Hidden Gem, Ranch House BBQ

When you see a bunch of Harley’s parked outside a restaurant on the weekend you can bet there’s some good eats to be had inside. There’s one thing that bikers and outdoorsman have in common…they love to eat good food!

I’ve been driving by Ranch House BBQ on Hwy 101 west of Olympia, Washington for years en route to fishing, hunting, and clamming destinations on the Olympic Peninsula.

Nearly every time I cruise past the Ranch House the parking lot is stuffed with cars and bikes. Since I am usually towing a boat I opt out of stopping, but I made note that this place was probably worth hitting when the time was right.

On our way to dig razor clams back on the Washington coast back in November I was astonished to see only a half full parking lot so I whipped in there with the wife. The time was right to see what this place was all about.

The first thing you’ll notice when you walk into the Ranch House is that these folks take their bbq seriously. Ranch House BBQ has won bbq awards all over America…and all over the world. From the trophy case up front to the walls around the restaurant there are trophies, banners, and ribbons literally everywhere.

Everything on the menu looked awfully tasty but I stuck with the old bbq standby…a full rack of ribs with a cold Fish Tale ale. My wife ordered a full bbq’d chicken and of course half of that ended up on my plate. Both the chicken and the ribs were awesome.

Some of the bbq joints that I’ve visited here in Northwest toss some bbq sauce on their meats and called it “barbecue” without actually getting that smokey flavor into the meat. At the Ranch House all the meats are slow smoked with tasty rubs and little to no sauce added while they are cooking. They’ve got their own great barbecue sauce on the table to douse your food with, but the meats are so tender and delicious the sauce really isn’t necessary.

Ranch House was crowned World Champion at the BBQ World Championship in Ireland in 2000 and has won titles in Washington, California, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, and even Canada. In addition to all the awards owner Amy Anderson and her all-girl grill team have been featured on the Food Network numerous times. This place is the real deal!

Even if the parking lots full you owe it to yur-bad-self to stop by Ranch House BBQ in Olympia and enjoy some of Amy Anderson’s award-winning bbq. Rest assured we will be stopping in to see these nice folks as often as possible from now on. This place is a hidden gem!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

My Top 4 Breakfast Joints

Maybe I was thinking about this because I just polished off my boring breakfast of oatmeal and fruit. At the ripe old age of 41 I’m trying to watch my diet a little closer these days, but don’t think for one furry second that I’ve forgotten about the memorable morning meals I’ve had at these four brekky joints.

Someday and someday soon I’ll once again find myself staring wide-eyed at the menu at one of these places…wife permitting. These restaurants know how to turn what is normally the most boring meal of the day into a breakfast you’ll never forget. That’s why they made the top of my list.

Without further adieu…

Mckay CottageBend, Oregon
The first time we visited McKay Cottage for breakfast in Bend, Oregon I ate so much I could hardly shuffle out of the place. There’s so many tastie dishes on their breakfast menu that my wife, her best friend Brandy, and I decided to order breakfast “family style” so we could sample as much of their grub as we could.

We greased up the skids before the main course arrived with mochas from the espresso bar and a plate of fresh raspberry scones from McKay’s awesome bakery. Most people would have called in quits there, but I had my sights set on a full blown Thanksgiving style, lay-on-the-floor-with-my-pants-unbuttoned food coma.

It wasn’t long after we ordered before the kitchen door flew open and hot plates began to hit the table. Our outdoorsy and fit waitress presented us with Smith Rock Benny, pumpkin pancakes, Joe’s Special scramble, and a breakfast burrito before hustling off to keep up with the orders. How these waitresses stay in such great shape with all this awesome food around is beyond me. I was sitting with two ladies that also eat like birds and my food coma dreams were about to come true.

Breakfast was nothing short of oh-mazing and my plans for an active day in the Oregon outdoors quickly evaporated. Mass rump was destined for a couch. I’m ashamed to admit that I watched football the rest of the day. Next time I’ll go hiking girls…I promise!If you visit McKay Cottage plan on getting there early and bring an appetite. Don’t forget to try one of their scones while you wait!

Duck Brand Hotel and CantinaWinthrop, Washington
My wife and I make frequent trips to Winthrop, Washington to hike, hunt, and relax in what can only be described as a little slice of Montana. When we’re there we always make a point to visit the Duck Brand Hotel and Cantina for a Mexican style breakfast. The Duck Brand has seating inside the main restaurant and plenty of outdoor seating so you can enjoy the warm Eastern Washington mornings out on the deck.

The breakfast menu here has a Mexican twist and most of the dishes come with a side of black beans, which is a different but totally awesome addition to breakfast.

My favorite breakfast thus far at this place is the Eggs McDuck, but the Huevos Rancheros is a very close second. Unlike my visit to McKay Cottage I leave the Duck ready to clamber up any of the scenic ridges in the Methow Valley.

I like breakfast joints that are hustle-bustle and the Duck Brand doesn’t disappoint. Spoons clanging into coffee cups, short order cooks hollering at waitresses, and lots of outdoorsy folks waiting to fuel up for the day. It’s busy for a reason…the food is yummers!

Blue Star Cafe-Seattle, Washington
I was going to keep this list to just my favorite small fishing town breakfast joints, but I simply couldn’t resist adding the Blue Star in Seattle’s Wallingford District to my list because of it’s totally ri-donk-ulous breakfast menu. The Blue Star is also a bar, so you can grab a Bloody Mary and watch football pre-game shows before the Smokey Mountain scramble or Eggs Seattle arrives.

The Smokey Mountain Scramble is one of the most memorable egg dishes I’ve ever inhaled. It consists of as many eggs as you’d like, pepper jack cheese, and Little Smokee sausages. Pure genius!

Or if you’re in a more eclectic Northwest’y mood you can order the Eggs Seattle, which is smoked salmon on an English muffin with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. This one’s also a dandy!

There can be a long wait on weekends at the Blue Star so get there early. The wait, however, is well worth it!

Forks Coffee Shop-Forks, Washington
The Coffee Shop’s montra is “Nobody Leaves Hungry” and that ain’t no bull. Both fisherman and loggers alike need to prime the pumps early in the morning for a long day in the woods or on the water and the breakfast plates here are served accordingly.

I can polish off a lot of brekky before hitting the water and I’ll be darned if the servings here don’t test me every time.

My favorite brekky chow here is the Sol Duc scramble, which consists of veggies, country sausage, and hash browns scrambled together with eggs and served with toast. Douse it with Tabasco sauce and you’ll be ready for a day of steelhead fishing on one of the many nearby rivers.

Most of the locally famous Forks river guides meet their guests at the Coffee Shop in the morning, so if you want the latest fishing intel this is the place to be before the sun rises on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.

If you’ve got a favorite breakfast spot that I should be checkin’ out please don’t hesitate to let me know. I’m always on the hunt for good fishing…and good food. Adios muchachos!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Seven Things I dislike About Nature

I know, I know, you’ll give me the ol’ “you’ve got to take the good with the bad and accept everything in nature” drovel that I would expect from all of you that love the outdoors as much as I do. Shoot! I’ve even said it ma’self.

If there’s a thousand, or even a million, things that are so great about nature there’s just got to be a few things, just a few, that are no bueno. Read thru my list below and tell me these things haven’t caused you grief or freaked you out at some point in your life. I bet most of them are on your list too!

Gale Force Winds
You’d have to be a certified nut-job to actually like gale force winds. I mean, seriously, I’ve been on the water in more gale force winds than I can remember and not one single time have I enjoyed it. They turn the ocean into a roiley, boiley mess, make hunting close to impossible, and just try rowing a driftboat in a gale. No beuno! Gale force winds are like jogging. Have you ever seen a jogger smiling. I rest my case.

This is the one creature in nature that scares the living crap out of me. Couldn’t Ma Nature come up with something a lot less creapy to eat bugs. We have bug-zapper lights , exterminators, and gooey-stickum fly strips now for crying out loud. Couldn’t we invent a gooey spider strip to do the same job. I think so. Why do we even need spiders? They only serve to create nightmares and paranoia…nothing else.

I have to admit that I hate snakes less nowadays than I used to, but they still score an 8 out of 10 on my most-hated list and thus they make the cut. In Africa they actually have a snake called the black mamba that chases down people and kills them just for the hell of it. Another snake, the king cobra, spits venom in your eyes to blind you, then it bites and kills you before wandering off to killl something else. It doesn’t even eat you. What kind of crap is that?

Breaking Branches
There is never anything there…just a broken branch. I can honestly say that a large branch breaking in the night is something that makes me nearly shart me’drawers. On a mid-night hike into Washington’s Glacier Peak Wilderness for the early mule deer hunt in the mid-90’s my good friend Mike Jesch and I stopped along the trail at around 1:00 a.m. to rest our aching clown feet. We turned off our headlamps and sat there in the who’s-your-momma-now, pitch black darkness and listened to the total nothingness in the old growth forest. The night was soot black and there wasn’t a sound, not any one thing making a single, solitary sound. Creapy! Then, no more than forty feet behind me a giant branch breaks. It went “Kaaaa-rack!” and then like in so many other branch-breaking episodes there was terminal silence. No thump-thump-thump of a deer bounding off or primal growl from Big Foot…just nothing. We grabbed our packs and beat feet!

Slush isn’t rain and it isn’t snow. It’s 100% pure freezing ass cold. I’ve spent days on end guiding for winter steelhead in the pouring down slush and not one time did I think, “Man, this is rad dude!”. It penetrates every form of rain gear created by man and it even permeates human skin, chilling right into the very marrow of our bones. I wish they would build a gi-normous, pollution-spewing coal factory in Seattle that would provide enough localized global warming to make it impossible for Mother Nature to produce slush here. We may have pollution, but we would rid the Northwest of slush. Fair trade? I think so.

No See Ums
They fly up your nose, into your ears, in your eyeballs, and bore microscopic holes into your flesh that itch like the dickens for days. The worst part about the little buggers is that YOU CAN’T EVEN SEE THEM! You can swing your ball cap around wildly to ward them off, but you’ll be swinging at nothing but clean air. They can hang out on the gooey bug strip with the spiders. Bu-bye!

What good do hornets do anyway? I’ve never seen them make honey or help an old lady across the street. They are only a mechanism for terror and the earth should be ridden of these foul creatures. Have you ever had a pleasant encounter with a hornet? Hell no you haven’t and neither have I. Wouldn’t nature be a lot more enjoyable without them? I think so.

There’s my list. How about you? I’m sure there’s something about the outdoors that drives you to swinging your hat around like a lunatic.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle