As water from the hole in the ceiling near the back of the dining room slowly drips into buckets on the floor, it’s obvious that Ranch House Café, 5000 NW 10th, is on its last legs.
It was lunchtime on a Thursday and the parking lot was more than empty. Poking my head in to make sure they were open, a pleasing scent that reminded me of my mother’s home deep in the Oklahoma boonies lingered in the air, bouncing off the constant wood paneling and dark green carpet. Finding a place to sit, it’s easy to tell that the Ranch House is truly the last restaurant of its kind in the city.
As the lone waitress brought my gal-pal Jodie and me ice waters in oddly shaped glassware, we looked over the menu as the owner got up from watching Bonanza to fire up the grill. As Hoss and Little Joe got into an argument behind us on the big screen, we ordered our eats while simultaneously eyeing the resale shop that had been started in the restaurant’s corner. More on that later.
The Ranch House Café seems to have been around since the seventies, at least, with very little work put into updating the joint. Every nook is filled with dusty knick-knacks and western art; Jodie and I fell in love with the destitute grandeur of the place, a true emotion that was solidified when the Tex-Mex Breakfast Burrito ($7.89) was brought to the table.
Served with a side of ill-suited pancakes, this morning monster was a borderlands beast, featuring a flour tortilla filled with cheese, eggs, onions, hash browns and jalapenos. The burrito is then tightly grilled and nearly an entire can of chili is poured all over the top and bottom, making for a heartburn-worthy breakfast.
Having a few bites, we pushed the burrito temporarily aside; Jodie’s fork cut into the always-questionable tastes of a diner-bred Indian Taco ($6.89). With a somewhat hard bed of frybread cradling the copious ground beef, pinto beans, tomatoes and cheese—the lettuce left off for this particular order—it admittedly had a different look and feel from what I’m used to.
Sure, this is not the best Indian Taco I’ve ever had—far from it—but it’s definitely a different variation that is worth a helping at the Ranch House, with the crunchy frybread earning its keep, the ground beef, pinto beans and other added toppings toppling off the sides like a map of the notoriously flat Earth.
As Jodie worked on that the best she could, I started in on my Famous Onion Burger ($5.39), a well-pounded 1/3 pound patty sharing space with plenty of fried onions on a moderately toasted bun with lettuce and tomatoes. But, as I chomped and chewed each and every perfect bite of the burger, I began to stare at the makeshift shop off to the side.
As I wiped my mouth, Jodie was already over there and immediately found a novelty shirt to purchase featuring a bunny rabbit next to the saying “Hop to your own beat.” As the owner came out of sell it to her—at the bargain price of four bucks, natch—he lamented that Ranch House’s days might be limited, especially with Covid taking down so many regulars.
Looking deep into the tired eyes of Ranch House, I reckon that if it’s truly on its last legs, we should get in there soon and spend a few bucks while we can, because this Oklahoma City landmark might not be around tomorrow and, if that happens, who’s going to help me finish this comically obese burger? Cómpralo ya!