[Update: I've gotten a quick, and much appreciated, email response from the President/CEO of Black Butte Ranch, Scott Huntsman. Great name for a guy who runs an outdoorsy outfit, by the way. I shared Scott's vegetarian-friendly message in the comments to the post. It's great to hear about plans to put some veggie options on the dinner menu. It'll be even greater to eat them.]
Long-time vegetarian that I am (forty of my sixty years), I clearly recognize the danger signs of ordering in a upper-scale restaurant that, for some inexplicable reason, has precisely zero dinner entrées that haven't walked or swum before appearing on a patron's plate.
This, sadly, describes the menu at central Oregon's Black Butte Ranch restaurant, a.k.a. The Lodge Restaurant.
Download Black Butte Lodge dinner menu
My wife and I eat there regularly, since we are part owners of a forest service cabin in nearby Camp Sherman and visit the area monthly when the weather is nice (meaning, we skip late fall and winter).
Most recently -- yesterday -- our waitress (should I say "server" to be politically correct? nah) got a deer in the headlights look when she walked over to our table and I told her, "We're vegetarian and your menu isn't. But don't worry, we'll work something out with the chef, like we always do."
In 2006 I blogged about the same lack of vegetarian respect in "Black Butte Ranch Restaurant: We love you, but..." The love and the but were summarized in my first two paragraphs:
Sometimes tough love is needed. Straight talk. Telling it like it is. Black Butte Ranch Restaurant,
my friend, you’ve got to get your serving-time act together. Plus, what
you serve has got to include a decent vegetarian entrée.
Two “got to’s.” Not much to ask. You can handle it. Then we’ll keep
coming back. We love looking out your floor to ceiling windows at
snow-capped mountains, a meadow, grazing horses, geese on the pond. The
atmosphere can’t be beat.
All still true: the view is wonderful; the vegetarian fare is sorely lacking. Come on, I realize that the Black Butte Ranch destination resort wants to convey a Western cowboy vibe.
But these days even cowboys (some of them at least) want a different dinner choice than "Grilled Cowboy Ribeye," "Herb Crusted Loin of Elk," "Smoked Pork Tenderloin," "Roasted Rack of Lamb," "Prime Rib of Beef," and the other choices that we skimmed over quickly before realizing that the menu looked to be as vegetarian-dismal as it was last time we ate there.
In the good old Black Butte Ranch restaurant days, circa 2003, I extolled the virtues of the Garden Plate:
Fresh off my palate, I can accurately describe the marvelous Garden
Plate: soft tofu with a crisply breaded covering, nicely fried; a
grilled portabello mushroom; asparagus; sweet tomato relish; yellow
squash; zucchini—all immersed in a subtle sauce, accompanied by a
just-right dipping sauce. As full as I am, it makes my mouth water to
remember our meal of an hour ago.
The Garden Plate chef must be long gone. Because when the words "We're vegetarians" were uttered now in The Lodge Restaurant, the waitress responded with a blank stare.
Now, we have eaten in some pretty nice restaurants, a few of which have lacked a vegetarian entrée. Almost invariably the server tells us, "No problem. I'll ask the chef to make you something special."
Which, he or she usually does. Creatively. Deliciously.
In the West, as of 2000, about 4% of people are strict vegetarians. Not a lot. But not nothing. Does a restaurant want to eliminate 4% of the population from its potential clientele?
(In Oregon I bet the percentage of vegetarians is higher; it surely is in southern California, where my daughter lives, and where we've never gone out to eat without encountering a wonderful healthy veggie dish on the menu.)
I find it difficult to believe that The Lodge Restaurant never gets a request for a vegetarian dinner entrée. The servers and kitchen should be prepared to reply with the "No problem" that we've gotten at other high quality restaurants.
However, after we told the waitress that we didn't want to go the pasta and vegetables route that left us underwhelmed before, she left us to puzzle out our own dinner order by teasing out options from the side dishes on the menu.
We ended up with some polenta, plain white rice, and grilled vegetables. Not bad, but definitely nowhere near great. I also got a baked potato and a salad. Whoopee.
On the positive side, we were charged $25 for our two "entrées" -- definitely the cheapest thing on the menu, if what we got had been on the menu.
I'll email a link to this blog post to the Black Butte Ranch manager, just as I've done with previous please, please, please entreaties to have at least one vegetarian option available at the restaurant.
I've never gotten a reply. Maybe this time will be different.
Mr. or Ms. Manager, as noted above our criticisms flow from love...of your entire destination resort, and of The Lodge Restaurant in particular.
We always enjoy visiting Black Butte Ranch. Along with other vegetarians, we'd just enjoy the resort more if you had a meatless entrée at the restaurant (how about bringing back the Garden Plate?).
After all, this is a destination resort.
It's seven miles to Camp Sherman, which has one restaurant (Kokanee Cafe) that also lacks a vegetarian dinner option. It's ten miles to Sisters, which has quite a few eating choices, but Black Butte Ranch is supposed to be a destination, not a place vegetarians have to flee from to eat dinner.
Have I convinced you to become more vegetarian friendly in The Lodge Restaurant, Mr. or Ms. Manager? I sure hope so.