CRATER CAMP ROADHOUSE
Part roadhouse, Pony Express stop, hunting lodge, European auberge, perhaps even a hint of a bordello, Saddle Peak Lodge has been many things to many people in its long history. For 100 years—some say even more—Saddle Peak Lodge has been a place of enchantment, romance and great dining for generations of those who seek a unique experience.
Nestled deep in the hills of Malibu, along the creek that flows through Las Virgenes Canyon to the Pacific Ocean, the Lodge stands under fabulous Saddle Peak—a majestic rock formation made, according to local legend, when God’s first horseman sat upon the Santa Monica mountains.
In the shadow of the Peak, a colorful mix of cowboys, hunters, fishermen, oil riggers and miners bound for the gold fields of Piru Creek and the Upper Ojai stopped at the Lodge, then a one-room cabin, to swap stories, take on supplies, or simply slake their thirst with a local brew called “Hillbilly Punch”.
The Hollywood Connection
THE PERRY MASON TV SERIES
EPISODE #83: “THE CASE OF THE PRUDENT PROSECUTOR”, 1959
Tales of Saddle Peak Lodge abound, in enough variety to fill several volumes. The truth, such as we know it, is not much different than we might have wished: from its origins as a way stop and general store along a rugged mountain trail, the area surrounding Saddle Peak Lodge evolved in the twenties into a summer resort known as Crater Camp, with rustic cabins, fishing camps, motorcycle runs and healthful recreation in the mountain air.
The Lodge had always been a simple dry-goods, beer and sandwich shop. After being discovered by Hollywood, it began a new era of its wildly romantic history. Featured in many movie classics, it served as resting place and roadhouse for stars from the nearby ranches of Warner Brothers, Paramount and Twentieth Century Fox. Errol Flynn and Clark Gable, with their Bugattis, starlets and fellow cast members, were frequent guests, bringing with them the glamour and mystery of the silver screen. From Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin, who, with Herbert Hoover, were said to have built their famous New Mexico hunting lodge with designs from the Saddle Peak, to Milton Berle, Ernest Borgnine and today’s theater, film, and music industry leaders, the Lodge has remained a Hollywood in-place.
The Lodge's Charm...
MAIN DINING ROOM
In the postwar era, the Lodge was owned by neighbors whose children still enjoy Saddle Peak today. From the early sixties to the mid-eighties the Lodge was owned and run by Bud & Jean Simmert. During that time they added a new dining room and second-floor bar and decommissioned the hitching post at the front door. Bud was the cook, and Jean the hostess. Jean had memorable, sparkling lights in her hair. and her beautiful landscape paintings adorned the red-flocked covered walls on the first floor, and the gold-flocked colored walls on the second.
In 1985 the Lodge changed significantly, all it’s history marshaled toward becoming the unique establishment it is today. The entire structure was renovated by the then owner, Grand American Fare Inc., also owners of the famous Oar House in Santa Monica. The vision of its founder, Al Ehringer, created the unique ambiance that we experience at Saddle Peak today–its massive timbers and log walls, its native rock booth, its hunting and fishing gear, its elegant salon paintings, and its fantasy and warmth.
Old friends contributed memorabilia ranging from objects of fine art to relics of the Old West. Books of every kind moved from private libraries of guests, line beautifully crafted shelves. The badger on the south wall? A gift from a grateful diner who thought it needed to go there. An antique spoon collection, old hunting and fishing gear, dreamy landscapes, birds, animals, fish—all collected with meticulous care to recapitulate a history shared by generations of friends.
The mystery of Saddle Peak and its ability to inspire every sort of tale or happening remained. Was there really a ghostly woman with long dark hair who occasionally appears unhidden at Table 41 upstairs? Was mayhem once committed by a jilted rancher in an upstairs room? What is the real origin of the dining room’s saloon paintings? Do the likes of Richard Burton or the Hollywood Rat Pack still feed the coyotes with buffalo bones thrown from the back terraces at night?
In late 1992, Saddle Peak Lodge was purchased and revitalized by Ann Graham Ehringer Ph.D., then an executive coach and professor of business management at the University of Southern California.
In late 2016, Saddle Peak Lodge was sold by Ann Graham Ehringer to Deep Sethi and will continue to uphold its tradition while evolving to meet the needs of current Restaurant standards and guest desires.