Harris Ranch; Coalinga, California

San Francisco really isn’t a steak town. Having grown up in Chicago, which IS, the whole time I was living in SF I kept wondering where a girl had to go to get a decent one (seriously in SF you pay a lot for very little when it comes to steak). That place as it turned out, was — according to all my friends — Harris Ranch, an actual cattle ranch (and the largest one on American’s west coast) about halfway between SF and LA off of California Route 5, that is also a store, a hotel, and a gas station.

IMG_5540.jpgThe thing that first strikes you any time you drive past Harris Ranch is that it’s something of an oasis in the desert. IMG_5542

The owners really have built something very grand out here in the middle of not very much, and I often wondered what the cost of it was in terms of their water bill.IMG_0444This is particularly true during the summers when California is traditionally completely dry (seriously, for those who don’t know, it is HIGHLY abnormal for California to get any rain during the summer months), and this is especially true these last few years which have been a growing drought; the greenness of the place really shocks your eyes.

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That said, all along the way I kept seeing signs alongside the road saying things like, “is water wasted when it’s used to grow food?” And “This dust bowl courtesy of the federal government.” There’s apparently a political war going on between the conservationists, the farmers with regards to the water issue… but I don’t have the time or energy to delve into it here. (It’s important to remember that while the cities of California vote mostly democratic, the rural farm areas, such as where Harris Ranch is located tend to vote Republican.

IMG_5539That said, Harris Ranch clearly understand who their customer base is…. namely the rich customers who commute between SF and LA, some of whom are willing to put their money where their mouths are in terms of their concern for the environment by buying insanely expensive electric cars.IMG_0436

That said, there’s something new at Harris which wasn’t there last time I visited… a BBQ option at cheaper prices being sold out of the gas station part of the place.

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Plus a selection of their steaks to go again, from the gas station’s mini-mart. IMG_0445If however you go to the main building (a really gorgeous hacienda type building), you’ll find not only a much bigger gift shop, but a butcher shop section in the gift store that’s about twice as big as what’s in the gas station — with more cut options, sausages, etc.

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In this building there are also three different restaurants. The first is a bar, which offers up alcohol and slightly cheaper cuts of meat.

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The 2nd is a family style restaurant, which is walk in, but again with the slightly cheaper cuts of meat, and a wider menu (to appeal to families) with kids, etc., where you can buy things ‘ala carte

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And then the third option is their high-end restaurant, which normally requires reservations, has only their best cuts of meat, and the main comes with a selection of sides, a soup, etc. (NOT ala carte).

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THIS is where I opted to eat, because in addition to better cuts of meat, which I wasn’t going to eat, it had a wider sea food selection. I got a bowl of gazpacho

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For my drink I had their watermelon iced tea, and then for my main I ordered their scallops dish, which is intended to go ON TOP of the steak… and their vegetable platter.

The Soup was very good… and then I waited 45 minutes for my mains to show up. Finally (when my iPhone’s battery was starting to fail) I called over a waiter and asked “how many hours am I going to have to wait for my main dish?” The waitress who had taken my order over heard, ran over, apologized and then told me it was all her fault, she’d forgotten to put the order in. Her manager then came over said they’d have my food out in a jiffy, and that my bill was on them…. SO they screwed up big time, but as the food was free, I can’t complain too much…

That said, I was pretty unimpressed with everything I ate… So Harris, is great for the steaks but seems to have to get its act together otherwise.

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Apparently they also breed horses

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