After a little more than a year under the guidance of yet another set of owners, the once-venerable Sloughhouse Inn restaurant in the rural town of Sloughhouse has closed again.
Betsy and Mark Hite took over the historic stone-and-wood structure in the spring of 2015 from former owners George and Leah Lee.
The Lees bought it in the spring of 2013 and did some remodeling of the neglected property that included installing a hand-crafted wood bar. They were not experienced restaurateurs, and it showed in the staff’s service and the kitchen’s inconsistencies.
At lunch there in 2005, a year before it closed for seven years, then-general manager Alan Kendrick said, “We’re trying to recapture the old spirit of Sloughhouse. We want to solidify (the restaurant) as the place to stop between Sacramento and Jackson.”
The Hites called their restaurant “the New Old Sloughhouse Inn,” with Betsy Hite as chef. She changed the menu to emphasize fresh locally sourced produce. Condolences on the closure from friends and customers flooded Betsy Hite’s Facebook page on Thursday.
In a heartfelt email, Betsy Hite explained why the restaurant closed: “The major factor was our inability to generate significant positive buzz via both traditional and social media. Other factors are that it is a fairly remote location; it needed to become a destination, but we didn’t get that far. Also, it is a very old building and very expensive to operate and maintain,. (And) the bar business wasn’t what it used to be, largely because social norms have changed (for the good).
“It was a dream of mine to run the Slough for many years,” she continued. “Although it didn’t turn out the way we had hoped, I’m not sorry I pursued it. I’d rather know I gave it my all than forever wonder, ‘What if?’ I’m going back to catering full time (Elegant & Easy Gourmet). Hey, I’m nearly 60 now, but that’s the new 40, right? I’ll be around for a long while.”
The Sloughhouse area is about 20 miles east of Sacramento, in farming and ranching country, and is best known for producing sweet white corn in the summer. At one time, hops were a major crop.
The two-story inn was built in 1850 as a stagecoach stop and lodging for prospectors on their way to the Amador County gold mines. It burned down in 1890 and was rebuilt the same year. It’s a Registered Historical Landmark.
In more recent decades, it was a semi-rowdy dining and drinking destination for locals from neighboring communities in Elk Grove, Wilton and Rancho Murieta. Plenty of old wood, faded brick and homey knickknacks gave the dining rooms a historic roadhouse vibe, charged with energy from regular folks who mostly knew one another.
Farmers, ranchers and cowgirls in polished boots and spurs gathered to dine on steaks, prime rib, pork chops and tri-tip, bellying up to the expansive bar as tunes by Hank Williams and Patsy Cline filled the background.
The inn is at 12700 Meiss Road (a.k.a. Old Jackson Road) in Sloughhouse.