Thanks to the COVID-19 scare, I've hardly left home in the last couple months, but "good winds" are starting to blow my way, and Amador County, along with many other rural counties in California have lifted most dining restrictions, so it's back to dining the way dining is meant to be. Today was a perfect day to pay a visit to Ham's Station, owned and operated by the Gladen family, and to enjoy barbecue, which is one of the famous offerings that Ham's Station is noted for.
As with all of reviews that I publish, I have no affiliation with the restaurant reviewed, and there is no monetary gain on my part, as I am simply a person who likes to eat, and I love to write-up, and publish my dining experiences.
Photo: I met my friend and fellow "foodie" Adrienne McGuire, and on Friday, May 29, 2020, we took a pleasant drive to Ham's Station, to enjoy a couple of beers, along with Chef Bobby's amazing barbecue, which happens nearly every Friday, and most weekends, during the late spring, all summer and early fall. The outdoor barbecue ceases for the season at the first snowfall.
It's a little after 1 o'clock on this early afternoon, and we were greeted to Chef Bobby, with his grill, producing delicious barbecue under the shade, in front of the restaurant.
Photo: Today as we entered the restaurant, friendly Jodie was tending bar, and chatting with a local customer. She remembered my from my previous visit last year, as "the guy with the camera." As you walk in the restaurant, you'll be greeted by the friendly server, and you'll first notice the bar, but if you don't care to sit at the bar, there are tables that line the partition.
Photo: The main dining room is on the other side of the low partition, and offers comfortable, rustic dining, with lots of antiques decorating the wall. Thank you, Amador County, as most Coronavirus restrictions have been lifted, and we can dine normally.
Photo: Adrienne is a happy gal, as we enjoy chatting with Jody, and a drink of ice water before heading outside to dine on the patio. Since today was an absolutely gorgeous day, we chose to dine on the patio to enjoy fine dining, a couple of Sierra Nevada "Pale Ales," great company,and the beautiful mountain scenery.
Photo: Meet Amy Rudloff, who greeted us as we entered the restaurant, seated us on the lovely patio, and served us with a smile. She and Jodie and sisters, and are the daughters of the owners, Gary and Nancy Gladen. Like all the staff at Ham's Station, she's friendly, energetic, and will treat you as a member of her family. I have since become Facebook friends with Amy and her sister.
Photo: Since it was early afternoon, and breakfast is only offered until late morning, due to the limitations of the compact kitchen, I only got a "peek" at the breakfast menu, but it grabbed my interest.
Photo: Today's barbecue menu, which was exactly what we were looking for. Chatting with Chef Bobby, he offered to make us a "sampler" and serve to us "family style," which sounded fantastic. We chose the three main barbecue meats today's menu offered, pulled pork, brisket and smoked chicken. We considered ordering a burger and a "dog," but decided to save them for another day.
Photo: Chef Bobby sets up his grill in the parking lot, in front of the restaurant, and grills using oak and madrone wood, which grow locally. He mentioned that he uses pine - which is softwood and not suitable for grilling - to get the oak and madrone started. In the photo, he's stoking the fire, as he has more meat to grill.
Chef Bobby and I had quite a chat, and he mentioned during these COVID-19 days, he's having some difficulty obtaining meat, and the prices are climbing. Yeah... I notice that every time I visit the supermarket!
Photo: Grilled pork, in the bowl - which will be chopped, or "pulled" - sits on top of a brisket, just taken off the grill. Both the pork and brisket were juicy, tender and would "melt in your mouth." We couldn't decide what we wanted, so Bobby offered to make us a "sampler" platter.
Photo: Next to the grill, Chef Bobby had a gigantic pot of barbecue beans, slowly simmering. The menu advertises the beans as "house made," and along with the potato salad, the beans are made from scratch, in-house. These beans were delicious, and are the kind of beans that you'd enjoy on a cattle drive.
Photo: Chef Bobby showed me a 5-gallon container, filled with his amazing potato salad. It's kept cool outside, using ice. If you're a lover of potato salad, you've come to the right restaurant.
Photo: Smoked chicken, just removed from the smoker. This chicken was tender, delicious, juicy, with just enough "smoke taste" to enhance the wonderful meat, but not to overpower it.
Photo: Barbecue sauce is a BIG part of barbecue, and when Chef Bobby grills, he make barbecue sauce BY THE GALLON in this case, it's 2 GALLONS, which is enough to last through the weekend. The sauce is his secret recipe, and it's delirious!
Photo: Chef Bobby opened the "pit," so I could get a glimpse of the chicken that is smoking inside. As he opened the door, you could smell the wonderful, smoky aroma of the chicken that was cooking.
Photo: I took a peek into the compact kitchen to watch the sous chef at work, marinating chicken before handing it to Chef Bobby to cook in the smoker.
Photo: Meet our amazing friendly server Jodie Reed, who happens to be one of the daughters of the owners of the restaurant, as she brings our "platter" to our table, along with two sides of beans. During my previous visit, I got to know Jodie, so it was great to see her again, almost 14 months later.
Photo: Chef Bobby followed Jody and brought our sides of his delicious potato salad. He offered us second helpings if we were still hungry... how many restaurants offer their diners "seconds" on the house? We thanked him for his generous offer, as we actually took food home in a box to enjoy.
Photo: Thanks Jodie, for snapping our photo, as my "foodie" friend Adrienne and I prepare to enjoy an amazing lunch, outside, on the comfortable patio. We're really enjoying our Sierra Nevada "Pale Ale," beers from the tap inside at the bar, the beautiful day, great food, the comfortable patio and great company. Some of the beautiful mountain scenery can be seen in the background of the photo.
Photo: Since today was Friday, and during late spring, summer and early fall, Friday IS barbecue at Ham's Station, we went with barbecue. We asked Chef Bobby for a combination of meat the meat he was cooking, and Jody brought us a "plate for two," complete with pulled pork, brisket and chicken, all hot off the grill.
Our meat was served "family style" which is the way Adrienne and I "roll" when we dine together. Our sides of potato salad and beans arrived separately, in individual size cups.
Chef Bobby is an expert when it comes to all things "kitchen," and when he's outdoors at the smoker, or the grill, he creates masterpieces. The grilled chicken, pulled pork and brisket were seasoned, marinated, and grilled "just right," over oak and madrone wood, which grows locally, and provided "just the right amount" of smoky taste, without being overpowering. All cuts of meat were tender, juicy, and delicious.
We loved it all, but Adrienne commented her favorite was the pulled pork, and I just HAD to go with the brisket, but the chicken was as good as barbecue gets.
Just for the record, if you are a "fan" of barbecue, you'll know there are several genres of barbecue, and this delicious meat was grilled as "California," or "Santa Maria" style barbecue. Whatever you want to call it, this barbecue was delicious!
Photo: My "foodie" friend, Adrienne, is a lady in every sense of the word, but like me, she loves fine food, and she's not afraid to "dig in" and enjoy fine cuisine. This was her first visit to Ham's Station, and it's likely she and I will be paying another visit in the near future, maybe on the way to a Caples Lake camping trip.
Photo: I helped myself to pulled pork, brisket and chicken from the "family style" platter, pulled off the top of my beans and potato salad, took a few bites, and realized that I HAD to take a photo of my amazing lunch!
As I mentioned before, the meat was grilled over oak and madrone, in the "Santa Maria" genre of barbecue, which is indigenous to California. Bobby's tangy, saucy, delicious in-house made barbecue sauce put this lunch "over the top!"
The meat was the star of the lunch but all barbecue meals at Ham's Station include a side of potato salad and beans. I am a lover of all things "beans" and "potato salad," so I was a happy diner!
Bobby's potato salad was red potatoes, cut into chunks, with the skin still on, which is the way I like it. Like all potato salad, it had the usual chopped onion, celery, pickle, mustard and mayonnaise. But, like everything Chef Bobby produces, this potato salad was tangy, delicious, and was some of the best potato salad that I've had the pleasure to enjoy for YEARS!!!
Like the potato salad, the beans were made from "scratch," and were pinto beans, cooked in a thick, tangy red sauce. These beans could be described as "cowboy beans," as they're the kind of beans that you'd enjoy around the campfire, after a long day on the cattle drive, on the old Chisholm trail. Delicious beans!
It was amazing to enjoy Chef Bobby's wonderful barbecue, chat again with Jody and little Georgia, and meet sister Amy. The Gladen family is as friendly as it gets, Chef Bobby has awesome culinary talent, and the food and friendly atmosphere are as good as it gets! Ham's Station receives another vote from me for fine dining in Amador County...
Let's head back to early Friday afternoon, March 01, 2019, when I paid a visit to Ham's Station for the first time...
Are you heading to Kirkwood to enjoy the slopes? Silver or Caples Lakes to do some fishing and camping? Carson Pass anybody? No matter where you're headed to enjoy the wonderful recreation the Eldorado National Forest has to offer, you'll most likely be working up an appetite, and I can't think of a better restaurant to visit than Ham's Station, located east of the small community of Pioneer, on State Route 88.
Photo: It's early Friday afternoon, March 01, 2019, and I've arrived at Ham's Station, located east of the town of Pioneer, in Amador County. The building was constructed back in 1882, and is virtually changed, on the outside, since it was built. Today, it's an Amador County landmark, and a bastion of fine eating in the Eldorado National Forest.
Photo: You walk in the door, and you're treated to rustic elegance. There are actually two dining rooms, divided by a low partition. I chose to dine at a high table, near the bar, as the other side of the dining room sports lower, more "restaurant like" furniture. Look to the rear of the photo and you'll get a peek into the kitchen through the swinging door.
The current owners, Gary and Nancy Gladen, re-opened the restaurant back in August of last year, after an extensive remodeling. The left much of the original woodwork and decor - which dates back to the 1880's - but thouroughly revamped and modernized the building. Ham's Station definitely sports a rustic decor, yet it's comfortable and modern in every way. I'm not an architect, but I think the Gladens have done an outstanding job.
The first thing I noticed when I entered was the heavenly smell of delicious food, and the light aroma of pine smoke, as the restaurant is heated with a wood burning stove. Talk about warmth and rustic charm! To set the mood, traditional country music was playing the background.
Photo: The dining room on the other side of the room is a bit more conventional, yet it retains rustic charm. As nice as this dining room is, I prefer to sit at a high table near the bar.
Photo: One of several pages of the lunch menu. I'd seen the menu on line, and I'd planned to order a "Ham's Burger," but when my friendly server, Jasmine, described the chowder and "Prawn Plate," I changed my mind without hesitation.
Photo: Ham's Station has a talented chef, who is very creative, and loves to prepare special dishes, that aren't on the menu. As I previously mentioned, I was in the mood for a burger, but when Jasmine described the clam chowder, with a prawn, and the "Prawn Platter," I fell for the platter and a bowl of chowder, hook, line, sinker and prawn. Prawns and clam, or should I say, "prawn chowder?" ... have got to top my list of favorite foods.
Jasmine brings my cup of "Prawn Chowder" to me with a smile, before my main dish has arrived.
Photo: Today is the first day of March, and since Ham's Station is at elevation 5125 feet, there is around two or three feet of snow on the ground, but the parking lot is clear and dry. Looking out the front window at my truck, parked at the restaurant.
Photo: Meet co-owner Nancy Gladen, along with her adorable granddaughter, Georgia. Nancy and I had been messaging on "Facebook," and she was expecting me, and she welcomed me and treated me like family. Georgia was home from school, and during my visit, spent most of her time doing homework on a laptop computer.
Photo: Chef Bobby, who performs creative magic in the kitchen, along with Jodie Reed, today's bartender, who happens to be Gary and Nancy's daughter. Ham's Station is family owned and operated by the Gladen family.
Photo: Co-owner Gary Gladen, sat at my table and welcomed me as if I were family. The Gladens, along with their staff are wonderful hosts, and treated me like royalty.
Photo: Jodie tends bar. I arrived early in the afternoon, and it seemed like I timed it out between customers, as I almost had the restaurant to myself. Although the restaurant's address is Pioneer, it's location is about 25 miles east of Pioneer, in a sparsely populated area of California. There aren't many local residents, but there are plenty of travelers heading to and from the mountains, which keep the staff busy. On this early Friday afternoon in early March, the staff was gearing up for skiers heading to nearby Kirkwood for the weekend.
Photo: Chef Bobby worked his magic, and baked a blackberry cobbler for the weekend. I wanted a sample, as it looked and smelled heavenly, but after devouring my platter of prawns, I didn't have room for dessert. I did the next best thing and snapped the photo...
Photo: It's not often that you get a guided tour of the kitchen, but today was my lucky day, as proud co-owner, Gary, shows off his remodeled and spotless kitchen, where Chef Bobby works his magic.
Photo: By the end of my kitchen tour, the bar was beginning to be seated with local customers. I noted several them were enjoying bowls of "Prawn Chowder." These folks have good taste!
Photo: Great timing after the tour of the kitchen, as friendly Jasmine brings my "Prawn Plate" with a smile.
Photo: Thanks, Jasmine, for snapping my photo, as I prepare to enjoy one of best lunches you could ever imagine. The rustic dining room, and the beautiful El Dorado National Forest outside made the meal taste even better.
Photo: My amazing lunch of deep fried prawns, fries, coleslaw, bowl of prawn chowder, and a draught beer. Look closely and you can see the prawn in the chowder. Amazing!
Before visiting Ham's Station, I'd looked at their menu online and already decided on a "Ham's Burger" - love the name - but when my friendly server, Jasmine, described the "Prawn Plate," along with the chowder, I was simply hooked, as I LOVE fish and I LOVE chowder.
With the "Prawn Plate," you get large, breaded, deep fried prawns, a mountain of fries a large scoop of coleslaw, cocktail sauce and tartar sauce for enhancement. Note the beautiful presentation, including the bed of romaine lettuce and the fancy lemon.
Chef Bobby really worked his magic on the "Prawn Plate," as it was amazing. Each large prawn was breaded, deep fried just right to a crispy brown on the outside, and tender inside. The bread/batter was cooked perfectly, and held in the moist, tender, juicy prawn, and complimented the prawn, without overpowering it. The fries were cooked just the way I like them, golden brown on the outside, tender and chewy inside, and definitely NOT greasy or salty. Perfect! Ham's Station likes to "local source" and it shows with the coleslaw, as the cabbage and carrots were fresh, with a bit of "snap," and just plain delicious.
As good as the "Prawn Plate" was, I simply fell in love with the "Prawn Chowder." Actually, it was clam chowder with a prawn in it, which was a totally new dining experience for me. The chowder was rich, flavorful, creamy and just plain delicious. The chowder I enjoyed with my lunch today at Ham's Station was some of the best chowder that I've enjoyed in many years!
As much as I wanted a "Ham's Burger," I'm glad I went with Jasmine's suggestion, as this lunch was simply amazing! It was definitely worth the 60-mile drive from Roseville...
Photo: Before I left, I invited the friendly staff to pose for me, in front of the restaurant. I rarely take "posed" photos, but today was different.
Left to right, Jodie Reed, the bartender, Jasmine, my server, Bobby, the talented chef, little Georgia Reed, Jodie's daughter, along with Nancy and Gary, who together own Ham's Station. Such a great bunch of people!
When you're driving over Carson Pass, if you're on the way to the slopes, the streams, or you're just on an excursion, and you're in the mood for some amazing cookin', just like your mom used to make, stop at Ham's Station. The food is delicious, the atmosphere is rustic, yet comfortable, and the Gladen family and staff will treat you like royalty. I highly recommend Ham's Station for the best in everything that a restaurant has to offer.
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