For the first time in its 92-year-old history, Boomer’s Saloon and Grill in Laytonville is now open for family-friendly dining, says owner Kay Kuykendall. Since its inception, Boomer’s has been for the 21 and over crowd. The establishment was approved in mid-March to welcome guests of all ages to dine in its expansive dining room. “This is a huge change for the business,” Kuykendall said in an email.
Boomer’s was founded in 1931 by Frank “Boomer” and Martha May Kelton as a “working man’s’ bar and roadhouse” according to Kuykendall. While it has moved to various locations in the Laytonville area, in 1985 then owners Bob and Sheila Larson found a home in what is today called the “Boomer’s Building” on U.S. Route 101. Kuykendall, a Laytonville resident, acquired Boomer’s from the Larsons in 2010.
It was the Larsons who designed the vast roadhouse that thirsty locals and hungry tourists know today. The huge horseshoe bar, one of the largest in Northern California, is made of red oak and mahogany. It’s there where “Long Valley buckaroos, old hippies and loggers alike” gather nightly, according to Kuykendall, mixing and melding with Highway 101 travelers from around the world.
Surrounding the bar are pool tables, a huge dining area, plentiful big screen TVs, and a dance floor, all lit up by a rainbow of neon beer signs. One of the best features of Boomer’s is its vast collection of photos, newspapers, and concert posters documenting the history of those buckaroos, hippies and loggers that have dominated the Laytonville scene since the town’s founding in 1874. It might be the closest thing Laytonville has to a museum.
Kuykendall, a Laytonville resident, is not only the owner of Boomer’s. She’s also a bartender, hostess, chef, marketer, and has probably been a bouncer a few times over the years. You can find her behind the horseshoe bar where she’ll pour you a strong one or in the kitchen where she puts the last finishing touches on her juicy prime rib.
The menu comprises what Kuykendall calls “stick-to-your-ribs comfort food.” Diners can find classic pub grub like buffalo wings, mozzarella sticks, burgers and fish and chips all day long. Menu highlights include a tender French dip sandwich with savory au jus for dipping on the side ($11) and the crispy tempura prawns and chips ($17). The onion rings ($7 for a side or $13 for a basket) are probably the best in Mendocino County with its crispy yet delicate tempura batter.
However, it’s the nightly specials that are the stars of the show at Boomer’s. Kuykendall’s Southern fried chicken steak smothered in creamy gravy is a decadent country classic and the prime rib served with mixed vegetables and a baked potato is comfort food at its finest. If there is the rare chance of prime rib being leftover the next day, you may be lucky enough to find prime rib tacos on the menu at lunch.
With the addition of family-friendly dining comes a new kid’s menu. Some of the menu items are the greatest hits of kid’s food: burgers ($6-$8), chicken strips ($6), and grilled cheese ($6). However, there are offerings for the more adventurous children including macaroni and cheese bites with ranch dressing ($6) and fish and chips ($6). All kid’s meals come with a choice of fries or tater tots.
In recent years, Kuykendall partnered with Tesla to install electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. This, in addition to the large RV and big rig parking area. For Kuykendall, these additions have brought more business from highway travelers ranging from truckers to techies.
“As a restaurant owner things are tough,” Kuykendall says, “but, with all this good news, I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
Boomer’s Saloon is open Monday 3 p.m. to 12 a.m., Tuesday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 12 a.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., and is closed Sunday. It is located at 45020 N. Highway 101, Laytonville, (707) 984-6534, boomerssaloon.com.
Note: Sarah Stierch covers food, beverage, culture, weather and breaking news for The Mendocino Voice. Contact Stierch at [email protected]. The Voice maintains editorial control.