Located off Highway 494 and Lyndale, the Ranch House provided diners with a mix of western hospitality and 19th-century charm. Owner Harriet Long created moderately-portioned meals that were to be savored and celebrated by her guests. Her goal was to always leave them wanting more–and they did. Ranch House recipes were some of the most requested by readers of the Minneapolis Star in the 1970s. By then, the restaurant was celebrating its 20th anniversary.
Long opened the restaurant in April 1952 with a handful of sumptuous tried-and-true recipes with a side of western decor. She was the daughter of restaurateur John Sleizer who owned and operated Club 21 in Minneapolis. Working with her father at Club 21 allowed Long to learn every aspect of the food business, from cooking and creating recipes to marketing and customer service. That experience helped her grow the restaurant from an old VFW post she purchased in 1952 into a 25,000-square-foot log and stone restaurant frequented by Vikings, Twins, and North Stars players by 1990.
The menu at the Ranch House wasn’t easily forgotten by anyone who dined there in its heyday. The restaurant filled their dining rooms each night by offering tender, aged steaks, juicy prime rib, pit-smoked barbecue ribs, savory butter-fried chicken, thick, smoky pork chops, and a variety of seafood flown in fresh from the coast. Liver and onions, French fried onion rings, au gratin potatoes, a Cesar salad that many claimed was the best in the Twin Cities, and apple pies made with fruit that Long picked at a nearby orchard kept them coming back.
Guests could choose their own adventure at the Ranch House and make a reservation in one of five distinctive dining rooms, each decorated with authentic American antiques. In one room, guests could experience the ambiance of dark wood paneling, red velvet drapes, and leather chairs, while diners in another room enjoyed floral wallpaper, lace curtains, and wicker furniture. Long-time guests remember the drinks always being very generous (while others don’t remember much of anything after a drink or two in the lounge.) A pianist was always on duty to provide background music downstairs. Swing bands, crooners, quartets, and cover bands lured couples upstairs to the dance floor.
The Ranch House changed its name to Gregory’s in 1976 to try to modernize the business when Long’s son Greg began helping run the restaurant. Like many other once-popular restaurants along the 494 corridor, Gregory’s struggled after the Mall of America opened and pulled hungry visitors away from the strip.
Gregory’s served its last dinner on April 23, 1994. All of the antique decor from the old Ranch House was liquidated before the building was demolished. Long’s recipes are still coveted by vintage recipe collectors for their wholesome ingredients and mouth-watering flavor.
French Fried Onion Rings
- 48 slices from large onions, Bermuda preferred
- 4 large eggs
- 1½ cups milk
- 1½ cups buttermilk
- flour for dipping
- Cut 48 onion ring slices approximately ½-inch thick. Chill the rings in ice water overnight in the refrigerator.
- Blend the eggs well with the milk and buttermilk. Dip the rings in flour and then in the batter mixture. Return to flour.
- Deep fry in fat at 375° until brown. Salt lightly before serving.