New Ranch 45 cafe specializes in homegrown beef, produce


At most restaurants these days, the chefs are the stars of the show. But at newly opened Ranch 45 on Via de la Valle in Solana Beach, it’s the meat on the menu that take center stage.

Most of the dishes on the breakfast and lunch menu at the 7-month-old restaurant spotlight proteins from Brandt Beef, a family-owned, all-natural cattle ranch in Brawley. Brandt products are featured in the burgers, sausage, carne asada burritos, steaks, all-beef hot dogs, Reuben and BLT sandwiches and even the salads. Packaged Brandt beef products are also sold from a butcher refrigerator case.

Even the restaurant’s name, Ranch 45, is an homage to the Brandt family, who launched their cattle business in 1945. Ranch 45 is one of just a half-dozen San Diego County restaurants exclusively selling Brandt beef products and one of just three markets offering it for retail sale.

Ranch 45 partner/manager Pam Schwartz said the goal behind the restaurant is to serve the best locally grown products in simple preparations to allow the quality to “shine on the plate.” Many ingredients besides Brandt beef come from family-run ranches and farms throughout California.

These include eggs from Eben-Haezer Poultry Ranch in Ramona; Mary’s free-range chicken from the Central Valley; locally caught seafood; San Diego-made Bread & Cie breads and Cafe Virtuoso coffee; Chino Farms produce and local craft beers and kombucha; honey from Ashhurst Bee Co. in the Imperial Valley; olive oils from Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe; and dairy products from Northern California’s Strauss Family Creamery.

Ranch 45 took over the space formerly occupied by The Curious Fork, a healthy foods cafe that closed in late 2017, at 512 Via de la Valle. The street-facing space has a 666-square-foot restaurant, a 333-square-foot private dining room and 1,200-square-foot outdoor patio.

The 70-seat restaurant’s main dining room has a cooking school with a display kitchen and three video monitors. Schwartz plans to offer at least one cooking class a week on topics including grilling, butchering, smoking, salad-making and children’s baking. The classes, which seat 20, have all sold out so far.

Schwartz, a Georgia native, said Ranch 45 has allowed her to use all of her skills in restaurant management, teaching, wine service and sourcing local ingredients.

Schwartz and her husband, chef Aaron Schwartz, have a long history in the San Diego restaurant scene. They moved to San Diego from New York in 2001 to make a fresh start after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. He has been executive chef since 2006 at Marina Kitchen at the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina downtown.

She is an advanced sommelier and restaurant manager, who built the wine program at Pamplemousse Grille, managed Arterra restaurant in Del Mar, ran the cooking school at Sur La Table in Carlsbad and now teaches in the wine program at San Diego State University. They live in Carmel Valley with their two children, ages 11 and 13.

The Ranch 45 breakfast menu is a mix of breakfast sandwiches, burritos, bowls, toasts, smoothies and coffees, with most food items priced from $4 to $11. The lunch menu offers soups, sandwiches, salads and children’s meals, with prices ranging from $6 to $16. Schwartz said there’s no plan to add dinner service, but the restaurant does book private events in the evenings.

Menu top-sellers are the $11 avocado toast, $14 Brandt beef burger, the $12 carne asada burrito made with smoked flank steak, and the $12 smoked tri-tip sandwich with housemade Carolina BBQ sauce. The house specialty cut is the Dutch steak, a rarely served tender and flavorful piece of meat from the end of the New York strip.

Many ingredients on the menu are made in-house and available for takeout, including chimichurri and barbecue sauces, bread and butter pickles, sauerkraut, salsa, salad dressing, strawberry jam, and coffee chili meat rub.

On Wednesday, Ranch 45 expanded its hours to 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays for a new happy hour service. It features $6 wines by the glass, $2 off canned beers and appetizers like charcuterie plates and mini beef corndogs priced from $6 to $12. A gourmet beef “flight” sampler platter will also be offered at market price.

Schwartz said opening a beef-focused restaurant in the health food-conscious Coastal North County may seem an odd fit but the business has gained a growing following. The menu serves lean proteins in mostly low-carb preparations and Brandt’s beef is sustainably raised and antibiotic-free with no added hormones.

“We’ve found that if we can get them in the door to see what we do, they become repeat customers,” Schwartz said. “Some people haven’t eaten beef for a long time because they don’t think it’s humanely raised. But once they hear the Brandt story, they usually come back.”

Ranch 45

Hours: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekends. Happy hour: 3 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays.
Where: 512 Via de la Valle, Sutie 102, Solana Beach
Phone: (858) 461-0092