I ate at LA influencer hotspot Saddle Ranch Chop House, and the food was a flop

·8 min read
Bacon-wrapped filet mignon with a side of vegetables and sweet potato fries on the right and Moises eating cotton candy on the left
My main course and dessert at Saddle Ranch Chop House in West Hollywood, California Moises Mendez II/Insider
  • Saddle Ranch Chop House is a restaurant in the middle of the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles.

  • It's become a watering hole for TikTokers and celebrities like Addison Rae and Machine Gun Kelly.

  • I went to eat at the restaurant to see why the influencers kept going back. I wish I hadn't.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

When I told people who lived in Los Angeles that I was going to dine at Saddle Ranch Chop House, many people shared a similar reaction: "Really? You're gonna eat there?"

The ranch-style, Western-themed restaurant has two locations in LA, but the West Hollywood outpost is its most popular. Saddle Ranch is plopped right in the middle of the Sunset Strip, a one-and-a-half-mile stretch of Sunset Boulevard that perfectly encapsulates what LA is known for: music venues, designer boutiques, nightclubs, and restaurants - a lot of them.

Saddle Ranch has become a fixture among social media's biggest stars and has continued attracting online celebrities throughout the pandemic. Guests at the restaurant have included TikTok influencers like Addison Rae and Dixie D'Amelio, and YouTuber turned boxer Jake Paul.

On many nights, paparazzi is there questioning the social-media superstars about their latest drama and career moves. Fletcher Greene of the Hollywood Fix told Insider, "I can't stand Saddle Ranch. The last thing on earth I would want to do is sit around talking about that place."

After seeing numerous social-media personalities at the restaurant, I wanted to see firsthand what keeps bringing them back.

We started out with drinks and appetizers, the best part of the meal.

My two cousins and I arrived early for our Saturday evening reservation and waited to be seated. The restaurant is notoriously hard to get into without a reservation, and that was made clear by the ever-expanding line of people who were standing in the waitlist line.

As we stood six feet apart, Lamborghinis and other luxury cars revved on the street, a noise that continued constantly throughout dinner. A Hollywood tour bus slowed down outside the restaurant, with flashes from tourists' cameras lighting up the outdoor seating area.

Saddle Ranch Chop House
Saddle Ranch Chop House. Moises Mendez II/Insider

When the general manager walked us over to the table, conversations seemed to stop as diners looked us up and down as we passed. Nobody was shy about checking for celebrities.

My cousins and I started with drinks and appetizers: the place is known to serve strong alcohol-heavy drinks in decently-sized carafes. One cousin and I ordered the Arizona Sunset - a sugary drink with a hefty pour of tequila. My other cousin ordered the Spiked Honey Lemonade, an equally sugar-heavy drink with four different kinds of alcohol. They were lip-pursingly sweet and, from my palette's judgment, weren't carefully crafted. I'd still get them again.

Moises drinking an Arizona Sunset
The Arizona Sunset was sugary, but full of tequila. Moises Mendez II/Insider

We all decided on only ordering one drink, any more than that, and we knew we'd all wake up with headaches from all the sugar the next day.

If I was an influencer, I wouldn't be going for the food.

Having worked in the restaurant industry, I assumed the staff were elevating their service because I told them I was a journalist. The servers encouraged me to order the steak, a dish I was told the restaurant is most known for. While I'm a diehard carnivore, I am always hesitant to have steak at a restaurant. A great steak is unbeatable, but they're incredibly easy to do wrong, in which case they're as inedible as a hockey puck.

Then, our appetizers were dropped at the table. The nachos appeared first, and I can't say I didn't almost fill up on these. They were chips, cheese sauce, topped with more cheese, beans, jalapenos, pico de gallo, and sour cream. The priciest addition to the nachos wasn't the $2 guacamole; it was five extra dollars to add chicken, which was not worth the splurge; there was barely any and it didn't add anything to the dish.

Nachos from Saddle Ranch
The nachos lacked cheese and five extra dollars for chicken wasn't worth it. Moises Mendez II/Insider

The truffle mac and cheese came next. I appreciate the umami flavor of any dish with truffle, but this mac and cheese wasn't memorable, and I could've done without it. It was good for two bites, but coagulated and lost all flavor when left for too many minutes.

Truffle Mac and Cheese from Saddle Ranch
The truffle mac and cheese is good if eaten quickly. Moises Mendez II/Insider

Another dish I could've done without was the loaded potato skins. Don't order them. It seemed like a good idea, but I couldn't make it past bite number two. The potatoes weren't pillowy soft as one would expect them to be, and the sheer volume of potato overpowered any flavor from the actual toppings.

Loaded Potato Skins from Saddle Ranch
The loaded potato skins were my least favorite dish. Moises Mendez

While we waited for the server to take our order for our main courses, I picked at my coagulated truffle mac and cheese, letting my eyes wander around the restaurant. The place was packed with young people whose fashion inspiration seemed to come directly from TikTok. Boys had the same hairstyle - a la Bryce Hall, Noah Beck, and Tayler Holder - oversized baggy clothes with single chains and earrings; girls wore barrettes in their hair and had bleached "e-girl money pieces."

There was also a sprinkling of people older than 25 and some groups of 40-somethings, eating dinner among loud, young people scream-singing "Happy Birthday" to their friends.

My server told me that TikTok star Addison Rae had eaten there just two days prior, so I asked to be served whatever she ordered. Instead, they suggested Machine Gun Kelly's last order: bacon-wrapped filet mignon, with a choice of two sides.

It seemed they really wanted me to have the steak.

I folded and asked for one side of mixed veggies and one side of sweet potato fries. It wasn't long before I regretted that decision.

The bacon-wrapped steak was so tough that my hand got a workout just trying to cut a bite. The flavor was fine, but my jaw was aching from chewing so much after a couple of bites.

Bacon-wrapped filet mignon with mixed vegetables and sweet potato fries
Bacon-wrapped filet mignon with mixed vegetables and sweet potato fries, which servers encouraged me to order. Moises Mendez II/Insider

Steak is fine on its own - why wrap it in bacon? I couldn't even finish it, and I'm 23 and 6 foot and 7 inches tall - I usually finish all of my food. Nearing fullness, I quit the steak and reminded myself to save room for dessert, which was a no-brainer: cotton candy. Almost every Instagram post tagging the restaurant includes has someone munching on the gigantic mountain of sticky pink fluff.

Anyone who's eaten cotton candy before can attest that it's hard to mess up. Saddle Ranch's version was no different. It's just sugar. It was, however, worthy of a photo opp. So, in true influencer style, I got my photo with the dessert before leaving.

Cotton Candy Tower
The restaurant's famous Cotton Candy Tower. Moises Mendez II/Insider

Overall, I definitely agree with the TikTok food reviewers who said the place was all hype and worth skipping. In searching through the "Saddle Ranch" hashtag on the app, the general consensus is that you should go there purely with the goal of seeing a bunch of stars, or not go at all.

Saddle Ranch has become a place for influencers to be seen.

Between the disappointing appetizers and the tough steak, it's clearly not the food at Saddle Ranch that's drawing influencers in, but rather the social capital that comes from being seen there. This is not a new phenomenon, Alex Susskind, a professor of Food and Beverage Management at Cornell University, told me in an interview.

This has been around for decades, and one of the first places it began was at the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York. Some notable guests who have dined at the restaurant, which closed its doors in 2019, include American Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, former president Bill Clinton, and politician Henry Kissinger.

"To be seen, to be heard in these circles, that's where people went," Susskind said. "People aspire to be in that circle."

GettyImages 106718261
Anna Wintour and Renee Zellweger at the Four Seasons Grill Room in New York City, New York, on December 18, 2002. Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage/Getty Images

The same could be said for going out to clubs, he said. In the late 1970s, clubs like Studio 54, a once-popular star-studded dance club in New York City, attracted massive crowds of people, and significant star power.

"They would all flock to these places, and people would wait in line for hours only to watch people come in and out," Susskind said. The crowds of people waited for the chance to spot superstars like singers Mick Jagger and David Bowie or artists Andy Warhol, who was known to frequent Studio 54.

Saddle Ranch is part of a new class of celebrity hotspots. Influencers "create this mystique around their existence," Susskind said. "They have their followers, they see them sitting there, and they're posting pictures of their food. That's what creates the demand, and their followers want to be a part of that."

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