Driving down the main street in Santa Margarita, it’s easy
to miss The Range. But don’t. Inside that small, unassuming building with no
sign there is magic happening.
Once inside, it would be easy to mistake The Range’s cowboy
charm as hokey. The wait staff mostly wears Wranglers, there’s classic Country
music coming softly out of tinny speakers and the walls are adorned with old
western photos and memorabilia. You’ll soon figure out that the ambiance is
legit. It’s not an act, it’s who they are.
Oh, and the food, it’s legit too. Much of it is locally
sourced and cooked just right. The menu includes vegetarian dishes, local
organic pasta and, of course, great steaks. Besides beef, you’ll often see lamb
and elk on the menu.
On a recent visit the entre specials were sand dabs, prime
rib and fried chicken. Soup of the day was potato leak.
I chose the California lamb shank, which was
fall-off-the-bone tender and came with a very nice syrah pan jus. My wife opted
for the prime rib. It was tender and well-seasoned, accompanied by a house-made
horseradish crème if you want to kick it up a notch.
Our friends ordered the pan roasted elk medallions and the
fried chicken special. The elk came thinly sliced in a Montmorency cherry
bordelaise. The chicken – well, it’s legendary. Some Range regulars never order
anything else. Many Range dishes come with seasonal vegetables and their
delightful garlic mashed potatoes.
There is no kid’s menu, but don’t be afraid to ask the kitchen
for something special. Our son always has them make a personal pizza with thin
crust, bacon, mozzarella and fresh marinara. He knows to save a little piece
For dessert, there are after-dinner drinks and espresso. The
lemon pound cake with berries and fresh cream is delicious, but I always try to
save room for the “hillbilly pie”. That’s a chocolate pecan pie on a an
impossibly flakey crust.
The Range has a full bar. Beers are always in a bottle and
are called “barley pop” in true Range style. The wine list isn’t huge, but
you’ll have no trouble finding a nice pairing.
Service is consistently good at The Range. Most of the
servers have worked there for years and are friends or family of the owners. My
favorite is Demetrius, the Greek guy in the cowboy hat.
Count on The Range for a great meal and a unique
environment. It’s well worth the drive over the Grade. If you are a
first-timer, allow me to share 3 helpful tips…
- Cash is king. The Range doesn’t take credit
cards. They’ll take local checks.
- Layer a bit. Most of the seating is outdoors.
They have shade, fans, heaters and curtains to keep it comfortable, but it’s
always a good idea to be ready for changing temperatures.
- Get there early. Thanks to internet review
sites, The Range is no longer a North County secret. Getting there right at 5pm
when they open is a smart way to go. They are closed Sundays and Mondays.