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Well-known Central Coast restaurant permanently closing its doors

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Posted at 6:17 PM, Aug 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-27 00:17:07-04

Walking through the doors of the Jack Ranch Cafe is like stepping into the past. A restaurant reminiscent of a simpler time.

"It's one of the few restaurants I'll come and say, 'What am I having today?' and let her pick what I'm gonna have for lunch. Yeah, you don't get that too often," said Paso Robles resident John Potter.

People come to this rural cafe along Highway 46 in Cholame not just for the food, but for the company. This weekend, it will close its doors for good.

"I mean, that's what it's all about — the people. They're like my brothers and sisters, they really are," said Jack Ranch Cafe owner Chris Mize.

"We've been coming back and forth for 49 years," said Gold River resident Ferris Thomas.

"Twenty years we've been coming out here," said Potter.

"This is my first time dining in at the restaurant," said Buttonwillow resident Trent Tracy.

Whether it's their first or one-thousandth visit, the meaning of the Jack Ranch Cafe is the same.

"Well, it means good people, good food," said Atkinson Construction Highway 46 project executive Mark Polagmus.

"Good American food," said Santa Margarita resident Carol Noel.

The cafe is a spot visited daily by locals, but it also serves as a halfway point for many traveling from the Central Valley to the Central Coast as it is the only restaurant for miles along the rural highway.

"We also come by because we want to see where James Dean was killed and he hit a tree right down the block there," said Thomas.

Rich with history, every person in the cafe has a unique connection — some new, some old.

Carol Noel first visited the Jack Ranch Cafe decades ago.

"My husband and I decided today to get in the car, we live in Santa Margarita, and drive out here to have one last meal," said Noel.

"[I] knew it was comin'. Kinda dreading it, but here it is," said Potter.

Mize says it's been a good run and she loves the community she's created, but it's time for a change.

"I'm just, I'm just tired. I just want to go on and do something else with my life right now. I'm not retiring. I just want to do something else," said Mize.

Whether they're losing a part of their road trip, an old-time favorite, or their daily lunch spot, customers are sad to see it go.

"It'll be missed, and we've enjoyed it," said Noel.

"I don't know, it's always been one of those things that breaks the drive up going back and forth so it's kind of a sad thing," said Bakersfield resident Jim Laurent.

"I definitely kind of mark it as starting to come into the Central Coast rather than Kern County," said Tracy.

"Happy to be here, to be part of the place, sad that it's going away," said Thomas.

It's the end of an era for the Jack Ranch Cafe. Mize is closing one chapter but opening another.

"Yeah, I'm excited. I don't know what I'm going to do now, but I'm excited about it," said Mize.

The Jack Ranch Cafe will officially close its doors on Sunday, August 28.