Monday, March 30, 2009


Growing up in Ft. Washington, MD in the 80s & 90s, I had no exposure whatsoever to the mechanical bull. That kind of thing I only saw in movies or television shows. What else would you expect growing up in P. G. County --the wealthiest county in the nation with an African-American majority? There were no mechanical bulls to be found where I grew up. Back in the day, we had the Fort Foote Market to go to when we wanted Garbage Pail Kids or other snacks. We had to drive out to Springfield, VA for a decent mall (since there was no sense in driving to Landover or Iverson) to get our "I.O.U." sweatshirts from Merry Go Round. Even the restaurant scene was non-existent; before Bangkok Golden there was Shakey's in Livingston Square.

There was no place for a mechanical bull in P. G. County --then.

Nowadays, the mechanical bull has become somewhat symbolic in a way (for me, at least), but only since I've lived in Los Angeles. The Sunset Strip's Saddle Ranch Chop House is known for their mechanical bull. It's often the "jump off" spot on The Strip; you start there, and work your way down to Miyagi's or Chateau Marmont. SR is where some former "Real Worlders" and/or "Road Rulers" found themselves working after their stints with MTV. It's where masses of drunken women (and sometimes drunken men) dare to defy the odds of triumphing over the infamous "mechanical bull." On busy weekend nights, crowds of people surround SR's bull pen to watch as person after person after person would hop on the bull, thrash about as it rocked back and forth or up and down, and then finally be thrown off with nothing left but humiliation AND the adulation of drunk "fans" screaming at them from outside the pen. This is the scene that IS the SR in L.A. It's the place where I was taken as a visitor to L.A. back in the day, and the place where I now take my visitors to continue the chain of experience.

Now back to Ft. Washington, MD, and fast-forward to the present day --now.

I hear that the mechanical bull has made its way to the Metro DC area; in my parents' backyard, to be exact. How, why, when, why... how? I am clueless. But I guess it can only mean that Ft. Washington, MD has either (1) come a long way, or (2) has regressed. I choose to believe in option 1, Pat.

With the new National Harbor now up and operating in P. G. County, a slew of some of the nation's chainy and trendy fixtures are taking root there. Word is that the Aloft hotel has now opened; the Aloft is an offspring of Starwood Hotels, and boasts a boutique-ish/trendy "scene." Supposedly, L.A.'s Dolce was supposed to take root at the National Harbor, but it's more likely that its sister restaurant, Ketchup, will be
the one to open up shop. Will it attract the Hollywood-esque crowd that it's used to? We have yet to find out. NYC's Rosa Mexicana now operates its second DC-area location at the Harbor. Local operations such as CakeLove, Bobby McKey's (dueling piano bar), and Grace's Mandarin proudly take their place alongside nationally known chains like Sauciety (at The Westin), McCormick & Schmick's, and Potbelly Sandwich Works. Even NYC's Bond 45 is expected to make an appearance at the Harbor soon.

What gets me, though, is the new "home" for the Harbor's own mechanical bull: Cadillac Ranch.
Touted as an "All-American Bar & Grill," CR brings a bit of the SR-flavor to the Metro DC area. It may not have the same vibe as the Strip's SR (hot and very-accomodating bar tenders calling you to the bar as soon as you enter the Ranch's heavy velvety-curtained doorway, with an equally attractive & attentive wait staff; all actors and models, I'm sure), but it still brings that sense of Americana to that corner of the world by way of the mechanical bull. The next time I'm home, I have to check this place out. I must measure its potential against my knowledge and experience with SR. Part of me worries that CR will be way more conservative than it's L.A. cousin, but hey... everything comes with baby steps.

I think I'm gonna cry. Ft. Washington, MD is all grown-up. *tear*

OK. So I just read somewhere on-line that both the Saddle Ranch (from CA) and Cadillac Ranch (from the East Coast) had each made their way to Arizona early last year; SR @ Old Town Scottsdale, and CR @ Tempe Marketplace. The "ranch" war that waged sort of came head-to-head once the area realized that there was room for both ranches in the greater Scottsdale/Tempe areas. CR edged where food was concerned, but SR had the edge on scene. But that's in Arizona. We're talkin' "mechanical bulls" in Ft. Washington here. Who knows how this will end up?

One thing is for sure... For me, the Saddle Ranch on Sunset will always have a special place in my heart. (sigh)


jarebmackininc said...

You know I live in Arizona and both places are really nice I go to Saddle Ranch in Glendale more often because of the stadium they both have Mechanical Bulls in them, there are actually 2 Saddle Ranches here though

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