When I was 9, my grandparents & great grandparents took me on a roadtrip to California. It was just me & the four of them, cozied up in my Grandpa Sugar’s blue minivan. I had a library copy of “On the Banks of Plum Creek” on the seat beside me, Grandmas’ who had a seemingly endless supply of gum in their purses and Grandpas’ who would let me order steak for dinner. I was queen of the road for those two weeks and I loved it.
We would stop here & there on our way down south; to play miniature golf or read a historical marker about the Oregon Trail. Yet no place held my Grandpa Sugar’s attention long enough to veer too far off course from his true destination, the Samoa Cookhouse near Eureka, CA. For days before we reached it, my Grandpa could talk of nothing else it seemed, until the cookhouse was built up in my mind as this mythical roadhouse full of the fluffiest bread on earth and never ending portions.
When we finally did reach it, I ate so much of that infamous bread that I fell into a brief carb induced coma. It was some damn good bread indeed.
Serving up one daily menu, family style, the Samoa Cookhouse is the last operating cookhouse in the West. Opened in 1890 as the Hammond Lumber Company Cookhouse, it kept the loggers fed with three square meals a day & prided itself on “never sending a man away hungry”. This philosopy still holds true today, so its always best to arrive with an empty belly & a voracious appetite.
The cookhouse is not for those delicate eaters who boast about their not-so-special dietary restrictions of one kind or another. You get what’s on the daily menu be it pork chops, pot roast or fried chicken. Between the soup, salad, bread and side dishes though-one would be hard pressed not to find something to grub down on. And there’s always dessert.
Adjacent to the dining room is a well stocked logging museum, packed with local logging artifacts and pictures. It’s a good place to stroll around after gourging on the lumberjack sized meal from next door. I remember the musuem being my Grandpa Jim’s favorite part of the Cookhouse, though my 9 year old self could only appreciate so much logging history before my eyes started to glass over.
It was the entire experience though that I think made my grandparents love that place; from the family style comradery & the heaping portions, to the pure history of the place itself. I’ve never seen someone have a bad time there. Besides offering road weary travelers a place to eat, The Cookhouse serves up a chance to be a part of something, to feel what it must have been like to be a logger, a waitress, a cook when life was simpler but by no means easier. A world which my grandparents were familar with and which they tried to share with me all those years later.
Today, three out of the four of them are gone but whenever I return to the Samoa Cookhouse; whether as a young college student, a newlywed or now as a mom, I remember that trip & I feel the memories of my time with my grandparents flood back to me. Now it’s my turn to pass on a little bit of history, to show to my sons that era in time which defined my grandparents generation and to share with them some of the fluffiest damn fine bread around.
908 Vance Ave, Samoa, CA 95564
Open 7 days a week 7AM-8PM