Old 5 Mile House for roadhouse eats

ROADHOUSES HELPED PUT COMFORT food on the map, with simple, hearty fare for passing travelers, often in front of a roaring fireplace. Their bars provided a gathering spot, with music and dancing. Early roadhouses also provided lodging.

About five miles outside of Nevada City on Hwy. 20, the newly opened Old 5 Mile House is bringing back the charm of an old, yet elegant road house.

This old stage coach stop, built in 1890, features “roadhouse food from around the world,”
with classics such as smoked baby back ribs, roast chicken, burgers and pizza from a glowing hearth oven, as well as food such as Berliner grilled brats.

“The heart of this place is a roadhouse,” says restaurant owner Robert Smith. “But it’s a little ho hum to do just steak and burgers, so we settled on ‘roadhouse food from around the world’ to keep things exciting in the kitchen.”

The menu also includes Argentine-style churasco fired skirt steak; Santorini Spaniko pita (homemade from fresh spinach, green onions and fresh feta in a puff pastry); the bratwurst (“mit” sauerkraut, hearty mustard “und” pommes frittes) and Tankara tandoori shrimp. Desserts include homemade fruit pies, and a children’s menu includes organic fruit to go with each meal.

The plan is to feature monthly specials; for instance, July could be “roadhouse food from Spain.” The restaurant also plans to serve breakfast that people can grab on their way up to the ski slopes in Tahoe this winter.

All of the food has a sophisticated touch, but it’s affordable, with menu items ranging from $10 to $27. The wine list, local and international, has many selections in the $30 price range.

The ribs smoke for five hours in a slow smoker out back (cherrywood and alder are used). The pizzas cook in a stone hearth oven at 750 degrees. The pizza dough is hand-made and hand-thrown, just like the pizza joints in Brooklyn, where Robert grew up. “It’s alchemy what the oven does to the pizza,” he says.

The building sits on a well-landscaped, 1/2 acre spread. An old safe, harkening back to the stagecoach days, sits on its side in the parking lot. New touches include a slate fountain out front, surrounded by a grove of Aspen trees.

“It brings a new face to this older place,” Robert says.

The restaurant’s dining room is a classic, with a wood-burning fireplace, Edison light bulbs and vintage Western decor. Quieter dining areas are in back. The restaurant’s handsome-looking bar
taps run the gamut: Pabst Blue Ribbon, Fat Tire, Guinness, Hefferveisen and Stella Artois. A full bar features tequilas, vodkas, whiskeys and bourbons.

Live music, ranging from Jazz to Celtic to Western, is played Tuesday through Thursday. Robert is an experienced restaurateur, having worked in New York, Florida and California. He has worked at stately old hotels, including the Mount Washington Hotel in New Hampshire (site of the Bretton Woods accord in 1944) and Don CeSar Hotel in Florida (a haunt of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Al Capone).

The Old 5 Mile House is a family affair. The idea for “roadhouse food from around the world” came from Robert’s teenage daughter, who created a cookbook for her father when she was younger. It was called Daddy’s Best Ever Recipes from Around the World based on the family’s world travels.

“We refined it, and people like it,” Robert says. “It may be only five minutes up the road, but it’s a different world.”

The Old 5 Mile House
18851 State Hwy. 20, Nevada City
530-265-5155

Comfort Foods from Around the World

Other cultures have their own comfort food, whether it’s Irish stew, bangers and mash or pad thai.
Japan has its own simple inexpensive dishes. Sushi, for example, was introduced into Japan in the 7th
century from China.

In the Foothills, Japanese restaurants such as Kaido and Sushi In The Raw provide favorites, including
sushi, miso soup and chazuke, a dish made by pouring green tea over rice and often topped with salmon.
Other examples of comfort food from around the world include: Argentina Empanadas, sausages with mashed potatoes and flan.

China Rice congee, a type of rice porridge.
India Daal (lentil), Roti (bread) and
Khichdi, made from rice and lentils.
Italy Pizza, cannelloni and lasagna.
Mexico Tortilla soup, enchiladas and huevos rancheros
United Kingdom Bangers and mash, stews and steamed puddings.

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