By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily
Recently, I had guests visiting from Florida.
They were here for a week and we were touring central Wyoming, using my home in Casper as a base. On these day trips out into the vast 307, we would normally find a place to eat dinner.
On the last day of their visit, we were keeping close to Casper and would need to find someplace close.
Lunch time came and went, and everyone was looking for an early dinner. It was time to figure out where we would dine. I needed something different, some place different. But where? I know!
Just north of Casper, in the little community of Bar Nunn, I would find the answer to both.
Bar Nunn is one of those towns that, if it weren’t for a twist of history, might look completely different today. The first thing you notice as you drive into town are the wide main streets.
How wide you ask? Wide enough to be a highway on each side of the divider.
But why are these streets so enormous? Even the crossroads seems to be paved for something other than cars. To answer that, we need to go back in time.
In 1927, the Natrona County Airport was built. The airfield became known as Wardwell Field in 1929, named after Major Doyen P. Wardwell, a pioneer of Wyoming aviation who died in a plane crash. A little over a decade later, Wardwell Field was closed when the Casper Army Air base was built in 1942.
In 1954, Rancher Romie Nunn bought the property, and in 1958 he created the Bar Nunn Ranch Subdivision. The airport’s runways and taxiways becoming the streets of town, explaining the unusually wide roads. A side effect of the wide roads and street layout is that more than once, pilots have mistaken the town for an airport, and tried to land.
Who could blame them? After all, the original hanger is still there today. That hangar would be my destination today as I looked for something special to entertain my guests on their last day in town.
The hangar is not what you would expect given the building’s original purpose. Today, it is home to The Hangar, a restaurant that occupies the building.
While the outside of the building retains the history and appearance of a vintage 1930s airplane hangar, the interior is a treat unto its self.
The Hangar embraces the history of the old Wardwell Field and keeps an aircraft theme throughout. The first thing you notice when walking in is the big blue biplane hanging from the ceiling. This is no display prop but a plane owned by well known Casper pilot and air racer James “Jim” Good.
Repurposing the hangar in 2016 was the idea of owner Curtis Van Hauten, who saw a need for an eatery for residents of the area.
“My business partner had a shop in the hangar and we decided to use it for the restaurant,” he said. “There really was nothing out here for residents and we saw the opportunity to fill that need.”
A large portion of the building can be rented for parties and events. For kid’s events, there are even a number of inflatable slides and bounce houses. There’s even a game room on the far side of the restaurant.
This place is just cool, and we haven’t sat down yet!
We were promptly greeted by our server and seated. When our server was taking our drink orders, they scored HUGE points with me.
They have “sweet tea!” That might not be a big deal to most, but this southern boy can’t find it out west, and raspberry tea just isn’t the same.
Looking over the menu, see there are a lot of options to choose from. There are dinner items like pork chops to grilled salmon.
Do I want the beef short ribs, or the roasted half chicken? Oooo! Beef Stroganoff! Brisket! As I’m watching my figure (don’t laugh, it’s true!) and I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle a big meal today, I decided to go light and get a sandwich, but what sandwich?
Chicken fried chicken? Nope. Had that recently. Prime rib dip? California chicken club? I see it! Prime rib sliders! Oh yeah! Sliced prime rib with sauteed onions, and topped with Swiss cheese.
While we were waiting, Manager Katie Carroll came by to refill our drinks and let us know our food would be right out. She told me they were redoing their menu, and adding new items.
“We are adding an amazing artichoke dip and our chef is making hand-made cordon bleu, which will be both a sandwich and a dinner,” she said. “Our popular short ribs and stroganoff won’t be going away.”
The restaurant has added a new chef, Carroll said, Melissa Bowles.
“She’s doing amazing things in the kitchen,” she said.
It wasn’t long before our orders arrived. Looks like around the table, everyone got sandwiches. There’s the chicken cordon bleu, a reuben and a chicken club. Sides were fries, onion rings and the soup of the day.
My reuben-loving friend said this incarnation was the best he’s had yet! My prime rib sliders looked amazing. These little two-bite wonders were loaded with perfectly cooked prime rib. They didn’t skimp on the Swiss.
All in all, The Hangar turned out to be just the right place for a late lunch. I was pleasantly stuffed, and looking around the table, I could see everyone else felt the same.
There was no room for dessert, but as The Hangar is open early and has a full breakfast menu, I think I might be back in the morning.
The Hanger is located at 1410 Prairie Lane, in Bar Nunn Wyoming
Monday to Thursday 10:30AM – 10PMFriday to Sunday 7AM – 10PM
On the web: www.wyominghangar.com