All Photos Credit: Anthony Ross
Not all stories from The Neon Road are about neon. The experiences found traveling down the neon road is just as important, especially those that are new and exciting.
The Malibu Mountains, in Southern California, have always had a special place in the heart of The Neon Road (TNR). Nestled between the San Fernando Valley and Malibu, there is the Calamigos Ranch, a former summer camp turned into a wedding/conference center/cool place to hang out. It was a summer camp reunion that brought TNR to Malibu, but it is the M Cafe, located inside the ranch, that will bring me back.
Calamigos Ranch is located at the intersection of famous Mullhulland Highway and Kanan Road and has been a Malibu staple for over 47 years. First as a summer camp, where yours truly attended for 6 years, and then as a corporate retreat and picnic ranch. The picnic idea started when I was there as a teenager. This grew to enormous proportions thanks to Grant, his son Glen, and Glen's sons Gerret and Garner Gerson, the owner/operators of Calamigos Ranch.
The M Cafe is a new part of the Ranch and what an exciting find it was. As a former camper I was expecting to find "camp food" or something akin to a rustic cookout style dining. However after tasting the fried chicken from the dinner menu, tuna sandwich from the lunch menu, and the "gypsy omlette" at breakfast, TNR was estatic about the food offerings. This was definitely not summer camp food. Several of my friends were there and tried the other entries and each gave their individual thumbs up to what they had ordered.
Lobster is the prime ingredient in many of the dishes. Although I did not partake the friends who did kept ordering lobster for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was that good.
The prices were reasonable and not out of reach given the amenities the M Cafe offers. This is strictly an outdoor experience. The patio/bar area is the main seating for meals, however, the is an expanse of grass about an acre where you can walk at your leisure, sit at a table near a campfire (at night), or sit in a king size bed. There is a lengthy "cabana" seating area at the south end of the field where you can relax with a favorite beverage, or have full meal service.
Calamigos is BIG as a wedding location. The weekend TNR was there three weddings occurred on Saturday and one on Sunday. Note that often the wedding reception can take place at the M Cafe, but it is so large that it shouldn't be a problem.
The other amenities include the lake, rowboats with a lifeguard on duty (daytime). How many restaurants have a lifeguard? The scenery is fantastic and the nighttime ambiance with the campfire and torches to add to the exclusive nature of the experience.
Another plus is you can bring your dogs, cats, geese, pigs, or what ever pet you own. Since it is outdoors you'll most likely be greeted by one of these types of beasts that live at the ranch full time.
This road trip is one I'll be taking again and again when in Southern California.
The M Cafe is located at 327 South Latigo Canyon Rd, Malibu, CA 90265. Phone: 818-540-2400 (reservations recommended). Days: Thursday thru Sunday (hours vary, call).