By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter
Nora’s Fish Creek Inn is as much an institution one can find in the Teton County community of Wilson. There’s only a handful of buildings in the small town that have been there for decades, and Nora’s is one of them.
The wooden cross beams and antique decorations covering the walls of the restaurant provide a quaint, cabin-like feel that defines the Cowboy State.
If one didn’t know better, they might think they took a time machine back to a simpler time while chowing down on fresh-caught trout and eggs and basking in the warm glow of a crackling fire nearby.
“That’s always been a staple here as far as I can remember, for 30 years,” new co-owner Tom Fay said of the trout.
No More Nora’s?
Nora’s was close to meeting its demise just a few months ago, but Fay and fellow co-owner Eddie Opler stepped in to buy and save the restaurant. Opler has a long history with the restaurant as his family has been eating meals there since it opened.
The café has existed in various forms since the early 1970s. For much of the ’70s it was a Wild West bar called Blackie’s Fish Creek Inn. Before that, it was a post office and general store dating to the late 1930s.
State Rep. Jim Roscoe moved to Wilson in 1970 and remembers the square dances held in the rustic building before it became a restaurant.
“It was really fun,” he said.
A National Rep
Nora Tygum took over the business in 1982 and built a legendary reputation, not only in Wyoming, but also throughout the country.
Considered one of the best breakfasts around, Nora’s was featured on the Food Network hit television show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” with Guy Fieri in 2014.
Over the decades, the restaurant became well known for its trout and classic stick-to-your-ribs fare, serving mouthwatering dishes like huevos rancheros and biscuits and gravy.
In 2021, Tygum’s daughter, Kathryn Taylor, put the restaurant and its property up for sale. Despite receiving several offers, Taylor took the property off the market this past spring. When Tygum died in September, the restaurant announced on social media that it would close Oct. 15.
“Bless her heart, it’s just she’s been doing it for 20-plus years, “Fay said of Taylor. “It was time to pass the baton.”
That’s when Fay and Opler gave Taylor an offer she couldn’t refuse. The deal was finalized Nov. 11.
“Kathryn really wanted to continue the legacy of Nora’s, and that’s exactly what we wanted to do as well,” Fay said. “We’re not wanting to steer away from what Nora’s has always been – just a fun, family friendly diner.”
A Wilson Icon
Fay said it’s what Nora represents for Wilson, a town of 1,492 people, that inspired him to buy the business.
“Kind of keeping this iconic Wilson building and restaurant alive and well,” Fay said. “Not letting any developers come in and turn Wilson upside down.”
Wilson isn’t exactly a boom town. Don’t blink when driving through, as you might miss the downtown corridor.
Although it shares much of the same affluence as nearby Jackson, there are still many working-class people who call it home.
Fay said it’s likely if they hadn’t bought the business, it would have been torn down and replaced with luxury condos, like so many other places in Teton County.
“Wilson is this little village that has a restaurant, a really good coffee shop, a good bicycle shop,” Roscoe said.
Classic, With A New Taste
Fay said he plans to continue Nora’s well-known breakfast and lunch staples while adding some new twists.
They plan to offer grab-and-go items like breakfast burritos, sandwiches and coffee to better serve the many tourists and hard-working locals in the area.
“To get the community where they need to go,” Fay said.
Taylor is still going to be involved in the business as the baker, allowing her to focus on handcrafting Nora’s scrumptious banana bread and coffee cake.
The restaurant reopened Friday after receiving brighter lighting and a new ceiling during the whirlwind two weeks between its purchase and reopening.
It’s also adding televisions and historic photos to the walls from local haunts such as the Wilson gas station and nearby Teton Pass, towering thousands of feet above it.
“We really wanted to add some fun character, which was existing prior to us moving in,” Fay said. “Add some fun, kind of antiquey, historical parts of Wilson and Jackson Hole and give it that local vibe.”
They also renovated the bar area to, as Fay put it, “let it be known that we actually do have a liquor license.”
Make Dinner Plans
They have plans to bring back dinner at the restaurant next summer, which would make it only the second business in Wilson to offer evening cuisine. Fay also wants to renovate the patio outside so Nora’s can host private parties and other events.
As far as the restaurant’s legendary coffee is concerned, it’s already hosted several tastings in recent weeks to help decide some new blends.
“The community has been saying we’re somewhat local heroes,” Fay said. “I think we’re local lunatics. But we are excited to keep Nora’s open as well, obviously. It’s near and dear to our hearts and we want to give it the love and attention that it needs.”
The Wilson community can be rest assured it will continue to see both ends of the emerald green cartoon trout sticking out from Nora’s sign for years to come, blending in perfectly as it has for decades with the town’s general store, schoolhouse old barns and nearby Stagecoach Bar and Grill.
Roscoe said there also is a public campaign underway among local residents to save another local favorite, Hungry Jack’s General Store.
“They want things to stay the same, but it’s really hard,” he said.