Rodeo, New Mexico
June 24, 2006
Decorative dark half-timbering on light gray walls containing small-paned windows gave the building a fairy-tale feel. The pub door was invitingly propped open, and ivy and ferns were partially overgrowing the steps. Inside the front room, floor covered with colorful tiles and rich woods predominating on walls, tables, and bar, we found the coziest nook imaginable, cushion covered seats and window view into greenery outdoors. With some old books lying around, it felt just like home; we knew we had to stay and eat.
But first things first. As we settled comfortably into our window seats, the server informed us about their beer selections. This is a pub, after all. Soon we were sipping hearty Okanagan Spring extra special pale ale. Well, not all that pale, actually, more of a copper-colored brew. We couldn’t resist ordering a foot-o-rings to nibble on. The golden beer-batter fried onion rings were indeed stacked 12 inches high on a dowel atop a serving platter with mustard sauce, barbecue sauce, and creamy honey-garlic sauce – yumm!
A sign in front of the establishment tells us that this historic building dates from 1900 (some other sources state 1894), when Edward Cutler built this room-and-board inn, called British Ensign Hotel, for stagecoach travelers and hunters. Mary Jackson bought the place in the 1920s, changing the name to Royal Ensign Hotel and later, 17-Mile House. (It’s 17 miles from Victoria’s city center.) It became known for the occasional brawl, the area’s only telephone, and the presence of a ghost after the somewhat mysterious death of Mary Jackson’s boyfriend.
Ownership changed again in the 1940s, when "Ma" Wilson took over. She ran the pub with an iron hand, limiting beers to no more than two for married men and drivers of cars containing children. The Wilson family still owns 17-Mile House. In 2003, 17-Mile House Liquor Shoppe opened across the parking lot, offering beer, wine, ciders, coolers, spirits, liqueurs, and Cuban cigars.
Taking a walk around rooms inside, we saw antique furniture, ancient piano, radios, and gramophone player, a red billiards table, old photos, and other interesting wall-hangings. Other diners were enjoying the balmy weather and garden around the outdoor patio in back as we returned to our cozy corner for our entrees. Saturday was prime rib night, so Bob’s order was a no-brainer and hands-down winner. Reasonable prices and bigger-than-usual appetites caused us to splurge, with me ordering from the Fresh Sheet. The big plate of smoked salmon, scallions, mushrooms, and sugar-snap peas on bowtie pasta in a lemon-caper cream sauce was delicious, but too much for me to finish in its entirety. It made a tasty brunch dish the next day, heated up in the motel microwave.
From journal Victoria Victuals