The Cats Restaurant and Tavern, Los Gatos, CA

It ain’t easy getting to The Cats Restaurant, south of Los Gatos, California. Especially if you’re coming from Santa Cruz. But the lovely Robin and I made it there last Sunday in the company of our kids, Aaron and Nina, and grandkids, Mia and Miles.
The restaurant doesn’t claim to be named for Los Gatos but for two large concrete cats that stand nearby, guarding the entrance to an area known as Poet’s Canyon since 1922. Writer Col. Charles Erskine Scott Wood and poet Sara Bard Field bought 34 acres in 1919 with the intention of building a “castle in he sky,” a place where they could write without being interrupted by visitors. They had a custom house built, then planted a vineyard and installed giant wine casks at the bottom road as a protest to prohibition. The Cats Restaurant and Tavern itself was originally a stop on the old stage line, a way station for the horse-drawn lumber wagons on their way to San Jose, as well as a rowdy social club for area residents. At the time the road was first paved, around 1920, it was one of the area’s most notorious speakeasies and bordellos. During the 40s and 50s the building housed (at various times) a realty office, gun shop, and sporting goods store. The restaurant and tavern were re-established in 1967; it is one of the last remaining Roadhouses in the United States.
The current owners purchased the building in 2008, after it had been closed for two years. The Cats is decorated with artifacts and décor from old saloons around the west, including original 1800s Wells Fargo stage couch wheels, a solid mohagandy curved railing from the oldest courthouse in San Jose, and a boardwalk made from old water tanks from the 1800s found in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
They boast about their award-winning barbecue, so I had to try the St. Louis-style ribs and a side of “burnt-end baked beans.” They were good, but not the best I’ve ever had (I’d take Montgomery Inn ribs in Cincinnati over those ribs any day). But the creme brûlée I had for dessert was excellent. And of course, the company we ate with was out of this world—a great memory in a unique setting.

The Cats Restaurant and Tavern is located at 17519 Santa Cruz Highway in Los Gatos, California.

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