Weekly Managing Editor Spencer Patterson loves the Barstow Del Taco. Not just ’cause they deliver the food to your table or because it’s a convenient place to grab a snack between Las Vegas and LA. He swears it just tastes better. I’ve never been to any Del Taco, so I can’t judge, but I can tell you this: The next time you’re driving through Barstow and need a bite, you should skip chain tacos, Starbucks and fast-food burgers and head straight for Slash-X Ranch Cafe.
Last Sunday, six friends and I piled into cars and headed for Barstow. The roadside California city isn’t usually high on my destination list, but this was a special surprise birthday lunch for a friend in LA. Her boyfriend kidnapped her and kept tight-lipped about their destination; we hit the 15 and prayed for light traffic. Of course, special lunches call for special restaurants, and the usual Barstow spots just wouldn’t do. A bit of googling by one of my friends revealed a dusty diner 10 miles past where the Vegas crowd parks. It’s called Slash-X Ranch Cafe. And it’s awesome.
- Slash-X Ranch Cafe
- 28040 Barstow Road, 252-1197.
Slash-X is a landmark restaurant, though not usually for people who come in comfortable sedans and clean jeans. Out into the desert on a two-lane road, it emerged from a curve like a tasty oasis just when we were starting to wonder if we’d gone too far. Right away we knew this wasn’t your usual lunch spot. The parking lot was full of dirt bikes, ATVs and lifted pick-up trucks, and most of the people who bent over burgers wore dusty jumpsuits from hours on the trail. But this off-roader bar is a worthy rest stop—even if you arrive on asphalt.
The menu is more or less what you’d expect—burgers with about as many patties as you can fit in your mouth, chicken fingers, melts and a giant mess of chili cheese fries known as “the mountain.” We ordered it at the counter and dug in with plastic forks and lots of napkins under a ceiling lined with signed baseball caps by folks who’ve been hitting the desert restaurant for years.
We spent a few hours huddled around a long table in the middle of the bar, downing beer by the pitcher, playing checkers and cheering on an NFL wild card game. By the time we learned they were out of Jell-O shots, we already felt part of the family.
That’s the thing about places like Slash-X. Even if you’re new to the Ranch and not part of the usual crowd—even if you’re a bunch of Vegas kids just going out for a desert lunch—the restaurant feels like an old favorite the minute you walk in the door. And that means you’ll probably be back the next time you see the Barstow exit and feel a little hungry.