Originally published in the "Ruidoso News", New Mexico. Reprinted with permission from the author: Ivana B. Diningwell.
Since 1973, Dieter Gerzymisch had heard the same question over and over.
"How could anyone start a restaurant in the middle of nowhere and succeed?"
If it’s not the middle of nowhere, it’s a suburb of nowhere – 20 miles east of El Paso and five miles north from the interstate into the desert. What began in 1973 as a place to give patrons something to eat after their horseback rides has expanded to a spacious yet cozy dining facility with steaks that made Ivana want to sing.
But Ivana is getting ahead of herself. She wants to mention first that this is a prime spot for group gatherings – be they friends, family or coworkers. The wait staff is able to cope with anything and they’ve probably seen it all (with 10 different dining rooms, they can seat 600 people, and groups of less than 15 don’t even merit a reservation).
The dining rooms are handsomely decorated Southwest style, with Navaho rugs, wagon wheel chandeliers and assorted vintage wheeled conveyances.
After getting your party settled in one of them (Ivana’s personal favorite is one in which there are several large trees growing), your friendly and patient server will take orders all around. Then you have a good 20 minutes to explore the grounds, which won’t be nearly enough time, but you can come back and work up an appetite for dessert. There are ostriches to admire, donkeys to pet, goats and prairie dogs to amuse, as well as rabbits, bison, horses, cows and peacocks. The more energetic in your party can wander as far as the lake, or get lost in the Indian Maze.
If you time your visit between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday, there are free tractor-drawn hay rides out to the movie set from the 1990s film "Courage Under Fire." Hay rides can also be booked in advance.
Meanwhile, back at the dining room, the family-style platters of pineapple cole slaw, beans and corn on the cob arrive, as well as the best mesquite-smoked ribs and tenderest steaks you’ve encountered in quite a while. "Grande" is the style here, though they thankfully have a "Small Appetites" section on the menu. There are several steamed seafood entrees as well as a nod to chicken and pork, but honestly dear readers, this is cattle country, let us go with the flow, as it were.
For the real masochist, there are 18 different ice cream drinks as well as the house dessert, the Queen of Sheba, a whipped cream confection built with chocolate wafers and a foundation of cherries. And if it happens to be your birthday, it’s on the house.
Ruidoso News is a biweekly published in Ruidoso, New Mexico.