The Mission Ranch
The Mission Ranch experience is always relaxed, satisfying and fulfilling.
Thursday, July 12, 2001
A few years ago, when I was bartending in one of Carmel''s landmark restaurants, Hank, a great guy and Carmel Sheriff''s Department retiree, used to come in once in a while for a cocktail. He was full of great stories from the old days. According to Hank, the barn next to Mission Ranch Restaurant, which is now used for private functions, used to be a pretty wild bar scene. Hank told me about all the Friday nights he and his partners had to go in there to restore order.
Seeing it today, it seems too tame to possess such a colorful history. Home to beautifully decorated weddings, that old barn sits tranquilly overlooking a magnificent meadow and Carmel coast panorama. The only conflict one can imagine now is between a temptation to observe the spectacular scenery from outdoors or enjoy the more sheltered comforts of indoors.
Inside the restaurant, it''s a different story. Nightly, the piano lounge in the restaurant at Mission Ranch is home to the one of the hottest bar scenes on the Peninsula.
Despite the efforts of many do-gooders, there are still people who enjoy going out at night to have a few drinks and commune with their fellow citizens in a nightclub environment. Outside of the joints that cater to the twentysomething crowd and a few places for folks in their 40s, there isn''t any place around that provides an environment for partiers in their golden years--except Mission Ranch.
I never have a bad time when I go there. Whether it''s the elaborate Sunday brunch, a cocktail during happy hour or a full-fledged dinner, somehow the geographical confluence of air, land and sea, coupled with the pretty bungalows and the occasional sheep parade, overrides any minor negative moments that might occur. It was with that holistic attitude and a reunion mentality that the Three Stooges gathered for a recent Friday night at the Mission.
I called a little late for reservations. Consequently, the available choices were early or late. No worries. I went with a nine o''clock, figuring we could show up early for a few drinks and a song, and maybe an appetizer on the deck while the low riding sun did its colored light show for the world. We arrived a little after eight. The bar area was already going strong, with the piano man tinkling away and the revelers reveling. Families and fresh-air fiends filled the back deck. The battalion of propane heaters hovered in formation above everyone like miniature flying saucers observing the habits of these alien Earthlings. Off in the distance, rolling, white-crusted waves crashed against craggy coastline while the soft green meadow in the nearground mellowed up to the border of Mission Ranch. This was gonna be good.
While we stood in the foyer mingling with the maitre''d, a man who looked just like Clint Eastwood walked by us. I guess those years I lived in LA conditioned me to think that look-alikes are the real thing. That bit of strangeness notwithstanding (I love that word) we were able to get a table right then. We took it.
Eschewing the pandemonium of the tables near the bar, as well as the al fresco tables on the deck, we opted for a quiet little corner table in the back room. Great decision. With a perfect view of the waning day''s splendor, we settled in for the duration. Knowing that we were late enough that the table could not be turned--but early enough to not hold up the staff--afforded us the truest leisure available in a restaurant. This, too, was gonna be good.
We were hungry and thirsty. To the table came garlic bread and a tray with olives, celery and carrots--helpful to quell the rumblings within. Cocktails and an appetizer, the Three Mushroom Fettucine--technically not an appetizer--helped begin the transformation from anticipatory to participatory dining. The Fettucine was cooked nicely, redolent with earthy mushrooms and delicate bits of spring vegetables in a simple, light butter sauce. A touch of salt and pepper helped bring out the flavors.
From a menu short on creativity, but under these circumstances not too disappointing, we each chose a fish entrée. Before entrées though, we decided on the crab-and-artichoke bisque to share. Although unspectacular, it still satisfied. (Does that make sense?) I guess for me, the total sensory satisfaction I derive at Mission Ranch is composed of more than the sum of its parts, clearly supporting my contention that dining out is, many times, more than just about the food.
By the time we got around to ordering our entrées--salmon for Larry, swordfish for Curly and grouper for me (Moe), we had entered into a perfect state of harmony, almost a state of grace, where the surroundings, the sensations, the emotions and, most importantly, the people you are with, all meld into a wonderful, one-of-a-kind world that is unavailable anywhere else but in that moment.
With the darkening sky closing the sphere of serenity around us while happy music and laughter of the folks in the next room wafted about, we blissfully ate our entrées, which were well cooked, substantial and thoroughly enjoyable, although, for the life of me, I wouldn''t want to try to overanalyze them, then or now. We three were totally fulfilled and in a great collective mood.
As we strolled back through the bar area on our way out, I noticed that guy who looked like Clint Eastwood again, just hangin'' out by the piano and having a good old time. He had a look on his face that described exactly how we felt.
MISSION RANCH26270 Dolores, Carmel, 625-9040
Open: Daily from 4pm. Lunch on
Saturday, brunch on Sunday.
Share after-dinner banter with Ray (firstname.lastname@example.org)