Steppin’ Out – Poor Red’s BBQ, El Dorado

poor redsI was glad to see this landmark in the town of El Dorado reopen. It has a lot of history going back many decades when Red and Opal Sadler had Kelly’s and changed its name to Poor Red’s.

I first visited Poor Red’s in the mid-1960s when I was working on Iron Mountain Road for the Forest Service. I don’t remember if I had a Golden Cadillac, but I remember the ribs. They were okay, but after several drinks they got better and better.

After I moved here in 1970, we would occasionally go there for lunch. Around the time my daughter reached the old age of three, she had her first Shirley Temple sitting at the bar on the third seat from the door. Things were a lot different then. Years later, when she was at U.C. Davis, if someone asked if she had ever been to Poor Red’s, she would tell the story.

We took the kids, both my son and daughter, for lunch a number of times. For an extra quarter they would cut a hamburger or ham sandwich in half and give you two orders of fries and two salads. If you wanted dressing on your burger they gave you a “well used” jar of mayo to scoop from. Of course, there was always catsup and mustard on the table.

The Pork Dip (sandwich?), was the lunch of choice for many: seasoned and slow cooked (days) ends of the ribs with a dipping sauce (for the roll that came with it). It was rated as the “best hangover cure” in the country. According to their new General Manager, Steve Anderly, they are working on recreating the Pork Dip.

The lunch meals always included fries and a salad. At lunch the salad had no slice of beet, at dinner it did.

Back to today, the place is beautiful and they have retained much of its character. They kept the two-level bar, the seats along the east wall and the bar stools, which they re-upholstered.

They cleaned up and kept the old dining room, at the same tune adding a second one and a dining patio.

The dining room tables and chairs are different and they have added a couple of the higher tables that I like. The old dining room chairs, with their hat clip on the back for “gentlemen’s” hats, are in storage.

The menu has expanded, so when Russ Salazar met me there for lunch one Thursday, we decided to split a hamburger and a half-rack of ribs (ribs weren’t available for lunch in times past). They both came with fries, so we asked for onion rings with the burger.

I ordered the burger medium-rare and without cheese, since in its heyday, Poor Red’s didn’t serve cheese on burgers or sour cream on potatoes. You had to bring both of those if you wanted them, along with a can of nuts if you wanted a snack while you waited to be seated for dinner.

In a few minutes the food arrived and looked really good. We both thought the burger was great. It was cooked just the way I liked it and full of flavor and fatty moisture. It was one of the best burgers I have recently eaten. The ribs were likewise very good, but a bit overcooked to both of our tastes. They told me they cook them all day so they are not dry and reheated.

The onion rings were huge and really good. I would eat them rapidly as, like fries, they are best when very hot. The fries were a bit thicker and not cooked as crisp as the original Poor Red’s fries. I dipped them in the barbecue sauce we had asked for on the side. That I shouldn’t have done. My shirt and pants were the recipient of most of the sauce. For some strange reason, the Ranch dressing that came with the onion rings stayed on the rings and fries.

Russ asked our server if they served milk, his test question. She said she thought they did and then came back to say, “No, they didn’t.” I never understand why some restaurants don’t.

The lunch and dinner menu at Poor Red’s appropriately starts with “Starters,” such as Red’s Hot Wings, House Made Potato Skins, Beer Battered Onion Rings, Half Pound of Fries, Garlic Fries and Pulled Pork Sliders.

The salad list includes their House Caesar Salad. a Rustic Wedge and the House Salad with a slice of beet.

Under the title of sandwiches and burgers are found a French Dip, Pulled Pork Sandwich and the Poor Red’s Burger (½ pound).

Entrees, which come with fries or a baked potato after 5 p.m. include: a Half Chicken Roasted with “West Slope” herbs, 16 oz. Bone-in Rib Eye, 6 oz Filet, House Rubbed Ribs and a list of toppers and add-ons such as Bleu Cheese Crumbles , Red Wine Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions and Crispy Onion Strings.

The dessert list included Peach Cobbler (try it ala mode) and a Chocolate Brownie.

They grill their meat over local oak and mesquite and bake a lot of their buns and desserts in house, which is something I really like.

Oh, they now have more than “Bud” on tap and real wines served in real wine glasses, although getting a small glass filled to the brim with their house red or white wine (both refrigerated) is a nice memory.

Restaurant hours are Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday until 10 p.m.

Bar hours are Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday until 1 a.m.

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