Monday, November 29, 2010

The Old 5 Mile House

There’s something about a quaint little building stuck in the middle of nowhere. Seductively inviting. It doesn’t need a gaudy sign to announce its presence. Its aloneness and singular nature draws us unerringly towards the mystery better than a neon billboard. I had driven that morning through some of the most beautiful snow-covered country, reveling in the silence and spectacular scenery, when up pops this homely pub. And my eyes immediately wandered to the building, to the people coming and going and the kind of cars there. Judging if it would be a safe place for a single woman to stop. Because i knew i would stop. That decision had been made the moment i spied the place. It was now just a matter if i would feel safe going in there. Into that mystery.

My safety sensors gave me a green light, so i parked in front and headed in. I liked the place immediately. Dark mahogany walls with lots of interesting western décor and a large fireplace with a real log fire that – judging by the embers – had been burning for a long while. And my timing was perfect – between the lunch and dinner rush. There were just enough people to make it interesting. I got a chance to chat with one of the servers and, after a short sit at the bar with a hot cup of coffee, i moved to a table by the fire. This is the kind of place you snuggle into after a long day of playing in the snow – or in the spring – a long hike on the trail. The patrons were a mix of locals and folks like me, friendly and talkative without being nosy. Just north of Nevada City on Hwy 20 at Scott's flat lies the building that was built in 1890 mainly as a stagecoach stop, but also served as a postal drop, telegraph post, a restaurant, and pub. My server told me the story how The Old 5 Mile House got its name – supposedly it was also a brothel and by law it had to be at least 5 miles from town. Ah! Good story whether it’s true or not.

I’d been out all day and was famished – time to ponder food choices. I liked that the menu wasn’t 10 pages long. I’d rather a restaurant do a few dishes well than try to please every person ever born and do it poorly. That said, when i asked the server about the flag out front, he informed me that every month they have a special ethnic food – the current month was Indian food – hence the Indian flag. The specials are an addition to the regular menu. Ah! As i looked over the menu – still hours before dinner – i was impressed with the fresh take on the typical luncheon fare. Panini with fresh pear, Italian rosemary ham, and brie cheese; skirt steak sandwich with arugula, shave red onions, blue cheese, chimichurri (i had to look that one up!) and aioli; and piadine – a type of pizza dough topped with salad items; this along with more traditional fare; burgers, Ruben sandwiches, and sausage pizza; filled out the menu nicely. (All of this is making me hungry…) They had several items too for the vegetarian – organic greens salad, grilled zucchini and eggplant pizza, and grilled Portobello Panini. I ordered the rosemary chicken, potato, roasted garlic, and goat’s cheese pizza. It was a little bit of a wait, but when the pizza arrived i was delighted by a lovely thin crust with just the right amount of sauce and toppings. Delicious! My only real complaint is that it wasn’t piping hot.

Now that i was warm and happily full, i wandered around the place and took a closer look at the dinner menu. It seems that The Old 5 Mile House is a full restaurant and can easily handle events and banquets as was evident by the elegant cloth covered tables in the back of the building. The front is deceiving – it only looks like a small bar/restaurant – a whole parking lot and main entrance was hidden by the piles of snow. Another “ah!” moment.

When i got home and looked at their website i felt a bit foolish. I had no idea just how much they had to offer – which only makes me want to go back. The dinner menu is mouth-watering, and though it was a touch pricey for a poor girl like me, the variety and tastiness of their food, and the warmth and coziness of the place will draw me back. Sure as the sun rises in the East…i’ll be back.

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