Towards the end of his life, American novelist Jack London — whose beloved works include “The Call of the Wild” and “White Fang” — purchased a ranch in Glen Ellen, a tiny speck of a town in Sonoma County California. With less than 1,000 people and cloaked by shadowy oak trees, it’s the kind of place you’ll miss if you blink. No doubt the foremost quality that led Mr. London and a relative handful of others to call Glen Ellen home. Most of those who pass by likely give a quick nod to its small-town charm, snap a photo, daydream about what living there would be like, and in their next breath continue on down Highway 12. Like a first date: pleasant enough, but neither person making an effort to dig deeper.
Slow down. Pry the veneer. There is something mystical and curious here, maybe even a bit dark. Something that inspired ole Jack to devote the final years of his life to the development of his ranch, leading him to abandon his first love authoring cherished classics in favor of turning out dime store fiction to fund his obsession. Tragically, the crown jewel of the property, Wolf House, burned down shortly before it was finished. London died on the property a few years later at the age of 40, ashes scattered under a rock, whispers of alcoholism and suicide.
Iconic and delicately human. Picturesque and splendidly peculiar. That is Jack, and Glen Ellen. And, at the risk of putting too fine a point on it, the Saloon at Jack London Lodge. Well, perhaps not iconic, but beloved despite its quirks. Or because of them. There’s a polished oak bar, comfy wingback chairs, and big screen TVs. Lively locals, snarky (in a good way) bartenders, cold Coors on tap, and high-quality local wine by the glass. Rough around the edges with a pure heart. Kind of like the sled dog in that famous book.
Along with the winemakers, vineyard workers, artists and anything-but-ordinary townsfolk, culinary mavericks have descended upon the 2-square-mile hamlet, which boasts at least seven notable restaurants at the time of this writing. Among them, Glen Ellen Star. Nevermind the pedigree of Chef Ari Weiswasser, which includes Daniel and The French Laundry. Really, forget it. This is down home awesomeness on a plate. Cast iron quick bread with za’atar oil. Bubbly-crusted fig pizza from the wood fire oven. Charred corn, cotija cheese, chipotle and lime — an homage to Mexican street food. Crispy-skinned brick chicken with creamy corn, green chiles and dill. It’s always nice to see an accomplished chef run wild. Kind of like the sled dog in that famous book.
– Taste of Adventure