Another installment of Road Trip Hits. Taking a page from Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, this ongoing series features some of those little known paragons of road-trip rations.
Okay, so this technically wasn’t a “road trip”. Just a quick lunch stop between picking up the Cavegirl, who gets out of school at 1:30, and corralling the Caveboy, who gets out an hour later. But, Ranch Hand BBQ & Grill (NOTE THEIR NEW ADDRESS: 1015 Broadbeck Drive Suite A Newbury Park, CA 91320 805-375-4252) is truly your typical road-house type of establishment (also known by such names as “greasy spoon” or “hole in the wall”), offering tasty, hearty food at a reasonable price.
Having spent the entire morning and lunch hour in a voice over session, I hadn’t had a chance to eat a thing yesterday. Since my stomach was talking louder than I could speak, I thought it might be a good idea to appease the belly-beast. Ranch Hand has been on my radar to try ever since we moved into the neighborhood. Though, it was always an afterthought as I would drive by and say, “Oh! We should have gone there!!” after munching at some other local spot. Yesterday, however, that little light bulb went off over my head as I drove to the school and I eagerly awaited my introduction to the local Q-house.
As we walked in, I noticed the old authentic Western saddle by the door … nice touch. There was one small table and two chairs outside, but a few more tables with chairs inside – enough to seat several families at once. The guy behind the counter, Chris, was very nice and couldn’t have been more kind to the Cavegirl, giving her a lollypop and one to take home for her brother. Behind him, the lunch special board had seven or eight options on it. Being that I’m always looking for a deal, this seemed like the way to go. The only problem was choosing between all the possibilities like the Pulled Pork sandwich, 1/2 a BBQ Chicken, Burger, etc. I opted for the Tri-tip Sandwich special, which also included one side-dish (I went with the Coleslaw) and a refillable fountain drink, all for $7.95.
As we sat and waited for the food to be prepared, I noticed that the walls were covered with notes and drawings from previous customers. I knew instantly, that this was a very Cave-friendly place. Chris also came by our table and asked the Cavegirl all about her school and her favorite things to do, which made the wait seem to go by in an instant.
When the food did arrive, I was pleased by the amount of meat that was piled onto the soft, fresh sandwich roll. Too often these days, places will slap one slice of meat on each half of the sandwich and call it good. This one was packed several layers high – the perfect amount! As you can see, it also had a nice basting of their proprietary sauce. I took that first bite … oh my, was it good! The Tri-tip was amazingly tender, full of wonderful flavor, and complimented by the zesty sweetness of the sauce. I offered the Cavegirl a bite … BIG mistake! As she proceeded to eat almost half of my sandwich despite the fact that she had finished off a full lunch just over an hour earlier.
I then took a bite of the slaw and was pleasantly surprised by the unique sweet tang it possessed. I then started piling a little onto each bite of the sandwich and then topping it off with a little squirt of their homemade BBQ sauce in the spicy variety and I was absolutely in gastronomic heaven. While it really complimented the Trip-tip unbelievably well, I imagine it must be otherworldly when combined with some of their Pulled Pork which, I am told, is as good as anything you can get down in the BBQ Belt
All together, it was one of those sandwich experiences you just never wanted to end. In one of the late Warren Zevon’s last interviews, just before his impending passing, he said, “Enjoy every sandwich”. If he had gotten the chance to taste one of these he might have added, “… as long as it’s a Tri-tip sandwich from Ranch Hand!”
After some fact digging with Chris, it turns out the owner, Arnold, and his family used to live in the Santa Ynez valley, the place where grilling this cut of beef originated. In fact, they apparently had a BBQ joint there for years where he learned his trade and, obviously, learned it well. I can’t wait to go back and give the Pulled Pork, chicken, ribs, House Chips, mac salad, and deep fried Twinkie a try … but not all at once! The Cavegirl can’t wait either, as you can see by the delight the Ranch Hand BBQ & Grill left on her face. The only drawback is that they don’t really offer anything vegetarian other than their side dishes and a house salad. So, the Cavewoman is out of luck on this one. You’d think, especially being a So Cal establishment, that they’d throw a Veggie Burger or Grilled Cheese sandwich on the menu. But, until they do, at least the Cavekids and I have a new Road Trip Hit right in our own backyard. Gotta love that!
UPDATE: I have since found out that they do indeed offer a veggie burger for the herbivore crowd … it’s just not officially on the menu because meat is their obsession. But, if you ask for one, Arnold swears he’ll gladly throw a veggie burger on the grill for you!
UPDATE #2: They updated their menu when they recently moved to a bigger and better location … and the “Garden Burger” is now proudly on it!
©2010 Caution: Caveman Cooking/UHearMe, Inc. All rights reserved. This originally appeared on the Caution: Caveman Cooking blog at http://cavemancooking.net authored by Caveman. This may be shared and reprinted as long as this entire copyright message accompanies it.