Big beef in Sloughhouse
Sloughhouse, CA 95683
When most people think of Sloughhouse, the last thing on their mind is fine dining. Sacramento residents may remember the old Sloughhouse Inn—with middle-of-the-road fare and a strange smell emanating from the floorboards—and ignore the town on their way back from wine tasting in Amador County. Those folks are missing out.
In late 2016, local restaurateurs Ron and Terri Gilliland gave the old farmhouse a new lease on life and a new name to match: Meadowlands. They gave the building a light-handed facelift, handed the reins to Roxy Restaurant’s executive chef Danny Origel and overhauled the menu with an emphasis on the Gillilands’ pastured, Dixon-raised Lucky Dog Ranch beef. The result? Not your mama’s middle-of-nowhere steakhouse.
During one visit, my smoked “beef in a barrel” meatloaf ($24) was flavorful, well-textured and not overly smoky. The accompanying potatoes gratin was smothered with an admirable amount of cheese and the meaty bacon-braised greens elicited a “SQUEEEEE” from my dining partner. The Lucky Dog Ranch burger ($13) was one of the best burgers I’ve had in a while, perfectly cooked and laid on a rich brioche bun. The mini housemade cheddar biscuits ($4) were so good I decided to bring home extras, only to feel a mild sense of grief when I realized we’d eaten them all.
The only caveat during my visit was dessert. The sticky toffee pudding with cream cheese gelato more closely resembled two dejected-looking mini burgers sidled up to a scoop of icy mashed potatoes. The burgerlike “puddings” missed the texture of a traditional British steamed pudding, and the gelato was so icy that I wondered if someone had let the carton melt on the counter and thrown it back in the freezer without rechurning it. I mentioned it to the waitress, who offered her chagrin but no alternative or resolution.
On another night, I tried the takeout deal: dinner for two for $25, with an entrée, salad and dessert. (An extra buck gets you a handful of those blissful cheddar biscuits.) My roast chicken was tender and luxurious, and the Meadow Salad so hearty and fresh that it could have made a proud meal in itself. All was well until dessert.
I was told I’d be getting an apple crisp but was surprised to find a box of still-sad-looking sticky toffee pudding pucks. If they were just OK while warm, they were less-so at room temperature. The tiny portion of baked apples did little to moisten them up. Sticky toffee pudding fail, take two.
The verdict? Meadowlands is well worth the drive, and a must-stop if you’re already coming up Highway 16. Even if you’re just dropping into the luminously decorated bar for a craft cocktail or a locally sourced glass of wine, you’ll find a wide selection of generous bar bites that themselves make for a grand small meal.
Pro tip: Meadowlands is currently selling Lucky Dog Ranch ground beef for the insanely low price of $15 for 5 pounds. (That’s $3 per pound if the math escapes you.) If you happen to be driving down Highway 16, stop and grab a bag… or five.