In a city as unfathomably large as Los Angeles, you hear the term “destination restaurant” a lot. Mainly because no matter where you’re eating, you’re probably getting in a car and driving there. A real destination restaurant, however, has much more going on than drive-worthy food. It needs to be an experience from start to finish - even better if it’s as wonderful as it is soul-shakingly bizarre. No, we’re not talking about Rainforest Cafe. We’re talking about Saddle Peak Lodge - one of LA’s best destination restaurants.
Like any good destination, Saddle Peak is not close - for anybody. It’s located up in the Santa Monica mountains above Malibu, probably not too far from that hiking trail you keep telling yourself you’ll go to this weekend, but definitely won’t. Once there, walking on the grounds of Saddle Peak is like walking into another dimension or, at the very least, Richard Branson’s hunting lodge in Montana.
The space is massive - three separate floors, themed rooms (there’s a library and an attic filled with tiny boats), and a sprawling patio looking out over the mountains. Chances are high that you’ll be seated next to a roaring fireplace, staring point-blank at a taxidermied deer and a massive bookshelf with novels about the lost art of musketeering. And you what? You’re going to love every goddamned second of it, because this is exactly what you signed up for.
Saddle Peak’s 100-year-old history is long and varied. It’s been everything from a Pony Express stop to an actual hunting lodge to a place where Hollywood elite could simply eat their whipped potatoes in peace. For as crazy as that history is though, the menu seems quite traditional - caesar salads, jumbo asparagus, and pork loins. But then you notice “the game trio” at the bottom and realize there’s more in play here. Saddle Peak’s bread and butter (besides their actual bread and butter, which will rock you) are their rare meats. Emu, ostrich, venison, or elk - whatever’s on the butcher’s block that night is what you should order (or consider it a crime to yourself). For the rest, wrap the meal around things you know and love like mac and cheese, bread pudding, and a cast iron johnnycake that we think about in the shower. This isn’t affordable dining by any means, but remember you’re eating rare meats and that just comes with the territory.
Nothing about Saddle Peak is subtle or nuanced. If you come here expecting to find a mischievous take on the gooseberry, turn around now. Also, don’t talk to us. This is a meat and potatoes free-for-all you share with your entire family on a holiday or just some friends who want to experience something different tonight. And that’s a destination worth the journey.
Order this or don’t even allow yourself to put the keys in your car to come here. It’s just a fantastic plate of meat you’ve probably never had before and the heart (not the actual heart) of Saddle Peak.
Frankly, you should be outraged if a place like Saddle Peak can’t put out a good dish of mac and cheese, and luckily, that doesn’t happen here.
You’re going to be looking long and hard for a vegetable source, so we don’t blame you if you’re tempted to order a salad. But don’t. Aside from the house-made croutons, the caesar is very skippable. Double-down on the vegetable entree sides instead.
This is basically corn bread, but better, and will have meaningful and long-term impacts on how you view the world. Order this. Order this. Order this.
At Saddle Peak, game trio to dinner is what the eggs benedict is to brunch. This place does an excellent weekend brunch, but if you don’t order this beautiful pile of bacon, eggs, and hollandaise, we can’t help you. ALSO IT’S ON A CROISSANT.
If you just can’t bring yourself around to eating emu tonight, order this instead. And then dream about what emu must taste like.
By the end of a meal at Saddle Peak, stomach space is going to be at a premium. But if you can muster it, the bread pudding is tremendous.