Words & Deeds

Ranch Club to ride again this weekend — proud, remodeled, reborn

There’s only one thing you need to know about the Ranch Club, which returns to action this weekend with a new look.

It’s cool enough for Clint Eastwood again.

Before this week, I’d never set foot in the place. But as workers buzzed around and Waylon Jennings’ voice piped over the sound system Tuesday, it was hard not to feel a little Idaho pride.

Neglected in recent years, the Ranch Club, 3544 W. Chinden Blvd., closed unexpectedly in February. New owner Jason Kovac — who also owns Boise bars Tom Grainey’s, Whiskey Bar, The Silly Birch and The Shed — has resurrected it as an outlaw country bar and restaurant.

“There are certain icons that need to stay in our city — in every city,” Kovac says. “I wanted to bring it back to what it was 30 years ago.”

Everyone knows the Ranch Club. The rearing palomino above its sign has caught the eye of motorists at the Orchard Street intersection for decades. The building came to Garden City in pieces from New Plymouth in 1949. When it opened in 1950, it had slot machines.

Eastwood used the Ranch Club’s exterior to film a scene for his 1980 movie “Bronco Billy.” Thanks to Kovac’s vision and enthusiasm, the outlaw Josey Wales would look at home bellying up to the bar. I dare you to slap the cigar out of Wales’ mouth. The Ranch Club, one of the Boise area’s last cigarette-friendly bars, is now non-smoking.

It’s one of many changes to this nightclub, which has a rich history despite its ragged recent past.

Boards inexplicably had been placed over the windows, creating a dungeon vibe. Those have been removed, allowing natural light inside. Rotted flooring has been yanked for hardwood. Dark carpet on the walls — another “huh”? — has been stripped and replaced by reclaimed wood from Boise’s North End.

When I walked up Tuesday afternoon, a woman was planting flowers outside the front door.

“You wouldn’t believe what we’ve done here in three months. It’s unreal,” Kovac says. “But it’s the Ranch Club. It’s better than that.”

Inventive decor creates a rugged, clean atmosphere. Taxidermy on the walls. Saddle barstools. Brass spouts on tap handles.

A stage has been built with a modern sound system. “We’re going to have great live music every Friday and Saturday night,” Kovac promises. He’s talking country music, by the way. Willie- and Hank-type stuff. Not “country hip-hop” or that other newfangled drivel.

Two Idaho bands will get things started. Buddy DeVore and the Faded Cowboys will perform from 9 p.m. to close Friday, June 2. Dusty Leigh and the Claim Jumpers will take the stage during the same time slot Saturday, June 3. There’s no cover charge.

An official grand-opening celebration will come later in June. Watch for details at the Ranch Club’s Facebook page.

To enter this saloon, you need to be 21 or older after 9 p.m. But during the day or early evening? Kids are fine. The Ranch Club will be family-friendly, Kovac says.

From 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., the kitchen will dish out solid Idaho vittles such as elk meatloaf, pan-seared trout, an elk burger or brisket chili. Or, hey, grab a superfood salad. Kale? In a saloon? Yep. It is 2017, after all.

It’s easy to feel welcome at this reincarnated Ranch Club — whether you’re wearing a cowboy hat or a T-shirt and sandals.

“I’ve always wanted to own a true saloon,” Kovac says. “... It’s been a project. But now? Party!”

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.

Michael Deeds: 208-377-6407, @michaeldeeds