We didn’t intend to drop in to Mt. Baldy Lodge. We were just on a drive up the mountain, ooing and awing over nature’s beauty, pointing at lovely little brown sparrows and enormous, black flapping ravens, still able to see some small remnants of icy snow in a frozen trickle down the mountain side that had been preserved by the odd comings and goings of April showers. But then we were hungry.
Having made it to the barren Mt. Baldy ski lifts, we decided to drop in to the Snow Crest Inn restaurant/lodge at the base of the lifts. We decided to leave, however, after sitting in the empty dining room for about 15 minutes under the watchful eye of the lunchtime hostess/bartendress/cook; apparently our intended $20 meal wasn’t cash enough to make her flip burgers during, well, lunchtime.
As we hummed down the winding roads, we remembered seeing the little red Mt. Baldy Lodge on the way up. It certainly had outward charm; we wondered if the folks inside were charming and cheery as well. Can you say blast of Mojave sunshine?
The minute we walked in, we were swept up in an enthusiastic virtual bear hug by our new favorite person on the planet, Nanette, the sparkling blond server. In fact, Nanette was the only server—but just like a pro, you’d have thought there were 20 of her running around the ten-odd seated tables because no one ever seemed to go without anything they wanted.
We took a seat in the middle of the room—near one of two stone fireplaces—looking square at enormous moose and buck heads hanging from the rafters. Normally we’d feel bad for the critters, but they were so huge, we just told ourselves they were animatronic, like those heads at the old Country Bear Jamboree show at Disneyland. We hoped they’d eventually sing.
The Lodge menu had the down-home, all-American meat and potatoes offerings that you get real excited about when, like us, you don’t allow yourself to abuse your arteries very often. It was a hooky day, however (both of us were supposed to be sick, and well, when checking out new eating digs that’s always a possibility), so we decided we better eat anything and everything to placate any misplaced and annoying pangs of guilt. We ordered up the special BBQ roast beef sandwich, the Grubber cheeseburger and, hell yes, a pile of onion rings—and my mouth just started salivating again.
We also had some fancy and petite dinner salads, because we’re completely lame, and they just sounded fancy and petite. We were shocked, however, as Nanette gravely approached our table, saying she just couldn’t bring us those salads. “That stuff was way too limp and just wasn’t green enough,” she said, shaking her head. “There’s no way I’d serve you that.” We could hardly believe our ears. Nanette truly cared about our eating experience. We thought we noticed a slim halo glowing to life around her blond bustle of curls when suddenly, something even more miraculous happened: that doll Nanette made the cook chop up new salad, just for us! Did we mention that she was the only server in the place and it was getting kind of busy? [Insert picture of hearts in our eyes, here.]
In no time, that sugar pie brought us our sandwiches, and soon after, our crisp, fresh and super green salads. With fork in one hand and our other trained on our plates like prisoners, we made the rounds of our personal Baldy buffet.
The Grubber burger is aptly named, not meaning huge, but meaning juicy and cooked just right—something you want to grub down, you see, while nary taking a breath. The fries were crisp, with no mushy ones and weren’t the slightest bit greasy. But those dad-gummed onion rings were dad-gummed amazing. We think that might be a nice new name for them, in fact.
That said, we don’t want you to think that Mt. Baldy was the most spectacular lunch we’d ever had in our lives, but it certainly made our top ten list of “comfort food hotspots”—it was also appropriately priced, delivered hot, and we suffered no trace of heartburn afterward. We can’t say that about a lot of places.
In addition, the Lodge is, well, a lodge! They have eight cabins (though we only counted six for some reason), complete with fireplaces and electric blankets, and all very homey with quilts and such. We didn’t stay, but Nanette unlocked the back door so we could take a peek through the windows of the little things. “They’re so cute,” she chirped before we went out, “we’ve done them up real nice.” And they were—charming and cheery, just like Nanette. And as we drove down the rest of the mountain, back to the bustling city below, we held on to that little drop of sunshine we’d gotten at Mt. Baldy Lodge. It may have lasted for only a good half hour—but we never look a decapitated moose head in the mouth.
Mt. Baldy Lodge, 6777 Mt. Baldy Rd., Mt. Baldy, (909) 982-1115; www.mtbaldylodge.com. Open Mon.–Sat., 11AM; Sun., 9AM, 365 days a year. Cabins: $79–$149. Lunch for Two: $20–$30