Repeats with a Twist - Rancher's Club, Stillwater OK

Last week I had lunch with a donor couple in Stillwater.  They had originally recommended Panera Bread, but that's just kind of boring for me.  So I tossed out a number of other recommendations, and they came back with The Rancher's Club.  I haven't been there in forever, so I agreed. 

I honestly never remember about Rancher's Club.  It's in the Student Union at the Atherthon Hotel.  I think I've been to the Atherton once in 8 years.  And when I go to the Union, it's usually for a specific purpose.  Combine that with the fact that I avoid the Union like the plague during the school year around lunchtime, I've probably only eaten at the Rancher's Club 3-4 times.

The Atherton is a hotel run by students in the Hotel & Restaurant Management (HRAD) program.  OSU has one of the top HRAD programs in the country.  HRAD students also run Taylor's Dining Room (mid-range dining, catering primarily to faculty & staff) and West Side Café (quick-service restaurant catering primarily to students) in the Human Sciences Building.  I met friends at Taylor's one day in the winter and literally had to ask 4 people how to get there. I'd never been to the Human Sciences building and had no clue where I was going. HRAD students also host a Distinguished Chef Series.  It's a very unique fine dining experience featuring guest chefs from around the country.  The quarterly event has a waiting list, and brings in the who's who of Oklahoma State alumni and friends. I was lucky enough to attend the dinner in the winter, and Michele and I had such a fantastic time. I need to find a way to attend again so that I can do a blog post about it.

In good weather I always walk to the Union because it's not too far from my office.  But that day it was threatening heavy storms, and the last thing I wanted to do is get stuck in the pouring rain.  So I drove, and luckily found a parking spot pretty close.  That is one of the key selling points of a university in the summer.  You can easily drive around town, and you're likely going to find ample parking.

If you don't know where you're going, you might have a tough time finding the restaurant.  From the parking garage on the south side of the Atherton it's easy to walk right in.  But I of course parked on the east side, across the street from the Union and behind the Alumni Association building. Once I was inside I saw my friend Dylan and even had to ask the quickest route to get there.  But eventually I found it.

The Rancher's Club is very unique in that they recognize some of their top donors with their favorite cowboy hats and favorite wines in the entry foyer right by the host stand.

The hostess said that guests will occasionally ask if they can select one of the wines in the case. However, those are the wines for those donors... not for us little people.  They also feature prints of the ranches of those same donors, on the wall above their own table.  So basically, whenever the donors want to eat there, they get to sit at their own table.

There's a mixture of seating, including half booths, small 4-top tables and larger round tables for larger groups. All of the decor is Cowboy inspired.  I didn't get a chance to take pictures of the space, so the below pics are courtesy of The Rancher's Club website:

I like that the plates have the Rancher's Club name on them.  I think it's a great touch when restaurants do that

The menu is pretty substantial for lunch.  They've got appetizers, salads, fresh pasta, sandwiches, slider, entrees, and dessert.  And each category has a few items.   As we decided, our server brought rolls to the table.

They were nice and warm, and delicious.  It was tempting to accept our server's offer for another batch, but we were  good and stopped at one each.

I knew I would be eating a lot of deliciousness over the weekend in Dallas, so I wanted to make a good lunch decision.  But then of course I came across the Vegas cut steak. We asked, and it's the shoulder chuck that is cut a certain way so that it is very tender. Raleigh tried it, but I decided to stick with my original choice of blackened rainbow trout
Served with a warm Yukon potato and green bean salad with lemon vinaigrette
This was really delicious.  The blackening wasn't very spicy at all.  It just added flavor and a mild heat.  Although the piece of fish was large, it wasn't very thick. The server reminded me that the skin was still on the bottom.  Good catch, otherwise I would have been eating the skin.  And believe me, fish skin is not tasty. The vinaigrette worked very well with the potatoes and green beans, and wasn't overpowering at all. It just lent a brightness to the dish.  

As we walked out after our meal, I remembered that Rancher's Club grows a lot of their own vegetables and herbs and recycles rainwater just outside the restaurant, next to the outdoor patio

I'll definitely be back, as I already have another donor lunch scheduled here next week! And I need to do a better job of remembering to come here on other occasions as well. They're one of the few places in Stillwater that does a good steak.