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The culinary dream team of Aron and Pam Schwartz at Ranch 45 in Solana Beach. The couple met as students at the Culinary Institute of America. Photo by David Boylan
The culinary dream team of Aron and Pam Schwartz at Ranch 45 in Solana Beach. The couple met as students at the Culinary Institute of America. Photo by David Boylan
Columns Lick the Plate

Revisiting Ranch 45, where steak is the star

Since I first visited Ranch 45 in 2019 there have been some recent changes that piqued my interest enough to revisit this gourmet outpost on Via De La Valle in Solana Beach.

The first is its new dinner service and the second is owner Pam Schwartz bringing on her husband and accomplished chef Aron Schwartz to run the kitchen. I featured Aron several years ago when he was the chef at the Marina Kitchen at the San Diego Marriot Marquis.

Aron is a San Diego native, a Torrey Pines graduate who attended the Culinary Institute of America and met Pam, who was also a student there at the time. 

His culinary road to Ranch 45 is impressive. Post-graduation, Aron landed a position as the sous chef for Charlotte Restaurant, a small food and wine-focused restaurant in Lakeville, Connecticut.

After that it was on to Las Vegas where he worked as sous chef for the French restaurant Lutèce at The Venetian, a great training ground for any chef. Following his time in Las Vegas, Aron returned to San Diego to work for Bernard’O Restaurant, then Marina Kitchen.

Pam’s culinary resume is equally impressive. After graduating from CIA, she worked primarily front of the house and management positions in Atlanta, Las Vegas and New York. In San Diego, she managed Arterra, Pamplemousse Grille and Hello Betty Fish House in Oceanside.

Aron and Pam definitely have put their combined experience to good use at the fabulous Ranch 45. Listen to a deeper dive into both of their back stories on Lick the Plate on The Mightier 1090 at www.lick-the-plate.com.

Before I get into their newish dinner service, I have to make note of one of the best breakfasts I’ve had in a while. After we recorded the radio portion of our interview, I ordered up their Dutch Steak & Eggs with a Brandt Beef Dutch Steak, two Eben-Haezer eggs, hash browns and a roasted tomato salsa.

I’ll go out on a limb here and say it was the best steak, eggs and hash brown combo I’ve had.  Eben-Haezer is a free-range egg ranch founded in 1955 in Ramona and it produces some mighty fine eggs.

Brandt Beef is also featured prominently on the menu and in the meat case. It’s located in Brawley and has been in business since the early 1900s. Brandt Beef feeds its animals a vegetarian corn-based diet without hormones and is antibiotic free. 

The breakfast and lunch menu has a variety of tempting delights. The Ranch 45 Salad, Brandt Burger, House Smoked Pastrami Sandwich and the Smoked Tri Tip Sandwich are all standouts.

Besides my dally into that fabulous breakfast, this visit was about dinner and that was a standout as well. First up was the Grilled Shrimp Cocktail. Being somewhat of a shrimp cocktail freak, I’ll admit this is the first time I’ve had it grilled and it blew me away. The grilled flavor combined with their Harissa-Horseradish sauce and charred lemon is one of a kind and I highly recommend it.

We split the sizable Wedge Salad with Brandt Beef Bacon and I should mention there is a nice-looking Smoked Ahi Tostada among the starters.

When I see risotto on a menu it’s almost a given I’m going to try one of my favorite dishes ever. We decided to give that a split also as we had beef on our minds for entrees. It was cooked to perfection with an interesting twist of chunks of Vella Dry Jack cheese. It was a perfect complement to the meat fest that was on the way.

The Butcher Shop Selection, as they call it, is the star of the show at Ranch 45. Again, Brandt is the star, but a Kagoshima A5 Wagyu is offered for those seeking meat perfection. I went with my favorite cut: the 12-ounce Brandt Ribeye and my seafaring companion Captain Mark Mihelich chose the Brandt Filet Mignon. Both were cooked to medium rare perfection.

It’s not all about steak, though. Ranch 45 offers a Beef Stew, Chicken Paillard, Pan Seared Ocean Trout and a Veal Milanese along with its take on the Drugstore Burger.

We sat on the very comfortable outdoor dog-friendly patio, and it should be noted that a major expansion is underway with a full retail store and expanded butcher’s counter.

Ranch 45 is open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch and Thursday-Saturday for dinner and is offering a new Wednesday Bistro menu with discounted wine and an everything under $20 menu. Their full service catering is also very popular. Kids’ menu is available.

Ranch 45 is located at 512 Via de la Valle, suite 102 in Solana Beach. For more information, visit ranch45.com.

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