Folks have been making the pilgrimage to the Ranchman's Cafe in Ponder for more than five decades. The current proprietor, David Ross, used to ride a bicycle to the cafe from Denton when he was a student at North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas) in the early 1970's. His order: a slice of Evelyn Stack's pie and a quart-size glass of iced tea.
Back then the tiny storefront cafe had a screen door and no indoor plumbing. In 1978, Dave helped build an addition and the first bathrooms for owner Grace "Pete" Jackson and then bought the place himself in 1992. "When it was time for this place to change hands, I made sure I was in the right place at the right time to come back home," he says.
On a tepid August evening, Dave's brother Dan trims the last of the T-bones in the cramped kitchen. He stacks the cuts according to size, throwing leftover meat in one bucket for hamburger, and fat in another for the Rosses' soap business. Outside, early arrivals pounce on prime parking spots and form a line for the Ranchman's 95 seats. Dave and his wife, Norma, work at the cash register, and a daughter, Pauline, acts as hostess. Two sons, Ben and David, not yet teenagers, wash dishes or play with other musicians here on weekends.
No spices touch the steaks until they are cooked; salt, pepper, and a dollop of margarine are added just before they reach the table. For dessert, you can’t go wrong with one of “Granny” Stack’s pies or cobblers - or a whole pie to go. Ranchman’s is BYOB. “That way,"” says Dave, "You get your own flavor at your own price, and I don’t have to build a cooler a city-block wide in Ponder."