Ride Review: The Lookout Roadhouse and Ortega Highway

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Nestled high in the hills above Lake Elsinore, California, is the quintessential motorcycle hangout. The Lookout Roadhouse has been a Southern California motorcycling institution since before 1968, when current owner Barbara bought the place.   If you’re a motorcyclist and you’re visiting the Orange/Riverside County area, a stop at the Lookout is essential.
The Lookout Roadhouse is on Highway 74, better known as the Ortega Highway, a few miles West of Lake Elsinore. From the East you can catch Highway 74 in San Juan Capistrano, right off the 5 freeway. It’s about 25 miles from San Juan Capistrano to the Lookout, and what a spectacular 25 miles it is. There are enough twists, turns, and beautiful scenery to keep you entertained the entire trip. Personally I think the trip is best taken on a motorcycle, but plenty of sports car nuts also run the Ortega on weekends.
Of course most local motorcyclists already know about Ortega Highway and the Lookout Roadhouse. The Lookout has built up a large, loyal group of customers over the years, and its not uncommon to hear of people who’ve been visiting here for over 30 years.   There are many good reasons why the die-hards keep coming back.
The famous view from the Lookout is simply spectacular, with Lake Elsinore in the foreground, and distant mountains framing your view from every angle.
The food at the Lookout Roadhouse is unpretentious and delicious. As you pull into the parking lot you might not expect great food from inside such a rough-and-tumble exterior, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised. It’s not the usual hamburgers and hot dogs. Instead, sumptuous breakfasts, lunches and dinners, and a great selection of beer and wine, await the hungry Highway 74 traveler.
The specialty of the house is the Famous Lookout Ribs. The ribs here are so moist and tender they nearly fall off the bone. Plan to arrive hungry, as the meals here are both tasty and hearty. Vegetarians won’t go hungry, with a choice of meatless dishes available. A variety of breakfast foods is also served, with everything from the Country Breakfast ( a large serving of eggs, potatoes, choice of meat, English muffin, and fruit) to lighter fare such as the delicious oatmeal and fruit plate. For a special treat, order the Country Breakfast with Ribs. Mmmmmm….yummy!
Although food is one of the main attractions at the Lookout, probably the number one reason to visit is the people. Barb and her comedian sidekick Tim make everyone feel right at home, whether you’re a newcomer or an old-timer. Tim is always quick with a joke, and sometimes entertains the parking lot crowd with harmonica music over the loudspeaker.
Whether you’re a first time visitor or a grizzled veteran biker, they truly are glad that you’re here!
Bikes visit the Lookout primarily on the weekends. Saturdays are eclectic, with small groups of motorcycles coming and going, with no apparent pattern. Sundays are a slightly different story. If you watch for a while, you’ll see the racer-replica sportbikes tend to arrive first, before the restaurant opens at 8:00. After about 11:00 though, the parking lot tends to be dominated by sport tourers and cruisers. 
One of the cool things about the Lookout Roadhouse is that you never know what sort of exotic and expensive machinery you’re going to see. There are not many places where you can see vintage Velocettes parked next to a Bimota SB8, or a new Ford GT just across the lot from a 1961 MGA.   Ever heard of a Magni Moto Guzzi? Benelli TNT? MV Agusta Brutale? These are just some of the exotica you can often spy at the Lookout on a Sunday morning.
A word of warning: You should proceed with caution when riding Ortega Highway for the first time. Riders unfamiliar with the road can easily get into trouble if their egos overrule good sense. Over the year many motorcyclists have been injured or killed on this road, usually due to too much testosterone and not enough experience. It’s a fantastic ride if you’re totally under control, so take it easy and enjoy one of the best motorcycling roads in California.
When you throw in the great people, delicious food and friendly atmosphere at the Lookout Roadhouse, its easy to see why Southern California riders have been making Ortega their weekend destination for so many years.

5 Responses to “Ride Review: The Lookout Roadhouse and Ortega Highway”

  1. Jeff Mills says:

    I am from Atlanta, GA and took my first ride on Ortega Saterday, 2/13.
    Weather was a fantastic 77F. I rented a Dyna Low Rider. This was truely and ausome ride and I can’t wait to do it again!

  2. Tim says:

    Ortega Highway can be a dangerous place, but aren’t the most fun places usually dangerous? I’m glad you had fun in our neck of the woods. You can’t beat So Cal for great riding weather year-round.

  3. Bob says:

    Damn I miss the Roadhouse since I moved to Indiana. Hi to Stan, Phil, Steve, Muller, and all the rest!

  4. buddy says:

    Help I was on a ride on Ortaga HWY on 4-25-2010 and there was a guy photo shooting the bikes, I though I got the name as Corner Photos but nothing comes up, anyone know who I need to contact to get a copy of the photo??
    Buddy Clark

  5. Melanie says:

    I was riding Ortega this weekend and there was a fellow taking pictures of passing motorcycles with a hand-written sign with his info on it. Any idea who this is and how we can obtain these pictures? Does he post them somewhere, similar to the site RockStorePhotos.com up in L.A.?


    (323) 938-3094

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