And that’s how we like it
The Lovelock Inn, exotic, rustic and in the middle of nowhere
Granny Kaye, as she prefers to be known, says that chain restaurants like Denny’s and McDonald’s are good to have around when you’re driving long distances on the Interstate through unfamiliar territory: “You know what to expect when you eat at those places.” But, added the genial proprietor of the historic Lovelock Inn, “we don’t do that here. What we got is what we got.”
Nestled in the pines above Paradise—between Toadtown and Stirling City—the rustic bar and restaurant does not have a printed menu: The customer just shows up and Kaye runs down the list of what she has available to eat at that particular time. Or you can call ahead of time if you want to make plans for a particular dinner party engagement. “I like to do parties,” Kaye said. “Then I know what to cook, and then I have the help.”
The first time my brother Scott and I stopped by The Lovelock Inn, on our way to go horseback riding at nearby Doon Grade Ranch, we sat in the low-lit entry room containing the bar and a TV, a few people, and all kinds of stuff, including two pool tables (one clearly being used as a magazine and book holder), some well-used electronic darts machines, a vintage Ms. Pac-Man arcade game and one of those toy cranes that you stick a quarter into to try to win a stuffed animal. Oh, and three real, live Cockapoo-type doggies who snuggled on blankets in their own corner booth. The unmistakably home-cooked, grilled, thick, ham-and-cheese sandwich and fries that I chose from Kaye’s short list for the day was excellent—especially the seasoned fries made from fresh, unpeeled potatoes.
For visit No. 2, on a recent Sunday afternoon, I took along my brother and my 4-year-old daughter Lydia. Once again, we had the place virtually to ourselves (part of the place’s exotic charm, I must add), and this time Kaye ushered us into the adjoining dining room, no less interesting than the bar room in its hodge-podge décor. We were seated at a heavy wooden table in the middle of the sky lit wooden room. This area was surrounded by country music on the radio, and, among other things, a collection of large dolls next to a row of decorative glass oil lamps in one direction, a painting of John Wayne near the fireplace (complete with a daughter-intriguing, crackling fire being stoked by two older gentlemen), and stacks of clean plates, coffee cups and syrups and jellies still out from that morning’s brunch. We ordered cheeseburgers and fries and sodas.
What we got in the 45 minutes or so leading up to the arrival of our massive, country-bacon-laden cheeseburgers, was truly amazing. Huge baskets of deep-fried, breaded mushrooms and broccoli, accompanied by a tangy blue cheese sauce, began showing up on the table adjoining ours, were set down on repeated trips from the kitchen by Kaye for us and the two men to share. Next came a gigantic platter of fries similar to the ones we had had on our previous visit, only without the spices this time (just as yummy). Again, for all five of us in the room to share.
“Do you guys have the ketchup over there?” one of the men, who turned out to be “Grandpa Jesse” asked us from the table near the fire he shared with the other man. “Her daughter,” Grandpa Jesse explained, nodding towards the kitchen where Kaye cooked, “married my son.”
Cheeseburgers and fries: ample, delicious, and only $6 ($5.50 without cheese). The appetizers were just part of Granny Kaye’s hospitality: “I serve ’em if I’ve got ’em.”