Sunday, September 13, 2009

Restaurant Trivia

El Rancho postcard from a book of Genesee County postcards via Gerry Godin.

A reader is hoping someone can help her remember the name of "an upscale restaurant on the corner of Dort and Bristol in the '60s." Can anyone help her out?

Possibilities:

El Rancho

43 comments:

  1. The El Rancho. East side of Dort, couple parcels south of Bristol.

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  2. I can't remember any other supper club type restaurants in that area that would rival the El Rancho. I was a busboy there in 1953. Jules Canton was the manager there. He ran a tight ship. A big beautiful log structure that burned down sometime after I left Flint. The bar that was attached to the north end of the building was owned by friends of my parents. unclebuck

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  3. Precisely correct. El Rancho was the restaurant. As a kid, my family had the occasional Big Dinner Out (usually for an anniversary or retirement).

    Steve Vivian

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  4. Pardon my easily offended language sensibilities, but it was just El Rancho. "The" is redundant.

    Shorthorn was at Dort and Court, just off of Pierce Park G.C., former home of the Denny McLain Memorial Organ Console

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  5. I love this blog. No matter where I'm at in the world I can always touch base with little ol' Flint, MI.
    I visit daily and donate regularly. You should too!

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  6. Good point, Doug. I took the "The" out. I have enough problems with my English usage; I don't want to start messing up Spanish as well.

    Never been to El Rancho, by the way. Was it an upscale version of The Texan on Clio?

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  7. Gordon:

    The Texan was a franchise restaurant -- there are still a few of them left in the Bay City/Midland area. El Rancho was different...good food and a bar.

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  8. Much nicer than that, Gordon. It was somewhere between a true white-linen restaurant and an upscale family joint, maybe a larger version of Tony's, down by Lapeer on Dort.

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  9. Shorthorn restaurant featuring Clyde's Ribs. Mucho bueno, eh Doug. Denny should have kept his day job. The Farm was pretty much the same caliber as El Rancho. unclebuck

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  10. El Rancho was one of the better restaurants in Flint. It was kept on the dark side for atmosphere, especially the bar area. I was there eating a rare prime rib in the early seventies and a news crew came in to interview a local personality. When they turned on their bright lights to get the interview, I looked down at a plate full of blood. It turned me off so bad I had trouble finishing my meal. I've been a "medium" person ever since.

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  11. Oh, muy mucho, that food ... the ribs, it wasn't necessarily the sauce; it ewas the quality of the meat ... top drawer

    I remember spending one particular fine evening drinking and eating the Shorthorn fare while my English prof played piano for the patrons ... he asked us to drop off our semester papers there. No prob ... table for 2?

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  12. Danny's was on Saginaw just south of Bristol...that was a pretty nice upscale restaurant...was that it?

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  13. Dort highway was part of the famous "Dixie Highway". Here is the link for that history. http://www.us-highways.com/tzimm/ecker.htm

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  14. It was, absolutely, the El Rancho. Set the "wayback" machine for the early 1970's and my first wife and I were a musical "duo" - I played the organ (an albatross, now, in any sort of nightclub setting) and she sang. Known, simply, as "Guy and Leslie" we worked there for a few months at the piano bar. "Connie Kay", a popular local entertainer, entertained there for many years (before, and after, my wife and I). As I recall, the ElRancho burned to the ground about 15 years ago.... Much like the rest of Flint, the plot of ground on which it resided is now some broken concrete dotted with a stuble of weeds.

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  15. I was thinking Danny's too, but I couldn't remember where it was.

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  16. I know about 2 dozen words in Spanish and I'd never paused to consider that referring to the place as "The El Rancho" (as noted by someone, above) is probably like hearing fingernails scraped across a blackboard for anyone with a passing familiarity of the Spanish language and a reasonable respect for grammatical propriety. If I'm not incorrect, it would amount to calling it "The The Ranch". Nonetheless - I promise - the previous poster is probably one of two dozen Flintstones who may have ever given it a second thought. It was always referred to by the locals as "The El Rancho" - hard to believe, given the manner in which Flint was renowned as a bastion of the arts and the birthplace of the renowned "midwest intelligentsia".

    Well...maybe it's not such a surprise...

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  17. PPPPPardon my earlier rrrredundant post about TTTTTTTThe Ranch. I will ttttttry to do better next time. You guys are ttttough.

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  18. That's easy for you to say Anonymous, but I think they are just hard up on material. ;)

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  19. I drive by where El Rancho must have stood every day on my way home from work, but there's no indication from current land use of exactly where it was. Anyone have the street number, or some other reference?

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  20. Jwilly:

    El Rancho was on the southeast corner of Dort and Bristol Road and if my memory serves me correctly -- all that you see there now are some concrete with grass growing up through the cracks of it.

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  21. Gerry Godin's postcard makes it appear that there are medium-sized trees to the northeast of the building. That doesn't seem to quite fit a location directly at the corner, unless of course the trees all were subsequently cut down.

    Today, the southeast corner is a parking lot big enough for about 100 cars. At its east edge, there is a flat-roofed commercial building with a west-facing stone facade added, which apparently was a big jewelry store in the past but has been vacant for the fifteen+ years I've lived in 48519. It looks as if it could have been there for much longer than that.

    Successively south, before Spartan Drive, there are two largish parcels with a few light industrial buildings. None are currently used in a particularly valuable way.

    Sometimes aerial photos reveal the footprint of a prior building in an asphalt parking lot, because the color-tones of different paving episodes don't match. The Gerry Godin photo shows the restaurant as sitting well forward on its lot, near Dort. All three of these parcels are pretty patchy, but I don't see any immediate cues as to El Rancho's ghost.

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  22. I had dinner with my parents today, and asked them...they were occasional patrons of El Rancho. They verified as Rich Frost said, that it was on the corner parcel.

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  23. I'm really late to this party. The address of El Rancho was G-4011 S. Dort Hwy. Right on the SE corner of Dort Hwy and Bristol Rd. The post card appears to be circa 1948 when the Ranch was first built. The South Banquet Rooms had not yet been added to the building. The flat top building to the east of the parking lot was most recently Flint Wholesale Jewelers, owned by Werber Nartel. But prior to that it the buidling was named the Stable Hall and allowed for El Rancho to cater large private parties. As a side note, Ted Johnson who recently passed away used to DJ Sock Hops there in the late 50s. Thanks to Karen Teel Snyder for pointing me to this blog. Always Positive, Greg Cantin.

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    1. Hi Greg, that was great to see your response to the blog. Ironically, I just had a moment today and was thinking about you guys and El Rancho. Mom (Edith) sent some coffee cups that she picked up from Jules. So I think about that little spot of heaven just about every morning. It was a great place and the restaurant and your family remain warmly in our hearts. By the way. Brenda and I were in Woodville TX at the Picket House looking over a collection of tiles where they used to have folks sign their name then glaze and hang the tile on the wall. Imagine our surprise to see "Jules and Simone Cantin" with a date in time. Small world.

      Dan Turner

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  24. There was a larger parcel shown on old maps as slightly less than 40 acres at the SE corner of Dort and Bristol. This appears to include the El Rancho property.

    I was going through some old broadcasting publications on davidgleason.com, and it showed the first address for WBBC as G-3014 E. Bristol Rd. The station transmitter address, now WTRX, and its FM partner WFBE, which recently relocated its transmitter there from Flint Central High School, is now 3076 E. Bristol Rd. I would assume that at some point, the driveway was moved. There was also an in between number address shown in a particular yearbook. I would assume, since a 40 acre parcel would be usually 1320' X 1320', that original WTRX (WBBC) owner Booth Broadcasting Company (1947- circa 1963)owned the whole property, or nearly the whole 40 acres, at one time. Does anyone know when and how it was subdivided?

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  25. If anybody's interested in re-opening an upscale restaurant in the same vicinity, there's quite a bit of property that's probably available cheaply.

    The ex-Flint-Wholesale-Jewelers building was briefly posted last Fall for a federal auction sale, and is still rental-fenced in a way that I suspect is related to whatever basis there was for that auction, but there's been no sign of anybody doing anything with the property. Perhaps they held the auction and got no bids.

    Regarding eating in that area, there are once again two working-class eateries at the intersection, on the northwest corner and one door south of the southwest corner.

    Other than that bit of liveliness, I'd guess that of the commercial square footage within a quarter mile of Dort and Bristol, at least 50% is either vacant or distressed and for sale.

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  26. > since a 40 acre parcel would be usually 1320' X 1320' <

    It's a bit more than a quarter mile from Dort to the rail ROW, which I'd think runs along property lines. If the parcel was 1/4 mile E-W, it would need to be similarly sized N-S, which would be inconsistent with various current parcel boundaries along a line that quarter mile S of Bristol.

    My guess from current parcel boundaries is that the 40 acre parcel may have run from the rail ROW about 800 feet W along Bristol, and roughly 2200 feet to the S (if the "40 acres" was exact).

    Thus it wouldn't include the El Rancho property, the empty jewelers' building or catering hall, or any of the businesses with frontage on Dort north of the abandoned rail spur crossing. The parcel's current users other than the radio tower are (AFAIK) a wheel refinisher, a truck service company, an asphalt plant, a grocery wholesaler and an animal shelter.

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  27. OK..another restaurant question.
    What was the name of the restaurant on Clio Rd (small wood structure), with a reputation for GREAT pies! Food wasn't bad either. Drivng a goup of us OLD Flintites, now living in Florida.

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  28. The El Rancho is one place I will never forget. You went there for special occasions and stayed a while for it took a long time for your meal to arrive. Mean while the Mexican balladeers SP? would sing to us kids "how much is that doggie in the window" and the appetizer table kept us busy. On Saturdays my dad would take us to see westerns in the upstairs area. The place was magical.... anyone know their secret liver pate recipe???

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    1. Chicken livers; boiled eggs; Mayo put through a meat grinder.

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    2. El Dorado Las PalmesJanuary 1, 2013 at 6:42 PM

      ¡muy auténtico!

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  29. Anybody remember Ray the piano man at te Shorthorn court and dort its haydays were the 60' and 70's. The restraint went downhill when Clyde left.

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    1. Bob Adado and I would heartily disagree.

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  30. Anyone happen to have the recipe for their house sald dressing? I think it was a "sweet and sour"?

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  31. a thread is going on "You Know you are from Flint" talking about El Rancho and here is what one woman wrote about the dressings. She worked there back in the 60's. Greg has passed away. I was wondering about Jule's Canton fish dinner he made that was named after him. Hope this helps. "I can tell you that El Rancho's Ranch Roquefort dressing was jarred Thousand Island dressing with crumbled blue cheese in it. Awesome. Still make it today. Use it for dressing and on sandwiches. I'm thinking their Sweet and Sour was a jarred product, too. I'll keep my thinking cap on. i worked there for a while in the late 60's. My thinking cap is very old!"

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  32. The El Rancho was the first place i worked at when I was a young teenager back in 1967. I had found in the Flint Journal an ad for a busboy to work there. I applied for the job and was hired by Jules Canton. I was to work only on Sunday when they would have the family chicken dinners. I was paid one dollar an hour plus tips. Jules said I was doing such a good job that he would like for me to work on Fridays and Saturdays. So I began to work on Fridays and Saturday nights bussing tables. It was more than just a job I met a lot of wonderful people to work with. I worked there until it began to interfere with my schooling. So I quit so I could devote more time to my education and getting my diploma. The one thing I especially liked about the restaurant was a had a special dessert that was called cherry jubilee served on ice cream. It was fun watching it being made right at the table and it was a flaming dessert. El Rancho on a Friday or Saturday night was the place to be as people would come all dressed up in their finest attire. The men had suits on and the ladies had pretty fancy dresses. In my opinion there was no place in Flint that could match the El Rancho as a fine place to dine. And also at the El Rancho was Miguel the singing troubadour. Who would be dressed in Mexican attire and play the guitar and sing at the tables. I can still hear him singing and picking the el rancho grande song. Yes it was at the corner of Dort hwy and Bristol rd on the southwest corner. You could enter the restaurant from the front and enter the bar on the Bristol rd side.

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    1. Shouldn't that be the southeast corner?

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    2. Gerry G..At no time was Dort hwy. and Dixie Hwy ever a part of each other! True they do intersect at " The Point", however Dixie Hwy and Saginaw street will always be one and the same!

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  33. I did work there and know the history. “Coquille ala Jules was Jules'” famous fish dish. Jules was a friend of the Michelin man who gave the restaurant a Five Diamond rating which was the highest rated restaurant in the United States back in the '50's. It’s who you know!!!! I remember all the recipes and they will remain a trade secret as with all my employers over the years.

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  34. The remaining building on the El Rancho property...most recently a jewelry seller, then an empty building for many years, bankrupt and unsuccessfully auctioned, stripped of much of its metal siding, boarded up and surrounded by federally leased fencing...was torn down yesterday or today.

    There's no indication as to why yet.

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