Saturday, March 5, 2016

Western-style Date Night

Porter Mountain Steakhouse, March 5, 2016.

As we finished this week's shopping late this afternoon, Mark asked, "Where are we going to dinner?" I looked at him in surprise because we hadn't talked about going out tonight, but he had that teasing little smile on his face that let me know he'd purposely thrown out the idea to get my attention.

"You want to go out?" I responded. "Where do you want to go?" His first two suggestions were out of the question because they offer no meals that are low-carb-friendly (China Wok, KFC). His third suggestion was El Rancho. I wrinkled my nose. "We ate there two weeks ago. Let's do something different," I said. Then inspiration struck. "How about Porter Mountain Steakhouse?"

He liked that idea, so we went home to put away the groceries, and then we headed out to the steakhouse on Porter Mountain Road.

We started with Baked Tater Skins. Greasily delicious!

This restaurant has a lot of history and holds many memories for us. When we first moved to the mountain, this place was called The Chuckwagon, and it was one of our favorite places to take our small children for a family dinner, regularly. The steaks, which were reasonably priced, were charbroiled right there on a huge grill at the end of the dining room, the flames flaring up and heating the whole room. And the steaks were delicious.

Mark chose the beef stroganoff.

Not long after Mark and I divorced in 2006, the restaurant changed management or owners or cooks. Whatever it was, the quality of the food suffered and we gradually quit going there for dinner. Then the restaurant closed down about four years ago, although there were often rumblings that it might open again.

I went with the steak salad. It was SO good!

Eventually, it did reopen. In fact, the kids and I ate there once, not long after it reopened. The food was definitely great again, but the prices had also risen to the point where I couldn't really afford to treat my whole family. So we hadn't been back, until tonight. It was still too expensive to order the steaks, but there were other yummy items on the menu that fit our budget.

The Bar

There have been huge changes since our last visit. The big room that used to be the dining room with the indoor grill has been walled off and appears to now be some kind of conference room. The dining rooms are now located in the bar and in a larger room beyond the bar that was added onto the building many years ago. Behind the bar, the new owner has started a small western museum, which features in particular the buffalo that he admires and has collected for a long time.

Native American and buffalo artifacts in the room behind the bar.

While waiting for our dinner, I enjoyed walking through the little museum. Although I think the people of the Old West lived pretty harsh lives that I'm glad I didn't have to endure, the details of that era still fascinate me.

A waitress invited me to get on this buffalo for a picture.
I told her I'd probably break something if I did, either my hip or the buffalo!

One section of the museum is dedicated to the film Dances with Wolves, and it features an actual prop from the film: the carcass of a dead, skinned buffalo (not real, of course) left by white men to rot and waste on the plains.

Jesse James or Paul Newman?
(It says "Jesse James" on the plaque.)

The museum also features life-size mannequins of famous folks from the Old West. I thought the likeness of William Bonney, aka Billy the Kid, was uncannily like that of his infamous photo. However, I thought the model of Jesse James more closely resembled Paul Newman. As for Daniel Boone, I'm not sure. He kind of reminds me of my cousin Raelene's husband, Holiday! 

The lower left plaque features artifacts from the James Gang.

The owner and creator of the museum chatted with me for a bit. He was very interested when I told him that the infamous Younger Brothers, who rode with the James Gang, were cousins of my Grandpa Loyd Haley. According to oral family history, Grandpa only met them once, when he was very young and they had ridden into town. I don't know if it's true or not, but I do know they are my distant cousins.

Billy the Kid, dressed up just like in his portrait.

Frontiersman, Daniel Boone.

I loved the scene on this painted screen.

There was even Western entertainment for the evening. This performer sang and
accompanied himself on guitar the entire time we were there. He was great.

It turned out to be a great date night. It felt to us like we'd not only gone out to a nice dinner, but we'd also visited a museum and a Western theme park!

Before we left, I convinced Mark to ride the buffalo!

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