A low-slung adobe house on the old road to Canyon City, open only in the summer, only for dinner Wednesday through Saturday, as well as Sunday afternoon, and only if you have a reservation in advance (generally three to four days in advance), Juniper Valley Ranch serves some of the nicest food in the west. In a region where so many culinary highlights are four-alarm hot or frontier-crude, here is a place to sit down with a serene meat-and-potatoes meal and a glass of iced tea. It is a family-style retreat with antiques around the fireplace and a menu that lists the same two entrees every day.
Start with curried consommé or spiced cherry cider. Then choose either skillet-fried chicken or baked ham in an oval casserole. These satisfying entrees are accompanied by hot biscuits and apple butter, cole slaw, okra and tomato stew, and delightfully fluffy riced potatoes. Help yourself to seconds, thirds, as much as you like, then top things off with the dessert of the day — bread pudding, fruit cobbler, cake — or a hot fudge sundae. It is a simple meal, virtually unchanged since opening day in 1951, served on calico tablecloths and seasoned with the rare and irresistible ingredient of tradition’s charm.