In generations past, Central Oregon cattle ranchers drove their herds from seasonal pastures around Paisley, Summer Lake, and Silver Lake to the greenery at Sycan Marsh. Halfway along the trail stood a large juniper tree where a waiting chuck wagon served beans and biscuits to the hungry cowboys, known as buckaroos in Oregon.
Today, a rustic restaurant has replaced the chuck wagon by the juniper tree, serving huge dinners that would make the herders drool. (It’s hard to verify that a chuckwagon set up shop at that exact spot, but it was certainly the site of ranching and cattle drives.) While the fare is an upgrade from a chuckwagon’s beans and biscuits, the low-ceilinged, wood-planked restaurant resembles a tack room more than a dining room. And the menu, well, there’s no menu.
Patrons have a choice of coffee, water, pink lemonade, or ice tea to drink; honey mustard or ranch dressing for the salad; and soup or beans as a side. Entree choices are a 26-30 ounce sirloin steak or an entire roast chicken. The meal also comes with yeast rolls and a baked potato big enough to choke a horse. For dessert, there’s a slice of cake topped with berries. Mercifully, the staff provides plastic bags for leftovers.
It’s a long and beautiful ride to the restaurant from almost anywhere, which gives you plenty of time to appreciate the beauty of the high desert and the life of ranchers, past and present.
Know Before You Go
You need reservations (no walk-ins) and to specify your entree in advance; cash only (no credit or debit cards); no splitting a dinner; no soda or alcohol served (though you can bring your own).
There are a few rustic cabins on the property available for rent, and the restaurant has a basic airstrip if you'd like to fly in.
Consider bringing a cooler for your leftovers. It's a long drive home!