Talk about old-school restaurants ... Let’s get into one that’s older than I am. Established in 1955, Bob Taylor’s Ranch House is widely accepted as the oldest operating restaurant in Las Vegas. Original owner Bob Taylor would barbecue for his friends and neighbors in the middle of nowhere off the Tonopah Highway (now U.S. 95). When word got out and demand for his barbecue grew, he turned his ranch house into a supper club. On Saturdays and Sundays he would host trap-shooting competitions, where shooters from all over the world would come to win trophies and prizes like silver belt buckles, then settle in for a hearty meat-centric meal.
The barren desert and tumbleweeds that surrounded the Ranch House back then have now been enveloped by development, but the wood-paneled house covered in Western memorabilia still serves great mesquite-grilled meat. The parking lot is desert dirt, feral cats roam the surrounding property and white Christmas lights still trail the walkway up to the restaurant. Notable diners include Strip headliners like Siegfried and Roy, Mayors Oscar and Carolyn Goodman and members of the Rat Pack. It was the Rao’s of its time, when it was the norm to have Sheriff Ralph Lamb dining next to politicians and other connected personalities, and Bob himself would be standing behind a wall of flames in his white uniform and big white hat chewing on ice that he would throw into the fire to control the heat.
Antique saddles and Western movie posters still hang on the walls, and there’s little in the way of fancy tables, plates and silverware. But the experience is what I seek, and this is where you get the real deal.
You know as soon as you enter there’s no reason to get all dressed up to eat here, but you can if you want, because everyone is made to feel welcome. We ordered cocktails—a Manhattan and a martini that came out quickly and were exactly as I expected—and looked over the menu. Service is friendly and sincere. We went with the dishes the Ranch House is known for: Cajun shrimp scampi and crab stuffed mushrooms for appetizers, I got the 16-ounce prime rib, medium rare, and my wife Roni the grilled rack of lamb. We didn’t come here for chicken marsala or cordon bleu. That’s just crazy. Each entrée comes with salad or soup, cheesy garlic Texas toast and your choice of potato.
Both appetizers were hot and very flavorful, the definition of comfort food. The Texas toast made me smile, thick-sliced Wonder Bread with garlic and cheese. We both had the dinner salad with crumbled blue cheese.
My prime rib was cooked on point, with just the right amount of light smokiness to enhance the tender meat, and my creamy, twice-baked potato was stuffed with bacon and garlic. The dish delivered everything I was promised. Roni’s lamb was coated with mustard and rosemary, classic flavor combinations, but what surprised me was how awesome the meat was. It was the best lamb I’ve ever had in Las Vegas, period. The Ranch House potatoes are basically hash browns, spuds mixed with cheese and mushrooms.
These guys know how to glorify meat and potatoes. I live in Northwest Vegas and plan to make this my hangout. Filled with history, it gives you great-quality meat priced correctly—a no-frills, old-school classic. Stick to the steaks and chops, order a nice bottle of cabernet and enjoy the conversation with your friends or someone you love, and tell ’em Chef Rick sent you. They won’t know what you’re talking about, but you can’t go wrong if you stick with my recommendations.
Bob Taylor’s Ranch House 6250 Rio Vista St., 702-645-1399. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
When he’s not dining at classic Vegas restaurants, Rick Moonen is chef and owner at RM Seafood and Rx Boiler Room at the Shoppes at Mandalay Place.