When I first pulled in to the Lookout Roadhouse for lunch, I felt a bit uneasy. I was with the kids, but is a roadhouse really a proper place to bring the young-uns? Would Patrick Swayze be around—and would he be performing dinner theatre later that day? And were the skeleton-mask-wearing bikers out front being serious, or just ironic hipsters?
I needn’t have worried—my four- and six-year-olds loved the place, Swayze was nowhere to be seen, and the death-squad crew kept their mysteries held tightly to their leathers. Besides, after just having spent 10 nights in Barcelona sans children, plunging the absolute depths of the city’s club scene, the Lookout Roadhouse felt like a much-needed return dive into true Americana.
The Lookout’s main attraction is the view—perched on an Ortega Highway cliff, the vision of Lake Elsinore and the Temescal Valley below can’t be denied. But there’s more here than the stunning vistas. The place has genuine character, an authentic Americana feel augmented by the slightly played-out ‘50s rock that spins on a continuous loop, all in a little red shack where you can order your food outside from a window, or go inside and eat on the deck. Nothing is fancy, and even their bathroom facilities keep it porta-potty real.
It isn’t just the view that makes the drive up the mountain worth the trip. The food at the Roadhouse is way better than it needs to be—the owners could nuke up some poppers and pizza and make a killing, or simply serve low-quality eats and charge people for the mile-high ogle, but they don’t. Instead, there’s a fantastic deli-type menu that would put to shame many of the foofoo places on the coastal side of Ortega. Most of the stuff is actually healthy, too. My kids spent much of their energies wolfing down the fruit medley, one of the freshest, varied fruit plates I’ve come across as a parent who tries to get his kids to eat more than chicken fingers. This fruit blend had the usual suspects like bananas and apples, but also kiwi, blueberries, pineapple, peaches, and three types of melon. All of this got them so full that they barely touched the sublime ham sandwich they were sharing, which itself was better than you’d expect, arriving at our table on dill bread with Dijon mustard, a juicy slice of beefsteak tomato, and crispy Romaine lettuce.
I could say the same for the barbeque pork deal I went for. Like the Roadhouse, the sandwich itself is simple—just pork and sauce stuffed into a French roll. But the pork is tender as hell, and swamped in some of the tangiest barbeque sauce I’ve ever slurped on—a perfect balance of sweetness and spiciness. With a generous dash of homemade potato salad on the side, any sandwich on the menu makes for a complete meal. The Roadhouse also offers up an impressive array of breakfast items, such as scrambled eggs on pita bread and the colossal Country Breakfast (three eggs, choice of meat, taters, fruit, and an English muffin as well as French toast). Best of all, they serve it all day—kind of like IHOP, but with good food.
And of course, they serve that amazing, ever-present view. Even when fog obscures Elsinore below, it’s still a pretty spectacular perch.
The Lookout Roadhouse, 32107 Ortega Hwy., Lake Elsinore, (951) 678-9010; www.lookoutroadhouse.com. Open days only.