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Restaurant review: The Sandbagger Saloon and Dinner House

John Gottberg Anderson

For The Bulletin

Crooked River Ranch isn’t a place you’d pass through driving from here to there. You’ve got to want to go there. That’s part of the charm of the rustic rural golf community. Home to about 5,000 people, it is about 7½ miles west of U.S. Highway 97 at Terrebonne.

The Sandbagger Saloon and Dinner House has been an integral part of this 12,000-acre property since the late 1980s, around the time the former cattle ranch was being rezoned for residential subdivisions.

Modern-day residents wouldn’t have recognized the ranch, then served by a single paved road with dirt spurs. It had a general store, a small golf course and a horse-riding arena. The swimming pool and tennis courts were future visions.

Terrebonne resident Paul Satterlee bought The Sandbagger with his son, Scott, in 2003, and began renovating the building. The Satterlees cast an eye to the growth of Crooked River Ranch and the increasing popularity of its golf course. They remodeled the old saloon’s kitchen and banquet area and made impressive cosmetic changes, adding a natural peeled pine look to its front deck and dining room. Scott and Heather Satterlee remain as owner-operators.

Absent service

In winter, when activity on the golf course and equestrian trails is subdued, Crooked River Ranch feels a bit like a ghost town. The sense of dormancy even extends into The Sandbagger, situated just off the main ranch road beside the golf clubhouse.

My dining companion and I entered a large, low-lit saloon room, its design framed by two pool tables and a full-size shuffleboard table. Seating was sparse, leaving plenty of room for music and dancing, which might well be part of the high-season schedule here. Several individuals leaned upon a bar at the far side of the space, but no servers were in sight.

We found the dining room just around the corner. We hadn’t seen its outside entrance. Much brighter than the saloon, it seated about 50 at light-wood tables on a hardwood floor. A video Keno screen occupied one corner.

On this day, the clientele ranged from a quartet of retired women who might have been a quilting club, to a pair of Mormon elders discussing theology, to two motorcyclists in road-worn leathers.

We waited a very long time for service. After at least 10 minutes, having seen no one attending the tables, I approached the bar and asked a man in a commercial uniform about menus. “Oh, I don’t work here,” he said. Just then, an older woman emerged from the kitchen and snarled, “I’ll be right there!”

In another two minutes, our table and the others did have service — although we were made to feel as though we should have apologized for wanting to order.

Soup and salad

The food came quite promptly after that, and it was pretty good.

My companion had a soup-and-salad meal. She started with a cup of house chili, thick with pinto beans and ground beef, topped with diced red onions and grated cheddar cheese. It was mildly spicy, but not overly so.

She was disappointed that the bacon vinaigrette on her “hearty spinach salad” wasn’t warm as the menu had promised. Otherwise, the ingredients were good: baby spinach, hard-boiled egg, chopped bacon, diced tomatoes, red onion, Kalamata olives and crumbled feta cheese. She added chicken to the dish, and was rewarded with a full sliced breast, grilled and seasoned.

My soup-and-sandwich combo began with a cup of clam chowder. Prepared with diced potatoes, carrots, celery and parsley, it also had enough small clams to warrant its name.

Inspired by a sign advertising prime-rib dinner specials, but saddened to learn they weren’t available during the lunch hour, and ordered the next best option: Scott’s Special, no doubt named for The Sandbagger’s owner.

This was a fine sandwich. Thinly sliced prime rib was served on grilled sourdough bread with a generous amount of grilled onions, a handful of sliced mushrooms, melted American cheese and Thousand Island dressing. I thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, I was so satisfied, I needed no more than a light salad for dinner that evening.

Crooked River Ranch was homesteaded around the turn of the 20th century. It was the private Gates Ranch from 1910 to 1934, when it was given its modern name. Cattleman Thomas Bell bought the property in 1961 and operated it as the Z-Z Cattle Company until 1972, when it was sold as a recreational site. About 1980, the property was rezoned as rural-residential, and subdivision plotting began in the early 1990s.

— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached at janderson@bendbulletin.com .

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