16525 Bucks Lake Rd, Meadow Valley, CA 95956, (530) 283-2262

True you won't hear any dueling banjos ala "Deliverance," when you stroll up to the Buck's Lake Lodge but after eating there you'd wish you had. At least upon hearing the opening chords, you would have been warned to flee this disaster of a dining establishment.

Last year a friend invited me to go camping up at Buck's Lake with her. For those who are unfamiliar with the area, it's in the mountains up past Quincy. We usually park our gear at the Haskins campground and spend most of our time lounging at the lake or going for nature walks with the dog. My friend T has a tradition of liking to forgo the usual campfire fare and eat at the Lodge on one of the nights during our outing. Last year, we went up there and had a good time. Although the grub was nothing extraordinary it hit the spot and was a nice change of pace.

The B.L. Lodge is a no-frills joint specializing in over-priced prime rib, burgers and various standby seafood dishes like shrimp scampi. The decor is very reflective of Garrison Keillor's "Lake Wobegon" - wood paneling with a smattering of government issued looking chairs, Little House on the Prairie-ish curtains and a lot of dusty cabinetry. There's a separate bar area that serves up their infamous house drink appropriately named a "Tree-Smacker," a nefarious concoction of various liquors presented in a glass that has to be at least a foot high. After drinking one of those, you do wake up the next day feeling like your head has been smacked against a tree several times.

Anyhow, this year after arriving I found out that both the restaurant and the accompanying convenience market had been sold. After surveying the scene and grabbing dinner there, I determined...hmmm, how can I put this delicately...the new owners are the suck. The bare shelves in the market should have been a dead giveaway as to show how attentive they are to their business, but high on mountain air I failed to register it until later.

At the Lodge, we were seated immediately upon entering then we waited...and waited...and waited. Finally a server approached our table, "Great! We can get some water and even order perhaps!" was what went racing through my naive mind. In reality, the server opened a cabinet behind me to get some wine and ended up smacking the back of my chair several times in her attempt. Whack! Whack! Whack! Hmmm....after three unsuccessful attempts to get the cabinet door open because it kept banging into the back of my chair and stirring up a dust whirlwind Grapes of Wrath-style(ever heard of Pledge and a dustrag?), the server took a step back and actually glared at me. I glared back; finally she inquired whether I'd move so that she could get into the cabinet. It only took her 15 minutes and three door whacks to finally figure this out. After about twenty minutes from the time we were seated had passed we were able to finally place an order. I wish we hadn't. The salad was just large chunks of lettuce with dressing, nothing much else. I had opted for the chicken soup and in my opinion, they would have been better off serving some Campbell's from the can than this swill. T. said her prime rib was okay but in my opinion it had an odd hue to it. My scampi consisted of 4-5 prawns the size of a baby's fist drenched in butter, it was completely devoid of any flavor. The side of "rice pilaf" was just plain white rice. Eager to finish this horrendous meal and escape back to our campground where we could knock back some wine to forget this experience, we tried valiantly to flag down a server. After about a good ten minutes, someone was able to locate her and get our check. For a second or two, I thought it was after her bedtime and she had gone home. The servers working that night all looked like high school students. ABC would have had a field day at this dive, as these youngsters were serving booze to all the customers...a big no-no in the state of California.

That night some bears perused our campground in an effort to find some grub. Had I been a bear I would have been searching the campgrounds too because if the Buck's Lake Lodge was my only other viable food option, I would opt to starve.
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