By DENNIS WYATT
Had F. Scott Fitzgerald wandered the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, inspiration for the Great Gatsby could well have been a party at the Grand Island Mansion.
Likewise, the movies “Bugsy Malone” and “The Roaring Twenties” could have been filmed at the Ryde Hotel.
The two storied Walnut Grove properties – the Grand Island Mansion built in 1917 on the largest private estate in Northern California and the Ryde Hotel built in 1927 at the peak of the Prohibition Era – will both satisfy the appetites of architectural aficionados as well as those with weekend wanderlust.
Each offers a great excuse to enjoy a Sunday drive (occasionally on Saturdays and holidays as well) built around an exquisite brunch. But be warned: Don’t just hop in the car on the spur of the moment and go. Reservations are required at the Grand Island Mansion and highly recommended for the Ryde Hotel brunch.
The Ryde Hotel is the less expensive of the two options with brunch costing $27 per person while children 10 and under are $13.98.
Brunch is served only on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Ryde Hotel.
The spread is impressive and tempting so you might want to work up an appetite beforehand.
The current menu includes garlic roasted red potatoes, fresh shrimp with cocktail sauce, tri-tip with creamy horseradish, bacon, sausage, Eggs Benedict with homemade Hollandaise sauce, scrambled eggs, made-to-order omelets, French toast with maple syrup and peaches, buttermilk biscuits with “Ryde secret recipe” country gravy, classic Caesar salad, cranberry-almond broccoli salad, Italian pasta salad, and a number of sweet homemade desserts.
In its early years the lower level where brunch is served was a speakeasy where jazz music was served up along with bootleg whiskey. There is also patio dining if the weather permits.
It was an opulent establishment that drew state politicians, movie stars, mobsters, and even President Herbert Hoover.
The Ryde Hotel changed through the years and at one point in the 1980s was one of the hottest rock n’ roll spots in the north state.
It is also a hotel as well as a wedding and event center. Room rates range from $99 to $120 weekdays as well as $109 to $145 weekends with the most expensive rooms having an in suite Jacuzzi.
The Ryde Hotel is at 14340 Highway 160, Walnut Grove. Registration office hours are Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. More information can be found at RydeHotel.com while reservations can be made by calling (916) 776-1318.
TO GET THERE: Take Interstate 5 north to Walnut Grove/Thornton (Exit 439). Turn left on Walnut Grove Road and follow the signs to Walnut Grove. Turn left over the draw bridge in Walnut Grove. On the other side of the bridge, turn left on to Highway 160 and travel three miles to the Ryde Hotel.
Grand Island Mansion
If you’re looking for a feast for your eyes as well as taste buds, the champagne brunch in the Grand Island Mansion ballroom should do the trick.
The $39.95 price per person is more than justified.
The champagne brunch menu includes mixed green salad with pears, mandarin oranges, pecans and goat cheese; Mediterranean Orzo pasta salad; red onion and tomato salad with goat cheese and vinaigrette; assorted grilled seasonal vegetables; garlic roasted red potatoes; fresh seasonal fruit and berries with chocolate ganache and Chantilly dip; eggs Benedict; Italian toast; seafood fettuccini; chef inspired frittata; oven roasted herb seasoned prime rib; gourmet dessert buffet; freshly baked focaccia breads, rolls, and scones; and coffee, tea, milk, and orange juice with champagne served throughout the meal.
Sunday brunch dates are Sept. 23 and 30; Oct. 7 and 28; and Nov. 4 and 25. Saturday brunch dates are Nov. 3, 10 and 24. Specialty brunches are $49.95. The specialty brunches include Thanksgiving on Nov. 22 and holiday brunches on Saturdays (Dec. 1, 15 and 22) and Sundays (Dec. 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30).
Brunch seatings start at 10:30 a.m. with the last seating at 1:30 p.m.
Reservations are made online at grandislandmansion.com/brunch-at-the-mansion/
The ballroom in the 58-room Italian Renaissance villa built by European craftsmen is four stories and encompasses 24,000 square feet. It was built for Louis Meyers and his wife Audrey, daughter of Lubin of the Weinstocks Lubin department stores.
The couple hosted President Franklin Roosevelt, Greta Garbo, and author Erle Stanley Gardner among others.
After it was turned into primarily an events center and wedding venue it hosted President Ronald Reagan.
The mansion’s impressive architecture has been featured in stories and photo spreads in National Geographic, Sunset Magazine, Architectural Digest, Playboy magazine, Victoria Secret’s catalog, and Macy’s furniture catalog.
TO GET THERE: To reach the Grand Mansion from the 209, take Interstate 5 north out of Stockton to the Walnut Grove/Thornton exit. Turn left and head into the small town of Walnut Grove. Turn left at the stop sign and cross the bridge turning right onto Highway 160 when you get to the other side. You will travel north on the west side of the river before turning left just before the Steamboat Bridge Crossing. You will travel three miles on Grand Island road to the mansion.