Welcome to Ranchman's Cafe
The Ponder Steakhouse
Ranchman’s – Truly Texan
If you drive north from Fort Worth along FM 156 towards Oklahoma, you will feel the peace and beauty of the real Texas. Traveling out of the “burbs”, you will begin to pass small Texas towns where farmers and ranchers still work the land and have mud on their boots. The road follows the railroad tracks that run all the way to the northern U.S. border. A few miles down the road, the small town of Ponder sits, and if you blink, you might miss it, so watch closely. Turn left on Bailey Street (the main street in Ponder), and you will see Ranchman’s Ponder Steakhouse. Be sure and stop and treat yourself to a chunk of Texas hospitality and some good old-fashioned Texas cooking.
Ranchman’s has been a mainstay in North Texas for sixty-three years. The secret according to many out-of-state and foreign visitors could be that “Ranchman’s is as Texas as you can get”, explains the “Ranchman” himself, Dave Ross, the owner for the last eighteen years.
The true experience, Dave claims, is ordering the 24-ounce Porterhouse steak and splitting it with a friend. Steaks are hand-cut in Ranchman’s on-premise butchery. All food is cooked from scratch, which is a rarity these days. No pre-prepared food in this café, although we will warm up your cobbler or pie on request. Walking into Ranchman’s is walking back in time. Back to an era when people took the time to say hello and there was something called customer service. A major key to Ranchman’s success is the atmosphere. Walk through the old-fashion screen door and you’ll see what we mean. If you are not happy, we will make it right! Our employees are part of the Ranchman’s family, they feel at home and that goes a long way to making the customers happy.
The Ranchman’s structure was built in 1903 as a restaurant. Soon, a barbershop was added where our grill is now located. Later, after the Great Depression, another family opened it as a hardware/general store.
Ponder was thriving town in the 1930’s with two grocery stores, a cotton gin, hotel, 2 gas stations and 1200 residents. Cotton, wheat, peanuts and oats were the main agricultural products. A wide center street was the norm in small farming towns to store excess grain until the next train. We still park in the middle of the street in Ponder.
Where it all began
Ranchman’s opened the door on Thanksgiving Day in November 1948 by Grace “Pete” Jackson. She had so many customers at the lunch counter in her grocery store next door that she decided it would be a good idea to open a restaurant.
Many longtime regulars remember Pete sitting at her table watching the front door, greeting and visiting with folks as they enjoyed their meals. Our dear friend Pete went to the “steakhouse in the sky” in 1998. She was 94 years young. “This restaurant is a
monument to her stamina”, Dave said, noting that the tradition and positive reputation can be traced directly to Pete’s friendliness and good service.
Dave Ross, who bought Ranchman’s in 1992, began cooking at the café in 1973 as the weekend grill cook, butcher and baker, while attending University of North Texas, majoring in speech pathology. During this time, he helped Pete with the fifty-seat addition in the back.
Dave has helped open and manage numerous restaurants in Denton County as well as in Dallas and Norman, Oklahoma. The Ross family has a history in cooking and owning restaurants. His German grandparents owned and operated a hotel and restaurant in Fort Worth section called Hell’s Half Acre. Dave’s Mother, Mrs. Libby Ross, was certified in 1961 as a Chinese cooking instructor. Growing up as a “military brat”. Dave was exposed to all different cuisines and enjoys baking and cooking Indian, Japanese, German, Chinese, Mexican, Spanish, seafood and barbeque.