Compiling a list of all the owners and operators of the French Gulch Hotel would take more time and patience than Femme de Joie possesses, though possibly the Shasta Historical Society may have much of that information at their fingertips.
The hotel will turn 130 next year and looks remarkably well for someone of its age. M. de Joie dined there when she was a mere slip of a girl; while she doesn’t remember the surroundings, she does recall clearly that what the menu called fried chicken would more accurately have been called soggy chicken.
In more modern times – i.e. since the millennium – Andrew Bouchard and Carol Jandrall took over the hotel for a few years, followed by Michael Smith and John Pearson. Purchased earlier this year by Jack and Eric Jue, the hotel is popular with local residents who stop in for a cold one and maybe stay for a meal. Saturday nights the hotel features live music and prime rib.
A nice improvement is the addition of a counter and chairs along the front porch. It’s pleasant to sit outside in fine weather and watch the “No Parking Any Time” sign be completely disregarded.
A simple dinner salad was better than expected with a mix of fresh greens – not just iceberg lettuce – and good-quality tomatoes (M. de Joie often wonders why it is that in the midst of summer so many restaurants serve mealy pinkish tomatoes trucked in from who know where when really excellent homegrown ones are available right here in Shasta County).
Southwestern Hot and Spicy Burger with Jalapenos, Pepper Jack Cheese, and hot sauce
Burgers seem to be the house specialty and they prepare them well. While this wasn’t the spiciest burger M. de Joie’s ever eaten, it would probably be hot enough for most tastes (more hot sauce available upon request). She liked that the burger was sizzling hot off the grill and cooked to order (not every cafe does this). The crinkle-cut French fries surprised her, though perhaps there isn’t a lot of demand in French Gulch all week long for potatoes, so to avoid spoilage they rely on frozen. While frozen fries aren’t going to ever match fresh for taste and texture, these weren’t bad and there was a generous portion.
Appetizer order of sauteed garlic mushrooms
While these sauteed mushrooms made a nice appetizer to share, they would have been much better cooked with fresh garlic in place of dried chopped garlic bits, which leaves a slightly bitter aftertaste. Still, they went well with a beer.
Veggie burger with avocado
Amico del Signore ordered the vegetarian burger with sliced avocado (which is peeking out from under the bun). It was a premade frozen patty but the fresh bun and vegetable toppings were redeeming features, as well as the large serving.
Garlic mushroom chicken with homemade onion rings
The last time Femme de Joie ate onion rings at the French Gulch Hotel, they had been fried in the same oil that fish had previously been fried in. She was relieved that the oil has been changed since then; these were delicious and crisp, if somewhat greasy. There was a rather small portion of tender chicken breast concealed under the mushroom and onion topping, which seemed incongruously out of place with the chicken and would have been better served with a steak. Frozen green beans took up the rest of the plate.
The French Gulch Hotel isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but then it’s not trying to be. Situated a good half-hour drive west of Redding, it’s primarily a place for locals, a bar-cum-music venue that serves food in a historic location (French Gulch was designated a California Historic Landmark in 1935). Some of the food was good and some was underwhelming, but food isn’t really the point here. Stick with the basics here, perch on a bar stool and listen to a band play covers.
French Gulch Hotel & Saloon, 14138 Trinity Mountain Road, French Gulch, CA 96033. 530-359-2045. Open Monday, 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM, Tuesday – Saturday, 12:00 – 10:00 PM, Sunday 12:00 – 5:00 PM. Beer and wine. Vegetarian options. Small parking lot or street parking. No checks. Website at French Gulch Hotel & Saloon
Femme de Joie’s first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more or send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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