Callahan's Siskiyou Lodge

Callahan's Siskiyou Lodge is back, and it's almost like the landmark lodge never left the mountaintop.

After a massive fire reduced the building to rubble in September 2006, owners Ron and Donna Bergquist rebuilt. They added a whole extra floor, increasing the number of guest rooms, and an elevator and a wine cellar. Behind the scenes, they expanded the kitchen and coolers for the bar.

Perhaps most importantly, though, they re-created the look and feel of the lobby, bar and dining room with an almost eerie exactitude. The massive beams, rich wood paneling, double-sided stone fireplace and unusual split-level bar are all there, just the way you remembered.

The menu, too, looks comfortingly familiar, and the plates that come out of the new, larger kitchen can almost give a diner deja vu.

But when you have a tradition dating back to 1947, the date Don Callahan opened his first roadside restaurant, it pays to stick with what works. And the old-fashioned recipe for success drew in a steady stream of customers looking for brunch in a scenic setting on the fine fall day my husband and I headed up the hill to check out the changing seasons and the reborn restaurant.

Arriving around noon on a Sunday, we had the full scope of the breakfast and lunch menus to choose from. Breakfast choices include an array of pancakes, waffles, omelettes and other eggy concoctions — not just steak and eggs, but a pork steak and eggs option, or maybe a Benedict featuring scrambled eggs and smoked salmon.

The breakfast orders streaming to surrounding tables each were preceded by a tasty-looking melange of fresh fruit and a wee, little complimentary sweet roll that was downright cute. A motorcycle rider at the next table laughed out loud when confronted by the tiny confection, so the waiter offered to bring him two. Other portions looked plenty hearty, though, so I'm sure no one left hungry.

At a restaurant renowned for homestyle Italian food and steakhouse favorites such as prime rib, my husband and I jumped straight to the ravioli and red meat. See, that's why the kitchen sticks with tradition.

I ordered the ravioli — pillows of rich egg pasta stuffed with veal, ricotta, parmesan and sage, then slathered in chunky marinara sauce for $14. Accompanying the tasty pasta were a perfectly ordinary house salad with tangy Italian dressing and grilled slices of garlic toast.

My husband had the $11 prime rib dip — tender slices of prime rib served on a chewy house-made ciabatta roll. The sweet grilled onions and melted Swiss cheese almost made the steaming au jus superfluous, but a quick dunk made it all even better. Instead of salad, he had chicken and leek soup, a savory stock loaded with big pieces of chicken breast, diced potatoes and slices of leek.

In a nod to the brunch crowd, he ordered a Bloody Mary. Callahan's version is almost as thick and spicy as its marinara sauce, rich and spiked with coarsely ground pepper. He loved it.

The dinner menu also echoes old favorites — Nilde Callahan's veal scallopini, lasagna, steaks, seafood and chicken from the grill. Each entree comes with house-baked artisan breads, soup or salad, a seasonal vegetable. The nonpasta dishes also come with garlic mashed potatoes, a twice-baked potato or multi-grain pilaf. The classic antipasto has been updated and now can be ordered as an appetizer.

Donna Bergquist said she and Ron have assembled a culinary team, many of whom have past experience at Callahan's, who can turn out the casual dining comfort food that the restaurant's customers want.

And that's exactly what they are doing.

— Anita Burke

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