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.