I visited the Royal Oak restaurant and pub in Blue Jay, CA at the wrong time of year... or maybe it was the perfect time of year. In mid-April, I stumbled upon the Royal Oak restaurant via a friend's recommendation and fell in love. The town was dead (off season for a ski town...which makes it the perfect time of year) but the restaurant was filled with original localvores with deep regional roots (and salty stories rolling off their tongues). This "off the beaten path" restaurant is located off of highway 189 (near Lake Arrowhead, CA), connected to a strip mall and pretty hard to spot. The entry of the restaurant is this cool looking, rustic door embossed with a silver lion's head and over sized door handle which really sets the tone for the restaurant experience you are about to embark on. The restaurant is separated into two sections; the regular dining room and the piano bar. We sat in the piano bar, across from the bar, facing the piano and all the action.
The restaurant boasts an extensive carnivore/Italian menu. However, the wine menu leaves a lot to be desired but what they lack in vino, they make up for in cheese (on the dinner menu). Literally. I ordered rigatoni (which I thought was a safe bet in the mountains) and the entire dish was covered in mozzarella cheese. The best part about the restaurant wasn't the cuisine, or the decor, but rather the community. The regulars that came into the restaurant were simply intriguing. We were entertained the entire evening by the overhard convesations of town gossip. But then again, were were lucky enough to sit next to 2 older couples, sharing tales about the local "junior league" (one was the president) or its equivilent and the other women they hate. The restaurant is also the local rotary club (if that adds any color to the story).
The piano player seems to have been playing at the bar for 30+ years and stops every couple songs to mingle with the locals. There was a man who mozied in with skin tight levis (belted around his nipples) and a snug, see-through Hawaiin skirt on, all pulled together with black cowboy boots...was the impromtu talent for the evening. Everytime the piano player started in on an old-timer song, the man in second-skin levis started singing the words and finishing the song with full gusto. As we were leaving there was another loca gentleman who was setting up his guitar and amplifier (blasting the restaurant with pitchy feedback) it seemed that this was the pot-luck muscial kind of restaurant. The kind of gritty, local restaurant I love.
If you're ever near Lake Arrowhead, CA (or Big Bear, CA), drop on by and sing a tune at the Royal Oak.
Old school restaurant to the core. Before dinner, i bought a plaid wool shirt from the Pendelton Outlet in the Arrowhead Village and I'm glad i did, because it really helped me fit in with the 60-70 year old crowd which frequents this Royal Oak. It was awesome!!! Prime Rib sandwich was amazing. I'd recommend it and eat it again next time for sure. Beyond that, there is a lot of classic dinner house items on the menu... steaks, seafood, pasta dishes … more
I was born in East Amherst, NY...lived there for 13 years before moving to Vadnais Heights, MN. I spend 5 years in MN, decided it was too darn cold there and ventured onto college in Phoenix, AZ at Arizona … more
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