More than 160 years after its founding (and following some setbacks in recent years), the venerable Sloughhouse Inn is making a comeback, this time under rancher-restaurateurs Ron and Terri Gilliland, who also operate Lucky Dog Ranch in Dixon and Lucca and Roxy restaurants in Sacramento. Rechristened as Meadowlands Restaurant, the historic roadside haunt has been reinvigorated in more ways than one, with a fresh coat of paint and some inspired cuisine coming out of the kitchen.
Executive chef Danny Origel says the restaurant’s rich history informed his approach to the menu. “Because of the historical value of being here since 1850, we really let the ingredients speak for themselves, just like the history of this place speaks for itself,” explains Origel. “We welcome all the ingredients that you see seasonally. I think seasonal farm cooking would be the best way to describe it.”
Many of the ingredients at Meadowlands are sourced from local farms, including Davis Ranch (for produce) and Passmore Ranch (for fish), both of which are located just down the road from the restaurant. Origel will also draw from a kitchen garden that is being planted adjacent to the restaurant.
Diners will see plenty of familiar dishes—grilled rib-eye, roasted chicken, three kinds of burgers—but also a fair number of surprises, like sweet potato pizza with blue cheese, walnuts and arugula. The salads, meanwhile, go way beyond trendy kale territory. “Our salads are really intriguing,” says Origel, who’s not bashful about playing with texture and color on the plate. One recent standout included an artful mix of shaved rainbow cauliflower, Pink Lady apples, pomegranate, almonds and fennel in a ginger vinaigrette.
Meadowlands also boasts a playful bar menu, with items like Elvis caramel corn (tossed with chile, sugar and bacon) and hipster fries, which come topped with fried Brussels sprouts, beef jerky and cheese sauce. “People don’t expect beef jerky to work well, but when you do a shallow fry, it really softens it up and sweetens it,” says Origel. “The ingredients all work together really well.”
Ryan Chernick manages the beverage program, which includes scratch cocktails made from fresh ingredients, including a huckleberry margarita and a blood-orange Old-Fashioned. The hyperlocal wine list favors Amador County vintners, which makes sense given the restaurant’s proximity to wine country. “We want to become that place where people want to dine as they head out to Amador,” says Origel.
Business was brisk in the restaurant’s opening weeks, with reservations filling up as much as two weeks in advance. Not only has Meadowlands attracted diners who seldom leave the grid; it has also won over locals who have fond memories of the former inn. “People are excited that their Sloughhouse Inn is back, and that is creating a great energy,” says Origel. “This belongs to the community. It’s their place. At least that’s how I feel about it.”
12700 Meiss Road, Sloughhouse; (916) 525-1575