YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


At Lazy H Ranch, They Still Serve No-Nonsense, Home-Style Meals

May 03, 1990|DAVID NELSON


California 76, Pauma Valley


Lunch and dinner daily except Monday.

Credit cards accepted.

Dinner for two, including a glass of wine each, tax and tip, $30 to $45.

The old-fashioned Sunday drive in the country sometimes used to end at a restaurant with frilly curtains, crisp cloths on the tables, motherly waitresses and a menu that looked like a page torn from an old American cookbook.

Sunday drives now seem to lead more often than not to the mall, but a few country roads still meander past comfortable dining spots of the sort familiar a couple of generations back. One of these is the Lazy H Ranch on the edge of Pauma Valley, a restaurant-cum-motel where frilly curtains still frame the windows and the service, if not exactly motherly, is friendly and professional. Rustic restaurants delight in unusual visual diversions and Lazy H has two: a large tree that grows right through the roof of the lounge and an immense collection of commemorative liquor bottles displayed on shelves all around the dining room.

The menu leaves the frills to the window dressing and takes a no-nonsense, all-American approach whose fancy flies no further than a homespun, gooey crab cannelloni. Steaks, just a few of them, top a list that runs through French-cut lamb chops and fried oysters before ending with a weekends-only offering of expertly cooked prime rib, served in thick slabs carved from a juicy roast. Prices range from $8.95 for fried chicken to $13.95 for the prime rib.

Weekend nights find the service a little harried, and anyone with a finely honed appetite might want to fill the time preceding the arrival of the main event with a Guaymas shrimp cocktail or a plate of Alaska crab legs. Starters will not appeal to most appetites, however, since entree portions are large and generously garnished. Meals also include the choice of the day's soup or a basic but good salad tossed with a choice of three homemade dressings, of which the Roquefort is unusually light and flavorful.

The steak list offers a New York sirloin, a junior New York for slender appetites and a brochette of tenderloin and vegetables, which arrives doused with the brown mushroom sauce that inevitably accompanies this American classic. The star here, however, is the filet mignon, cut somewhat less thickly than might be desired but endowed with the buttery succulence that distinguishes a carefully grilled steak. The meat seems to stand a little taller under its double crown of crisp onion rings and large, fluted mushroom cap, both garnishes that used to be standard with steak but have vanished from the plate at most restaurants; Lazy H evidently has a long memory and remembers what these simple additions can do for a good piece of meat.

The kitchen also remembers how to make real twice-baked potatoes and serves them piping hot, the shells filled with baked potato pulp that has been mashed with butter and a surprising amount of paprika--they're a little spicy--and replaced in the oven until the tops glaze and crisp. As alternatives, the menu offers saffron rice and French fried potatoes.

Steaks take top billing, although the weekend favorite probably is the handsome prime rib, served with a moistening of its own browned juices and a homemade horseradish sauce. The crab cannelloni are acceptable but rather perfunctory; other choices include chicken cannelloni, fried shrimp with a Chinese-style sauce and sauteed filet of sole.

Just in case its guests forget they are dining in the country, Lazy H bakes an excellent coconut cream pie of the sort that used to win ribbons at county fairs. In a slightly more modern vein, the kitchen also prepares a solid and well-flavored chocolate cheesecake.

The restaurant is about a half-hour drive from the San Diego Wild Animal Park. From Interstate 15 in Escondido, take Valley Parkway (County Highway S6) to a left on California 76. Lazy H Steak Ranch is a few hundred yards down the road.

Los Angeles Times Articles