The Ojai Deer Lodge is quite iconic with the locals. A bit farther out, for me it involves a ride on Trolley B, a trek down a neighborhood street then a short hike up Hwy 33 then there it is.
Day hours will often find bikers and hikers lounging in groups on the sunny patio equipped for brisk days with several towering heaters. There seems to always be a night scene as well with diners eating everything from wild boar to steaks to lentil loaf for those of us going for the green. The staff appears eager to please if not necessarily well trained in the details of the higher end experience. They make up for it in friendliness.
It’s a bit spendy, as they say here, but not more than seems typical for the area. The vouchers I received as pay for the photo shoot were worth $15 ea and I had no trouble finding something good both times that fit within that budget. Once I had stuffed mushrooms and French onion soup and another a lentil loaf sandwich on marbled rye with a salad. All tasty and fresh. Well drinks were $5. Beer $4. There’s a wine list and you can buy California’s pride by the bottle or glass.
The place has a spacious, earthy rough and tumble feel to it. The napkins are crisp and white. The walls are stout supporting a heavy frame with beams and the like. There’s a sense of lots of rough stone and wood. The locals describe it as a road house. A place that saw a lot rowdier scene “back in the day”. A place where hunters and fisherman liked to come wet their whistle and let their hair down. Some get almost teary eyed when they harken back to the wilder days.
But most of Ojai seems quite happy to have the Deer Lodge of today. A place where they can get with friends and linger over a good meal, watch live entertainment several nights a week or sit outside with their pets and relax on the patio gazing at the mountains with the sounds of fun and music in the background.
Here are some of the people I met and things I saw at the Deer Lodge. Some of the pics were part of the room and board trade I had worked out with the owner, Tom Doody. A good photographer in his own right (there’s a large dramatic horse scene prominently displayed in the restaurant that’s his work), I was honored that he provided me this opportunity. At one point the singer asked me if I was with the LA Times hahah I’ve learned that I do have to be bold and assertive to get good candid or posed shots. It’s given me a great excuse to meet people; like I really needed one! haha
Hope you enjoy…