Why Ontario? Because only 56.97 miles and a heavy oak door separate BW's front porch from the dark interior of the Cheyenne Social Club.
Built in 1946, the blue, windowless building that is now the CSC served as the town's Greyhound bus station until 1975, when the space was remodeled and became the creme de la creme of Ontario dining. My first step into the dimly lit foyer may as well have been a journey through a time portal with dark wood, upholstered walls and antique furniture invoking the finer and less-violent aspects of the Wild West. Much like Garden City's Stagecoach Inn and McCall's The Mill, CSC belongs to an era of restaurants lost between the explosion of casual chain restaurants and locally owned eclectic fine dining establishments. The choices are simple yet fine, from prawns and clam strips to filet and ribs, and even the most linguistically challenged tongue can correctly pronounce and order everything on the menu. It's fine dining sans the see-and-be-seen air among fellow diners.
But what of the food? As my traveling companion and I dipped small de-tailed prawns in drawn butter and then waded through starter salads, it was the inter-table conversation we carried on with a lovely older couple from The Dalles, Oregon, that held our attention far more than the food. Hot, crunchy prawns and a standard salad with dressing (unfortunately not homemade) came and went without much fanfare. A significant pause preceding our entrees allowed for a leisurely tour of the restaurant's separate dining rooms, spacious downstairs lounge area and elegant carpeted patio.
If only the food were as impressive as its surroundings. A Bourbon Street sirloin topped with a bourbon mushroom sauce was melt-in-my-mouth tender. Cooked expertly to the requested temperature, it was flavorful even without its smothering sauce. The Chicken Valmay stuffed with shrimp, avocado and crab and topped with Hollandaise was much less impressive. Instead of a proving to be a complex dish with a seamless range of flavors, the valmay's ingredients waged war against one another for my tastebuds' attention. Side dishes of sauteed vegetables, rice pilaf and chunks of melon were appropriate though unremarkable pairings (and the melons were not optimal warm and soaked in puddles of Hollandaise and bourbon sauce from our plates). The four-layer chocolate cake served for dessert was the length of my forearm and we surmised that if ever a cake were large enough for Shaq to jump out of, this might be the one. Rich like Bill Gates rich but dry from its stint in the fridge, the Mt. Everest of cakes was deposited almost completely in tact into a to-go box and days later, still sits untouched in my fridge.
Rachael Daigle sometimes eats her mango-scented lotion.
Cheyenne Social Club, 111 SW 1st St., Ontario, 541-889-3777. Mon.-Thu.: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-9 p.m., Sat.: 5-10 p.m., closed on Sunday