Ontario is one of those towns that isn’t really a destination. It’s more of a stop along the journey. So in some weird way, it is totally appropriate to review a restaurant housed in a building that up until the 1970s was the Greyhound and Trailways bus station. Smack-dab in the middle of town on 1st Street, the building with blue shingles is fairly hard to miss. A pair of nubile Greek statues adorn each side of the entrance and when we entered during the apex of the sun one fine weekday, we discovered a dark, bordello-esque space. As the door shut behind us, the sun disappeared. In the foyer a stairwell ominously goes down into the basement. Inside is cozy. Walls break up the space into semi-private spaces and it is dark, in a moody way. It has an old West saloon feel.
We opted to sit outside on the patio since daytime temperatures were not oven-like yet—and because we wanted to be reminded that it was still daytime. Wrought-iron tables and chairs dot the patio space sandwiched between the building next door and the restaurant. Red umbrellas over each table give the space a Christo art installation feel. More naked statues and a large faux fountain adorned with grapes balance the real grapes growing against the wall. Since it was a little past the noon lunch rush, we had the space to ourselves.
The menu was your basic small town lunch. Half-pound Cheyenne burgers and sandwiches like ham and cheese and patty melts competed with prime rib dips, finger steaks and traditional salads. All were reasonably priced for lunch between $5.50 for the kids menu items and $9 for sandwiches, which came with a choice of salad, soup or fries. The spawn ordered the same thing, grilled cheese sandwiches, the only difference between them being the appetizer. One went for the salad, the other with the soup. I took the waitress’s recommendation of the taco salad, which, according to the menu was “the best in town.” Since Ontario isn’t necessarily the taco salad capital of the Northwest, I wasn’t expecting much. The spawn scarfed their sandwiches and worked on their fries while I worked around the taco salad. While it may be the best in Ontario, I felt it needed something more than taco meat, lettuce, cheese, bacon bits, black olives, salsa and refried beans. A requested side order of jalapenos and a liberal dousing of ranch dressing made it a meal for me, but I prefer the spicier side of things.
With good service and reasonable food, I may eat there again. And I’d love to check out Midget Mary’s Lounge downstairs—it could be a crazy place to be with the right crowd.
—Bingo Barnes walks on the spicy side.
Cheyenne Social Club, 111 SW 1st St., Ontario, 541-889-3777. Mon.-Thu.: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-9 p.m., Sat.: 5-10 p.m., closed on Sunday