Saddle Ranch Chop House
4 Locations in California and Arizona
4321 North Scottsdale Road (Location visited)
Near the Scottsdale Old Town area I was staying in, one thing was quite evident. The architecture had sort-of a cowboy motif built-in. Could it be I am stereotyping? May be, may be not; it does not help the city’s seal and logo has a cowboy in it. With such environment, it can’t be helped to say I had to visit one of such restaurants and the one I ended up going was Saddle Ranch Chop House.
The first time I saw the restaurant, I couldn’t help smirk a little bit. When I said “cowboy motif”, it was referring to the exterior, i.e., almost everything look like a ranch house. However, the Saddle Ranch looked more like a barn! (Insert Corner Gas episode on blowing up a barn). But, as usual, I was only there for the food.
On the nights I was walking by on my way back to the hotel, I noticed it was somewhat packed, despite, in some instances, being past 10:00 p.m. Of course, I am comparing it to Vancouver where, other than places like Granville Street on a weekend night, most places in the city is winding down. The day I was there I found out why: By default they close after 2:00 a.m.! I think we need more places like this in Vancouver…
After I walked in to the “patio” area, I was given the option to sit anywhere. And here comes the “problem”. Given I was suited in business attire, where should I seat? Inside where most likely there will be A/C but light conditions would be “bad” or outside under the sun but good light conditions? In the end, I did the foolish thing by sitting outside.
After making my order, I received these: buttermilk biscuits and corn bread muffin. Inside the ramekin, what seems to be a form of butter, except it had some interesting sweet twist to it. If you ever had a Chinese coconut bun, well, it had that filling’s texture and slight taste. But back to the muffin and biscuit, I found both of them quite good as they moist, soft and buttery.
What would you order in a restaurant with cowboy motif? I would go for something like son-of-a-bitch stew but that wasn’t an option. Since I was there for lunch, I had to go for something “quick” – like a sandwich. For a twist, I went for something similar to a burger, yet it wasn’t a burger: A sloppy joe. Here, their Jack Daniel’s Sloppy Joe. Hey, after all, if it wasn’t because it was form into a patty, it would be pretty much the same, right? As for that side to the right… Well, I will get there in a moment. Suffice to say, that wasn’t dessert!
As per description on their site, the sandwich is “a classic joe with Jack Daniel’s BBQ sauce and piled high on a toasted sesame bun”. At first, I wasn’t sure what I should do with it. Should I eat it like a burger? Should I them separately (the meat as in a stew and bread separately)? I tried the burger option and failed miserably, as I couldn’t hold it inside without things starting to fall apart. In the end, I resorted to use the bottom half of a base and eat it with fork and knife. The meat was quite good, though I guess that, after being grounded, you wouldn’t notice any of the meat texture. And, then, the BBQ sauce overpowered any meat flavour. Not that I am complaining, instead, unlike most ground beef stews, this one was sweet and thick, yet not “burned”. I like it!
OK, here is that side dish with the “burned” top: their sweet potato casserole with candied pecans which is an option as a side. Not sure if casserole would be the best word to describe it. Rather, think mashed sweet potatoes (with some form of sugar to boot – for some reason, I think they used yams rather than sweet potatoes), placed in a skillet, topped with the marshmallow (which, after being under the salamander, had a slight crunchy texture) and the pecan. Did somebody say sugar overload? While it was good in its own ways, I think I would have done OK without all the forms of sweets and hoped it has some savoury tones. Good as a dessert; not necessarily as a side. Or could it be I ended up having a two-in-one? Regardless, I only ate half of it.
Overall, it was a good lunch. The atmosphere was interesting and, despite it being a chain, I found the food interesting enough. The most important thing I must mention is that their premise is not that much of food first but that of providing an environment for people to meet and relax. If the food was good enough to a certain extent, I can only imagine the rest.