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Monday, December 10, 2007

Ranch House BBQ RIP

posted by on December 10 at 11:33 AM


If you’ve ever driven out to the Washington coast or the Long Beach area, or camped out at Kalaloch, then you’ve no doubt taken Highway 8.

Highway 8 is the route that takes you from Olympia and connects you to Highway 12, the main highway between the coast and the rest of the state. Highway 8 proper is only about 20 miles long.

Near the 14 mile marker, just a few miles out of suburban Olympia, stands—sorry, “stood”—one of Washington State’s culinary wonders: The Ranch House BBQ. With nothing for miles in either direction, you had to wonder, why way out here, why not closer to town, why not in Seattle for chrissake?

Last night the evening news had a special report on the devastation caused by the recent rain, wind, and flooding in Southwestern Washington. It was easy at first to blithely keep doing the Sunday Times crossword while watching, thinking to myself, “I’m glad I don’t live there!” Then they showed this picture.


Even more pictures of the devastation are on the Ranch House website.

I am not an emotional guy, but I instantly teared up at the news that this, one of the finest BBQ joints in the state, much less the country, is gone forever. The financial loss is so great that the owners may never be able to open a business again.

According to The Olympian, the owners started the restaurant four years ago, borrowing $20,000 off their credit cards. The business instantly took off, and they started to build a mini-BBQ empire including a catering business and a little lunch hut in Olympia they called The Ranch House BBQ Xpress. But the gem was the restaurant itself, which in summer had a beautiful outdoor seating area with picnic tables, gardens, and even a little creek running past the tables.

The interior was decorated with the hundreds of national awards the two owners/pit-masters, Amy Anderson and Melanie Tapia, have garnered, including major awards at national competitions.


The food, well, you know it was outstanding. The highway stop had quickly become an institution in my family. No matter the occasion for the road trip—sightseeing, camping, family visits—we always stopped at the Ranch House.

My son always got his own little plate of ribs with fries:


And I always got the pulled pork and beef combo with sides of homemade coleslaw, (the kind made with only vinegar, not mayo and sugar), potato salad, and fresh cornbread:


Everything arrived on little pig-shaped plates.

FEMA has just authorized government support to victims of the flood in Grays and Lewis Counties, but judging from local maps, it looks like the Ranch House sits just inside Thurston county, so the owners will not be eligible for any help from FEMA, and if the news report last night was correct, the restaurant’s insurance company did not insure them for “land movement,” so it looks like the mudslide that took out the restaurant will be the end of the business all together.

To those in the flooded areas, it may seem that Seattle, basically untouched, stands by gawking with equal parts horror and “saw it coming” on our faces. But to the owners of the former Ranch House: I want to extend my heartfelt grief at the tragedy that hit you, and I sincerely hope you can somehow, someday, somewhere manage to re-open. I will be waiting eagerly, with fork in hand.

(A Ranch House BBQ relief fund has been set up at West Coast Bank. Donate by calling any West Coast Bank branch [Vancouver: 360-695-3439, Tukwila: 425-251-6525, Olympia: 360-753-2400].)

MAJOR UPDATE: Through the amazing generousity of the owners of the Governor Hotel in Olympia, The Ranch House will have a new (and free) lease on life starting immediately. The hotel just had a vacancy in their on-site restaurant and offered it, immediately to the lady pit masters at The Ranch House.

Sandra Miller, vice president and general manager of the hotel, confirmed the offer Sunday night.

“We’re very excited,” Miller said. “Hopefully they will want to stay.”

She said Southern Kitchen out of Tacoma had just left the hotel at the end of November to concentrate on its catering business.

“By chance, we had an open kitchen and restaurant,” she said.

“I never thought someone could offer something on such a grand scale,” Tapia said, adding that all 22 Ranch House employees will return to work.

Long live The Ranch House BBQ!

(Hat tip Matt Hickey via Ari Spool)

RSS icon Comments


Looks like it will reopen in downtown Olympia.

Posted by Cow | December 10, 2007 11:41 AM

Their BBQ is pretty good, especially for up here. But you really can't get great BBQ in a restaurant. The worst stuff I've ever made at home has been much better than the best stuff I've ever had in a restaurant. And if your curious the best restaurant BBQ I've had was at:

Posted by Andrew | December 10, 2007 11:48 AM

I ate there once. It was tasty. RIP!

Posted by travito | December 10, 2007 11:49 AM
My son always got his own little plate of ribs with fries."

That "little" plate looks too big for a grown man. But you probably took the leftovers home (and I hope there were leftovers).

Posted by Matt from Denver | December 10, 2007 11:53 AM

Oh, No! I used to drive by this place all the time on my frequent trips to the coast. Stopped in only a few times, but it was always such a heart-pleasing sight. I'm quite saddened by this.

Posted by steve | December 10, 2007 11:59 AM

That sucks. The Ranch House was one of the best BBQ joints in the state, and the location was right out of something David Lynch would have filmed.

Glad to hear they've got a "plan B", though, but sad it won't be on the way to-or-from the ocean anymore.

Posted by COMTE | December 10, 2007 12:00 PM

Too bad. That looks yummy!

Posted by Amelia | December 10, 2007 12:00 PM

The Olympian covered this last Thursday. OLD news, move on please.

Posted by Just Me | December 10, 2007 12:01 PM

NEW news to me! keep it up please!

Posted by Line Out Fan | December 10, 2007 12:09 PM

But, of course, shame on them for making husbands and wives fat. And if the owners voted against extra taxes, then they deserved what they got.

Posted by bma | December 10, 2007 12:49 PM

Um, yeah, right, 'cause EVERYBODY in Seattle gets the Daily Olympian delivered on their literal and virtual doorsteps everyday.

Posted by COMTE | December 10, 2007 12:50 PM

@8 Hey asshat, maybe if you weren't in such a hurry to be a smartass you might think "good for the slog on getting the word out to more people so that people might donate to this cause." But are just lame.

Posted by spicegirl23 | December 10, 2007 12:54 PM

My dad and I stopped there for a stretch and snack on our way to Ocean Shores last summer. We ate inside, but it looked like they had a great beer garden out back. Not any more, though. Sad.

Posted by Greg | December 10, 2007 1:47 PM

Many people will live much longer lives because of this one (metaphoric) death. I'm on the rain's side here. Good work, Mother Nature.

Posted by jay | December 10, 2007 1:52 PM

I also am sad to see this--how many small businesspeople and homeowners are aware that their property insurance policies exclude these sorts of very real risks?

Aside from the great food and cozy atmosphere that others have talked about, I will not forget the day we sat in the inside dining room of 6-8 booths, and were served by an earnest younger waiter, who asked us "Would you like to start off with a glass of refreshing strawberry lemonade or a maybe an icy cold glass of tea?" Nothing wrong with that, even if the adjectives seemed a little rehearsed. Then, over the next half hour, as each of the other booths turned, we witnessed him greet each newly seated group with precisely the same line. "Would you like to start off with a glass of refreshing strawberry lemonade or a maybe an icy cold glass of tea?" I wonder if he still says that, at work or talking in his sleep. "Would you like to start off with a glass of refreshing strawberry lemonade or a maybe an icy cold glass of tea" Just one of those funny things that makes dining out fun!

Posted by fixo | December 10, 2007 1:53 PM

Insurance my ass.
Boy they know how to take, but pay up?
Always a line in the contract that says
"We can take your money and jack your rates, and never have to pay a claim for anything because in spite of our name and what you think you are buying, you are not'.

Posted by Pissed | December 10, 2007 1:55 PM

Arrrggghhh! Punctuation! I hate you, Slog! Tone, can't we have a post-posting self-editing feature?

Posted by fixo | December 10, 2007 1:56 PM

I always tried to stop and grab a to-go main plus two sides on my way back to the big city from Satsop, that glorious suburb of Elma. Sorry to see it's gone. And hell no, I'm not stopping in Olympia. Or reading the local rag. This rag is just fine.

Posted by DaiBando | December 10, 2007 1:59 PM

jay @ 14

also on the news last night was an interview with an organic vegetable farmer in chehalis who lost his house, his machinery, his farm, his out buildings, including a cold storage for all his organic, locally grown veggies. literally millions of dollars and years of work, covered in feet of mud.

by your standards i would guess mother nature hates the smug vegetarian hippies too.

Posted by Line Out Fan | December 10, 2007 2:23 PM

suggesting someone's belief system has an affect on natural disasters... hmmm... who was is it that did that after hurrican katrina?

Posted by infrequent | December 10, 2007 2:47 PM

"effect" (Sorry, can't help myself.)

Posted by Amy Kate Horn | December 10, 2007 2:58 PM

hmmmmm... i thought i used it correctly.

Posted by infrequent | December 10, 2007 3:01 PM

a belief has an influence on nature. okay, apparently i need a grammar lesson today.

Posted by infrequent | December 10, 2007 3:05 PM

Nice piece, Terry. How lucky you had pics of before and after. You must be a snap-shooting fooooool.

Posted by Bauhaus | December 10, 2007 3:17 PM

That pulled pork looks dee-lish. What a shame.

Posted by Fnarf | December 10, 2007 3:28 PM

Maybe it's just the pregnancy hormones, but your post made me cry. So sad, and so heartwarming at the same time. NOW I MUST EAT BBQ IMMEDIATELY KPLSTHX

Posted by caracola | December 10, 2007 3:35 PM

Finally, a reason to go back to Olympia.

Still won't be as good as Maurice's Piggy Park (a racist, christianist, SC restaurant that unfortunately has the greatest BBQ in the world.)

Posted by Jake | December 10, 2007 5:03 PM

@19, Mother Nature may be a vegan, but she still knows you have to break a few eggs to make an omlete.

Posted by jay | December 10, 2007 5:34 PM

WoW! That story actually left me a little misty-eyed. Well done Mr. Miller.

Posted by Hal | December 10, 2007 8:33 PM

Nice rack!

Posted by Mr. X | December 10, 2007 9:11 PM

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