By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily
Part of the joy of being a food columnist is you can go where the road takes you. And sometimes, the road takes you to a hidden treasure.
Recently on a sunny Saturday the road was calling for a drive. Looking at the map, the back way from Casper to Ten Sleep looked inviting. Turned out to be an unexpectedly long drive, because the road was unpaved and because, well, I just took my time. After about five hours of driving and picture taking, my destination appeared.
On Highway 16, just 59 miles west of Buffalo, nestled at the foot of the majestic Big Horn Mountain range with a population of just 206, lies this tiny little “blink and you’ll miss it” kinda place. Stopping for a visit, however, is well worth the time.
As described on the Town of Ten Sleep website, “Ten Sleep got our name from our location ‘ten sleeps’ (or nights) midway between the Sioux Camps on the Platte River from the south to an historical Sioux campsite to the north, near Bridger, Montana.”
There’s actually more to this town than meets the eye. There are plenty of things to do. An abundance of beautiful hiking trails, camping, boating and fishing are available for anyone willing to stop and get off the highway.
On this stop though, the hole in my stomach was huge, and rolling into town, I could smell what I was looking for. It smelled like a … backyard barbecue? In the middle of town?
A parking place was no problem and my nose took me to the corner of Second Street and Pine Street, where the Sleepy Coyote Café & Bar appeared.
Walking in, it was apparent that this was “the spot” for local activity. Plenty of people lined up to order, and with covid restrictions lifted, one could see a plethora of mask-free smiling faces.
Moving to the counter to order, it was apparent that there was a lot to choose from: burgers, sandwiches and even a ribeye steak stand out, but there are also appetizers, salads, and even a kids’ menu.
Spotting a cheeseburger on the menu, my order was placed. If it’s too hot or just too cold, there’s plenty of indoor seating available, but the patio outside looked inviting, so I let the host know I would be out there.
It was a great day to sit on the patio under a nice umbrella and people-watch — all while sipping a beverage and waiting for the burger.
My hunger was enormous and the waiting made me second-guess my choice. Burgers are my go-to on a day like this, but that lady’s chicken-fried steak looked good. So did that shrimp basket at the other table! Oh well. Burger it was, and burger it would be.
Just when I was about to go make friends with the person who ordered the shrimp, out came my burger.
Wow! I know my hunger may have influenced my senses, but this thing looked great and smelled great! This had to be a one-third pound patty, and that’s not American cheese on top. It’s real cheddar.
This is a big boy, so with all the fixings, it took both hands to wrangle. Ahhhhh! Medium rare, just the way it should be. The beef tasted fresh, as it should, and the lettuce and tomato were on point as well. The fries were perfectly done as well.
This is one of the top burgers in Wyoming, and I’ve had my fair share.
Sitting there on the patio, making this basket of goodness disappear, I could see people going into a little shop right across the street adorned with a banner proclaiming “ICE CREAM!”
You know the next stop now…
The sign out front said “Dirty Sally’s General Store.” Sounded interesting, so I walked in, not knowing what to expect.
Here was this cool little shop, with just about everything you can imagine. Part souvenir, part grocery store.
This place had it going on. I took it in for a minute, and just looked around at what they offered. They even have fresh local produce.
Toward the back is the the ice cream counter. Again, it seems to be a magnet for townsfolk. Behind the counter was a picture of Dirty Sally herself, but the folks there were too busy serving customers to give me the back story. Besides, I was here for something cold.
My usual frozen favorite was ordered: a peanut butter shake. This shake was so good, loaded with peanut butter, just the way it should be. Once lips hit straw, there was no stopping until it was making those slurping empty sounds.
All-in-all, this stop in Ten Sleep was well worth the long drive to get there. Next trip however, I might just take an asphalt road.
And next time, I’m getting that chicken fried steak!
Sleepy Coyote Cafe & Bar is located at 125 2nd St
Hours are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 11:00AM-9PM
Friday and Saturday 11:00AM-10PM
Closed on Tuesday.
Dirty Sally’s is located at 124 2nd St
Hours are 6:00AM-6PM daily
Closed on Sunday
For more information about Ten Sleep, visit www.townoftensleep.com