Red Horse Diner in Ellensburg
Field Trip Friday at the Red Horse reveals a gem hidden inside this roadside diner.
Housed inside a retro styled former service station with vintage memorabilia, the Red Horse Diner offers up breakfast, lunch and dinner with a 1950s theme yet with a thoroughly modern menu catering to a variety of dietary needs. The interior is bright and airy, in spite of the fact that it's inside an old gas station, which is due to the very abundant use of neon signage that gives it a warm and welcoming glow.
The day I checked out the diner, service was very quick and the space was exceptionally clean. This is the kind of place that's easy to drive by a dozen or more times and not give it a second thought, but it's well worth stopping in for a meal. The decor gives you tons to look at while you wait, in addition to a little laminated local newsletter that sits at each table alongside the menus.
We ordered two kinds of burgers with sides of steak fries and sweet potato fries. The steak fries were thick wedges, more potatoey than your standard fries. The sweet potato fries were on the thinner side and more crunchy, like a standard fry and were very crisp. Both sides had choices of a number of dipping sauces ranging from BBQ sauce and ranch to Thousand Island. Other side upgrades include onion rings and tater tots, soup, chili, potato salad or dinner salad.
The signature Red Horse Burger we ordered was a bacon cheddar cheese burger with grilled ham slices for $13.99. We also got the classic Ragtop cheddar cheese burger for $12.99 (essentially the same as the Red Horse but without the bacon and ham, which is a steal for only a dollar more). These are 100% all beef 1/3 pound charbroiled burgers topped with a sesame bun and garnished with lettuce, tomato, pickle and sauce. I tried the Ragtop burger with their gluten-free bun option. You can also substitute a veggie patty if you're vegetarian.
I found the gluten free bun (in spite of its rather ugly exterior) to be one of the best gluten free restaurant buns I've had. The beef patties were the thin, flat kind, but were still very juicy with good flavor and just a little bit gritty. Both could have used a bit more sauce to amp up the flavor, but perhaps that's what the dipping sauces on offer were meant to do. Otherwise, the combination of lettuce, tomato, pickle and sauce really created a delicious classic cheeseburger.
The burger menu is pretty extensive. There's also a large list of specialty sandwiches in addition to salads, wraps and more traditional entrees such as steaks, fish and chicken that is served with either steak fries or mashed potatoes, gravy and garlic toast as well as soup, salad or chili. In other words, you have a lot to choose from.
The vegetarian, gluten-free and nightshade-free options for diners really makes this diner stand out in addition to the very tasty standard fare. The clean, bright, welcoming and fun interior make this a definite stop if you're on a day trip to Ellensburg, passing through via I-90 or even if you live in town. I'll definitely be returning back to the Red Horse with my car loving brother and my burger loving kids!
1518 W University Way, Ellensburg, WA 98926