Every once in awhile on a road trip you accidentally stumble upon an absolute gem that was completely unexpected. That was the case with the El Rancho hotel. After visiting the Petrified Forest I was looking for some dinner and the closest town was Gallup in New Mexico. I saw a billboard that was intriguing enough to get me to stop and I am so glad I did.
As I pulled up to El Rancho I was starting to question my decision. The hotel complex definitely looked like it was a bit past its prime. The wood wasn’t quite as sharp as it probably once was. The white paint not as bright. I had come this far though so in for a penny, in for a pound.
When I walked through the lobby doors it was like I was transformed into the decadence of 1940’s Hollywood.
When I passed into the lobby of the hotel it was like stepping into a different world. The first thing I noticed was the gigantic wood fireplace located in the center next to the curved staircase.
The furniture was all the oversized wood furniture that looked handmade. Small details like wagon wheel arm rests added to the authenticity. As I wandered around the lobby, I was taken further and further back in time in each corner. From shoe shine stations and a piano to cigarette machines this hotel was like walking onto a movie set.
El Rancho was built in 1936 for R.E. Griffith. R.E. was the brother of famed movie director D.W. Griffith and the hotel was used as a base camp for the actors and crew for the western’s shot in the area. The actors listed on the historical marker include: Ronald Reagan, John Wayne, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Errol Flynn, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck, and Humphrey Bogart.
Are you kidding me? This old building next to the gas station was the lodging of some of Hollywood’s most famous names. That is a cool fact but I was not prepared for the trip to the second floor though.
The first floor had a couple of small display cases and a larger cut out of John Wayne but the second floor was like listening to my dad explain the movie he just watched on the Turner Classic Movie channel.
Autographed pictures of all of the former guests are displayed on every area that would hold them on the second floor of this hidden gem in the northern New Mexico plains.
Betty Grable with famous props.
Everywhere I looked it was another name and face that were both familiar and foreign to me. A look back at a time when stars were stars and not just Instagram famous. (That reminds me, please follow my Instagram page!)
My dad loves the old classic movies and I couldn’t help but wonder how many of these stars he could remember. 80% probably. I recognized the big ones but not all. There are more pictures below in the gallery. If you are fan of old Hollywood, I encourage you to take a look and see how many people you can recognize.
While the hotel was cool I was also there to get some food. This is a half of a food blog after all! There was a very nice little Mexican restaurant at the hotel. I wasn’t allowed to eat there because of Covid rules but I was able to eat in the lobby which might have been even better.
I ordered the Combination plate which was an enchilada, taco, tamale, and tostada. The food was good. The veggies were all really fresh and I really liked the rice. The rice, mixed with tomatoes, had a nice spice to it. The tamales had large pieces of green chilies in the green chili sauce which was nice.
I ate the food in the lobby and they actually came by and lit the giant fireplace in the middle of the room. As I stared into the fire and thought about John Wayne and Ronald Reagan playing cards with a brandy in front of the fire after a long day on set. I was completely transformed into this world that I had mistakenly stepped into. I didn’t want to leave the lobby and end up back to future.
Finding El Rancho
El Rancho Hotel is located on old Route 66. 1000 E Hwy 66 in Gallup, New Mexico.
I have added this restaurant and all of the restaurants I have been to on my interactive map that you can find here. If you have a suggestion for a restaurant or any comments feel free to email me at email@example.com or you can follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Bon Appetit!
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