the obsession with In-N-Out's secret menu comes from the fact that there's almost nothing better on this heavily traveled road.
Harris Ranch stands out as the only real sit-down restaurant worth patronizing. It has its own passionate fan base, older than In-N-Out's and less likely to blog about its menu. Everything about Harris Ranch seems targeted at retired carnivores: the pictures of race horses (one named "Soviet Problem") on the walls, the benches upholstered in Holstein.
But there's a reason people brave the aroma of cattle farming to spend the night here: this place has great meat. I prefer to eat in the "Jockey Club," which is what they call the bar, although I never notice anyone there who could come close to making weight, nor would the menu help in that endeavor.
I'm too cheap to spend more than $30 for a steak for a highway lunch, which is how I discovered the "prime rib sandwich." For $18.95, you get a large slab of meat -- I get mine rare -- on a throwaway piece of bread. The meat is well-marbled, tender and flavorful. I get the wedge-cut fries, and they're well-seasoned, slightly crisp on the outside with a yielding center. You get small dipping bowls of au jus and a delicious horseradish sauce that I like on the fries as much as on the meat.
The CHP doesn't seem to hang out outside Harris Ranch, which is a good thing because they have a respectable all-California wine list, including about a dozen reds by the glass. My favorite of what's on there right now is Jenner Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, but that's because I like an edgier wine.
Leaving Harris Ranch, pulling back onto I-5 filled with beef and Pinot Noir: this is why cruise control was invented.