Chow Ranch House BBQ RIP
posted by December 10 at 11:33 AMon
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)