Willow Ranch Restaurant – Buttonwillow, CA – Review

We were driving back home to the Bay Area, after my sister’s wedding in LA, and we were all starving by the time we hit Buttonwillow.  Choices for lunch here are pretty limited.  You have a Dennys and a couple of fast food joints, a taco truck or two, an Indian restaurant and Willow Ranch.  We had stopped at Willow Ranch once before, for breakfast, and had left unimpressed.  However, Yelp reviews promised something better for lunch, and we’re always up to trying some BBQ.  Willown Ranch did not disappoint.  They probably served the best bbq I’ve had outside E&J’s for a long time.

Willow Ranch is a simply, homey, coffeeshop/family restaurant style place.  They have a cool statute of a cow in the front, which the kids loved, and a western motif, but it’s not a place where you come for the decor.  The menu is extensive, but it caters to meat eaters (vegetarians should probably head for Taste of India).  That was perfectly fine with us.

Mike had a 1/2 rack of baby back ribs ($15). They came with coleslaw, corn-on-the-cob, baked beans and onion rings.  We both felt the ribs were excellent. I liked the flavor and the fact that they didn’t taste boiled, they had texture.  The BBQ sauce was also excellent, highlighting sour and sweet notes. Those who like a kick on their BBQ would be disappointed, but I don’t.  I had the tri-tip sandwich with onion rings ($10).  The beef itself was sort of blah, but the sauce was good enough to make it shine.  All in all, I was quite happy.  The onion rings were very good as well, make sure to ask for ranch sauce to go with them.

My oldest daughter was quite happy with her California Chicken Burger ($8) and the little one was quite happy with her mac & cheese.  The kids’ size dish was cheap at $4, but it did leave her hungry (she’s 9).   The rest of us had more than enough food together, however.

Drinks were about $2.50 and the whole lunch for the four of us came to about $51 after tax and before tip.

All in all, it was a great lunch and I look forward to stopping there in the future.

Update May 2014

We stopped again at Willow Ranch, again coming back from LA.  It was earlier in the day, so two of us had breakfast.

Mike had the Western Style Omelette ($9). He was not too happy with it.  It was described as ‘Shredded deep-pit Certified Angus Beef®, diced bell pepper and onions topped with Cheddar cheese and served with your choice of homemade BBQ sauce or salsa”.  He had expected that the beef and veggies would have been incorporated into the omelette.  Instead, an egg & cheese omelette was just served on top of the beef.  I just didn’t work for him.

Camila had some pancake combo from the kids’ menu which met her 9 year-old expectations.  The toast, however, was very hard and she did not like it.

Mika once again enjoyed her California chicken burger, sans bacon, and I had the kids’ BBQ ribs & fries ($6). I wasn’t very hungry, and as Mika was ordering from the adult menu I felt justified.  The entree came with four spare ribs, which was just the right amount for my hunger then and should satisfy a child’s appetite.  Again, they had a nice texture and a good sauce.  The fries were crispy and fine, but unremarkable.

In all, a good experience, but I think lunch rather than breakfast is the winner here.

Original Review, Breakfast, July 2009

We were on I-5 again, returning home from LA, the kids were hungry and the next stop was Buttonwillow so we headed there. We hadn’t been to the Willow Ranch restaurant before, and we figured it might be better than the other choices. In reality, it was not – we only had breakfast, but their breakfast left some to be desired. I’m rating it a solid “D” for Dennys-like quality.
I had the French toast (2 bread slices for $6) that came with a side of bacon or sausage. I got the bacon and it was overcooked and tough. The French toast was OK but not exciting, a rather small portion for the price (but I wouldn’t have wanted more). It was served with regular syrup.
Mike had the “hearty” breakfast ($8) which included pancakes, 2 eggs, sausage, and I think bacon. The pancakes were fine, but his eggs over medium were actually runny. Without any potatoes or bread to soak the yolk, they were a waste. The kids had the pancake and egg breakfast ($3) and were both happy, but they are easy to please. With 3 hot chocolates and a glass of milk the bill came to $30 after tax, expensive for a very mediocre breakfast.
The Willow Ranch is a modest, western-style restaurant and I think they specialize in BBQ foods, so their BBQ may be good – but I wouldn’t be rushing back in in any case.
Willow Ranch Restaurant
27770 Lagoon Dr.
Buttonwillow, CA
(661) 764 – 6605
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