Saturday, June 30, 2012

MD Ranch Cookhouse is Now Home to the FROZEN Cowboy.

MD Ranch Cookhouse - OUT OF BUSINESS as of September 2014

380 South Main
Monticello, Utah, 84535

(435) 587-3299

Website: Still None

If you abhor freshly cooked, flavorly seasoned food, then MD Ranch Cookhouse is now the go to place for you. Husband and wife owners, Dan and Sally believe that the best cooked food must be frozen, not fresh. While Dan does come into the restaurant, you'll find him in a side room mostly playing card games with friends. Sally is an absentee owner which speaks volumes of, "I don't care, this is just a hobby."

They also do not believe in spending money on advertising; there is a small ad in the weekly local paper and that is it. Otherwise it is word of mouth or seeing the place as you drive past (hint, keep on driving). There is a small gift shop inside selling generic "Made in China" items; guess the idea of selling wares of local artisans is too novel an idea for this duo. What is very disappointing is that when I spoke with Dan in April 2011 (my first review), he had such awesome plans for the development of MD. What happened to the enthusiasim Dan?

Chris is a friend of Dan's who manages the kitchen area; Chris has lots of enthusiasim, but little experience in the culinary arts. He manages two new cooks, one with 8 years experience in restaurant services, the other with very little experience. Basically the blind leading the blind with the staff yelling from the roof top, "give us training and professional kitchen tools and equipment to work with!" The entire kitchen, and thank you Chris for the tour, needs to be revamped with more professional kitchen equipment and better space utility and organization. Definitely better deep fryers, walk-in freezer (there is none, only an upright) and a standard home refrigerator. There is a grill area with both a flat top and barbecue style grill; one stove/oven and for some strange reason, these are constantly being turned down in temperature instead of maintaining a standard high temperature. No wonder everything is deep fried, the oven is hardly ever ready for use! MD opens at 11am, the kitchen staff usually arrives at 10:30am for preparation; a half hour to turn on the equipment basically, but very little fresh food prep work. Chris is a nice guy, but excuses of "it takes too long to prep this or that" is just that, an excuse.

Oh, before I forget, there was one beautifully shining star at MD Ranch Cookhouse, our waitress Brittany. She is perky, with lots of attitude that just makes you smile and laugh. If you do go to MD, make sure to ask for her as your server.

So lets get to the food; so I have to admit that Corn Nuggets, although frozen and deep fried, is a favorite of mine. The outside is crispy and golden brown; the inside has tender corn and creamy sauce; just absolutely yummy. Give me a basket of those and a salad and I'm a happy camper.

Now although there is a meat processing plant within the town limits, seems that MD rather pay for cheap frozen, than fresh cut meat and poultry. As for seasoning, the consensus is that the locals don't like seasoned food, they prefer very bland. Well I live in this town and can tell you that those old timers with dry as dust taste buds may like it bland, but not everyone, including tourists. During the spring, summer and fall months, the bulk of income should be made. During the winter months, when there are only the locals to rely on, there is the option of closing for the season, or catering to those locals who enjoy good, fresh and flavorful food. The others who like it bland? Let them go to the local gas station for overcooked coffee and stale donuts, just the way they like it.

The Reuben Burger can be either a quarter or half pound burger with grilled corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing. While the burger meat was cooked to order, it was unseasoned and depended on the other items to give it flavor. The buns are large, fluffy and toasted; while the sides are usually fries, potato chips or cole slaw, we were lucky to be able to try sweet potato fries. Unhappily the fries came out unseasoned, but once MD's seasoning salt was put on them; delicious.

The Wild West Chicken Sandwich; the West would certainly have been lost with this sandwich. If you order it with the breaded chicken breast, expect a round, pressed chicken patty as you would find in the freezer section of your supermarket. I ordered the grilled chicken which is frozen, precooked chicken; it is steamed (why, I have no clue) to order and while warm on the outside, was cold in the center. I refused to eat it as I did not want to get sick and did bring it to everyone's attention. The thick cut bacon would make any lover of bacon break down and cry; the meat was hard as a rock and easily pulled away from the undercooked fat. The barbecue sauce is house made (surprise, surprise) and is very good; they should bottle and sell it in their gift shop. I had the cole slaw as a side and while house made (another surprise), it needed a twang to it, like more vinegar; however it was fresh and that counted highly.

Ok bacon lovers, here is a photo of thick cut bacon I made this morning in my own kitchen. In a 12 inch skillet, high heat, I was able to cook 6-7 pieces in each batch; each batch took only 8 minutes to fry up to delicious crispiness.

Dan, Sally and Chris; before you make any plans to remodel the MD Ranch Cookhouse; remodel the kitchen and most especially...THE FOOD! Fresh is best; frozen has its place, but not as your main source. Good luck; you're going to need tons of it.

Mary Cokenour

NOTE: The information I have written in this blog post is either from personal experience having a meal at MD Ranch Cook House, or from speaking with current and former employees.  If the employees themselves are stating that major changes, especially in food quality and handling, are needed, than there is accuracy in the statements.

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