much to look at, since there was a bit of a wait for a table.
Shop & Soda Fountain
There was lots to look at in the gift shop, but mostly stuff I've seen before. I did like the old soda fountain and the mannequin perched on her stool.
The Original Diner
There was little chance of getting seated in the old diner, with the checkered tiles and 3 booths. The yellow walkway lead guests to additional seating in the old house. It was comical watching the aisle jam up with customers and servers passing each other. I caught this photo at a good moment.
I usually say server, but when I see pastel colored uniforms with little caps, I just have to say waitress. I loved spotting these 3, having a little moment in their huddle. It reminded me of my favorite Hollywood waitresses, Alice and Flo, from "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore." I loved the scene where the busy café is totally neglected while Flo supports Alice during a meltdown!
I wish we'd gotten a seat at the counter. We could have stared at the pies!
Shirley was delivering soup when we almost collided. She graciously posed for me. How I wish I'd had more time to talk with this cheery waitress. Her nametag said, "Peggy Sue's Diner, starring Shirley, since 1988".
I'll bet Shirley, surely has some good stories to tell.
Finding our Table
Eventually our hostess took us to our table. We passed through this room, which must have been the family room at one time, with its fireplace...
... and its pastel painted paneling. I think Marilyn was doing a good job guarding the coffee pots, here. The window seemed to reveal the original house kitchen.
Table with a View
Don and I sort of laughed when we were seated in the room with fake vines and dangling Hawaiian leis. I think this used to be a porch or a sunroom and I think the hostess was holding her breath that we wouldn't gripe about our table. I'm sure some folks would have stressed over being in the back room, since the best diner décor was used up in the other rooms. But we were happy to be handed menus. We enjoyed an entertaining view of the travelers coming and going in the giant lot, while we downed out lunch. Don had the Patti Page Melt with curly fries and I went for the Jailhouse Rock which was chili and cornbread. Not the best meal ever, but I'm not complaining. We had an amusing good time.
We took a quick peek at the "garden" in back before heading to the car. This place went on and on. There was a pizza parlor and a small stage, some cement patio tables and docks around the duck pond....and more fine metal art which included King Kong and a stegosaurus!
One More Laugh
We headed to the car chuckling about our curious lunch stop and paused to smile at the doggy waiting for his master. I hope the truck driver brought his friend back a Cary Grant Honey Ham Sandwich or some Hoola Hoop Onion Rings!
A Ranch in Vegas?
This past April, Don and I stopped in Las Vegas on a road trip. Why on earth would we decide to leave the festive neon city to track down this 1950's ranch, hidden within the sprawling suburbs?
A Cookbook of course!
Some people use a travel book or YELP for dining suggestions while on the road. But, Don and I took a couple cookbooks on our trip, instead.
This book was put out by Ford Motor Company in 1963 to promote road travel across the States. The book is a hoot! It's filled with recipes and illustrations, from some of the best roadside and city dining establishments back in the day. Browsing through the pages makes you want to go back in time and visit these iconic places and sample their featured dishes. But the majority of these old cafes, clubs and inns, no longer exist. So Don and I gave ourselves something new to add to our list of adventure goals for our 4 week road trip from Texas to California. We would try to track down a few of these curious places that still exist... and then give them a try! Our lunch at Bob's Ranch House was our first "dining with the cookbook" adventure!
Hidden in the Suburbs
This ranch used to be about 7 miles outside of Las Vegas. Now the 10 acre ranch is surrounded by neighborhoods, interstate and shopping centers. But once you drive underneath the wood sign, it feels just like it might have 50 years ago. Just head down the road towards the old windmill... well maybe not. That's a cell phone tower!
I was excited to know the ranch was still serving since it opened in 1955. Bob passed away a few years ago, but back in the 1950's it is said that Bob loved cooking for his friends so much, that he finally took their advice. He turned his ranch house into a restaurant.
Where's the Entrance?
It was pretty quiet around noon on a weekday when we arrived. (Except for the roaring of the nearby freeway) We followed the path, past a fountain and a few flower beds, searching for the entrance.
If we hadn't seen the sign, I would have been hesitant to go further. It really seemed like we were invading someone's private home.
Should we knock?
The door had a nice little square opening, kind of like the one the Wizard looks through, when Dorothy and her friends knock on the door at the entrance to the Emerald City.
We weren't as polite as Dorothy, we just walked on in.
This is Vegas after all, so it wasn't surprising to first be greeted by a big old cocktail lounge when we stepped inside. There were a few saddles tucked here and there, creating a unique Ranch-Vegas decor.
The view in the front dining room matched the illustration in the book! We grabbed a couple of captain's chairs at a table with a view out the window. Note the cowboy, etched in the glass.
This is the illustration in the cookbook. You can see the glass windows looking out over a pond and trees.
Liz, our server, handed us each a hefty brown and gold menu. I'm pretty sure the design, (With the words "Supper Club") had not changed since 1955. The inside of the menu had been updated, however. No signs of the cheese sauce that was featured in the Ford Cookbook. Too bad because my mouth was watering for a hot meat pie, slathered with a ladleful of Bob's cheese sauce!
Sharing the Book
After Don and I placed our order, I pulled out the cookbook. I didn't expect Liz to "get it" that we were sort of using this cookbook like a map for a treasure hunt. I didn't expect her to understand our cookbook adventure, but she had the reaction we hoped for. She laughed and shook her head as she stared at the curious book. Then she asked for permission before dashing off to make photo copies of the pages and to share the book with the chef and some regulars dining nearby.
This is the kind of place you go to eat meat. I ordered the Duke Burger. (Bob was a John Wayne fan) That's my burger on the grill, before the caremlized onions, mushrooms and Swiss cheese!
We might have felt like outsiders had we not had the cookbook to help break the ice. The Ranch House is not a place tourists just stumble across. The other diners were all regulars who have probably been coming for ages. The knotty pine, western memorabilia and fireplace added to the homey appeal.
My Duke Burger and Don's barbecued pork sandwich were delicious. The steak fries were yummy too and made me almost wish I'd gone for a big old steak, which is probably what the Duke would have ordered.
I couldn't help but wonder what this place must have been like 50 years ago when Bob was cooking and the place was packed.
A Good Visit
We left The Ranch feeling pretty pleased about our first cookbook adventure. Since I'm a big fan of stepping back in time, I was glad that little had been updated in the decor. I guess the windmill-celltower was a big reminder that the ranch is trying to hold onto a little of the past, while moving forward. Gotta appreciate that!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.