Deer Lodge celebrates storied
by Tracey Ryder
Rustic style and western elegance define Ojai's revitalized
Deer Lodge restaurant, which celebrates its 70th anniversary
this weekend. In honor of the milestone, owners Lisa and Jerry
Kenton, who purchased the property in 1999, are throwing a Wild
West party in its honor this Sunday.
From noon until 6 p.m., they will present everything from a barbecue
and pig roast, to mechanical bull riding, to black jack and more.
Built in 1932 as a general store where travelers could pick up
picnic supplies and ice, it also served as a place for hunters
to skin deer, hence the name. In the 1930s and '40s its basement
was reputed to be a secret gathering
spot for gamblers and ladies of the night, and in 1947 it was
transformed yet again into a popular bar and dance hall. And,
by the 1960s, it had become a rugged roadhouse, where cowboys,
bikers and hunters could shoot pool, play darts and get into
a brawl or two.
Today's Deer Lodge is different. While maintaining an air of
rugged independence and individuality, a romantic air has been
added. Crackling fires in the fireplaces, candlelight at the
tables, and other stylish details are designed to make guests
feel like they're living the cowboy high life.
Much of this recent transformation is due to the vision of owner
Lisa Kenton, whose has a contagious love and respect for the
lodge. In fact, the Kentons will tell you that they believe the
building picked them rather than the other way around. The relationship
between owners and landmark lodge is clearly a meant-to-be, given
the enthusiastic crowds that frequent their dining room day after
"I'm going to make this place the best it can be,"
said Lisa Kenton. "Spending time here over the past three
years has taught me what our real purpose in buying this place
is, and that is to revitalize a piece of Ojai history. When you
walk through the door here, you're part of something. It's not
only about the food, it's about the legend of the place.
Not only is the history of the place significant to today's patrons,
but so is the food, entertainment, full bar and wine list, each
of which has been greatly expanded under the Kenton's ownership.
Chef Sal Gallegos, who the Kentons describe as being a "master
of soups and sauces," serves many diverse dishes, from fresh
seafood, to the World Famous Wild Game Plate, to Sunday's Bodacious
BBQ. The rustic bar is fully stocked with a unique selection
of local wines and serves many house specialty drinks, including
a blushing pineapple martini and specially labeled single malt
Deer Lodge Jack Daniels.
Through seven decades of history and constant use, countless
numbers of guests have enjoyed their visits to this haven from
the outside world. Countless more are expected in the next seven
The Deer Lodge is located at 2261 Maricopa Highway and can be
reached by calling 646-4256.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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KENTON stands by the Deer Lodge's historic hearth, as she prepares
for this weekend celebration.