Finding Frackleton’s on the corner of Main and Brundage in Sheridan during the dinner hour is easy.
It will be the place that’s lit up like Christmas and stuffed full of people laughing and talking, seeing and being seen, as they eat a first-class meal in a Sheridan landmark.
Frackleton’s is lately under new ownership after being bought from Kim Love by Andy Ward, the former general manager at the John Deere dealership in town.
“My wife and I were looking for something we could do together, and we looked at a few bars and a couple of different restaurants in the area,” Ward told Cowboy State Daily.
None of the available restaurants, however, were all that appealing. Until Frackleton’s was placed on the market, that is, and suddenly the choice was easy.
Ward said he and his wife are loving their new gig.
“I love the people,” Ward said. “We have a lot of loyal regular customers. And then I get to meet all the tourists that come through here from everywhere else.”
Trial By Fire
Owning a restaurant is never as easy as newcomers think it will be. But the ownership of Frackleton’s was truly a trial by fire.
Not long after Ward and his wife bought the restaurant, there was a fire in the kitchen.
That smoked the place up and put the lights out for four and a half months.
“The fire damage was not extensive, but the smoke damage was and the restoration process and remediation for the cleaning was lengthy and involved,” General Manager Jennifer Dart told Cowboy State Daily.
The restaurant reopened Jan. 31 — just in time for its 10-year anniversary — with a few new menu items and additional staff.
Ward and his wife are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and go to work helping out wherever needed, Dart said, which has helped the restaurant tremendously with its comeback.
Ward laughs admitting he wasn’t expecting that one of his new jobs as a restaurant owner might be washing dishes.
“One of the biggest things in working in a restaurant is, it takes a lot of time,” he said. “A lot of hours. You don’t just sign checks and go home and sit on the couch, that’s for sure.”
On the Menu
Locals rave about Frackleton’s martinis available in a range of flavors from cucumber to mango, but the restaurant also carries an interesting list of local brews as well, like the Black Mountain Coffee Stout, a microbrew from Luminous Brewing.
The bartenders are also not afraid to experiment a little bit on the spot for customers, and so here’s a tip. The Black Mountain Coffee Stout tastes great with a shot of vanilla vodka.
Frackleton’s food menu is also something special, carrying well-known classics from its predecessor, Oliver’s, like the gorgonzola penne pasta, shrimp pasta, or the melt-in-your-mouth tenderloin.
The menu also gets a seasonal refresh twice a year.
“In the fall, it’s more like your ribs and potatoes, short ribs and potatoes, and that type of thing,” Ward said. “In the spring, we’ll bring out some cool fancy salads that are more seasonally appropriate.”
A menu demonstration is held a day or so before the new items are rolled out so staff get to preview and taste test everything.
“The (seasonal) menu is based on the chef’s creativity and what we can get in stock, because food sourcing is not easy right now,” Dart added. “And then also that we can get affordably, because food is also ridiculously expensive.”
The Spice Without Price
Flash-fried crispy calamari and a hand-cut tenderloin perfectly prepared are in and of themselves a wonderful pairing.
But meals at Frackleton’s come with something else that’s not listed on the menu — one-of-a-kind Sheridan history.
The restaurant is where Dr. William Frackleton’s old offices used to be. They were upstairs of the Diefenderfer and Dinwiddie Hardware store, located there until 1919.
Ward told Cowboy State Daily he wasn’t aware of the history until buying Frackleton’s, but has been getting up to speed since.
The exploits of Doc Frackleton are still talked about in Sheridan. In fact, there are enough entertaining anecdotes there’s a whole book about Frackelton, aka the “Sagebrush Dentist.”
A Diamond Dandy
Frackelton landed in the Cowboy State in 1893 from Wisconsin after graduating from Chicago’s Northwestern University as a dentist. He tried a couple of Wyoming places out first, and some of those stories are hanging on the walls of the restaurant’s foyer.
Among them is the time the dentist was hired by Casper’s Poker Nell to set two large diamonds in her front teeth.
Frackleton told her it could be done, but warned that it wouldn’t be easy and would be quite painful.
Nell was not deterred.
“I want it done,” she said. “I want to show the dames hereabouts a thing or two.”
Frackleton devised a novel way to deaden Nell’s nerves instantly, then filled in the nerve canal with a substance he called “gutta percha.”
After that, he cut the diamonds and their gold backings from the rings and made gold crowns with porcelain facings to hold them.
A setting of plaster of Paris and shredded asbestos, heated with an alcohol flame and mouth blowpipe, finished out the setting, followed by a little bit of careful, low-temperature soldering.
After a final polishing Nell was ready to dazzle the Casper “dames” with her sparkling new diamond teeth.
“The ladies of Casper got their eyes open,” Frackleton said later. “And the town medics were horrified by what I had done.”
Now That’s A Knockout
After Casper, Frackleton’s next stop was Sundance, Wyoming, where locals warned the dentist right off that the town’s banker didn’t care for “dudes” and the sheriff hated dentists, so he might as well just leave town.
Unbeknownst to them, however, Frackleton had paid his way through college fighting under the name Willie Riley. He was not intimidated. In fact, Frackleton took his last $100 and bet that he could knock the banker out.
A crowd gathered to watch the fight, certain the new “dude” would get a proper dusting, and that they were going to go home all the richer once their bet was won.
But Frackleton knew exactly what he was doing.
First, he toyed with the banker for a couple of rounds to make it look good. Then, tiring of the game, the doctor said politely, “Excuse me mister, but your shoe is untied.”
When the banker looked down, Frackleton stepped in with a right to the solar plexus — a novel blow at the time — and a mean left followed by a finishing right uppercut.
The banker was down, and out cold.
The crowd, meanwhile, was up. They had never seen anything like that combination before. And they couldn’t believe their banker had lost the fight — as well as the money they’d bet on the local favorite.
Frackleton collected his winnings and cleared out, expecting trouble, but instead was invited to stay.
He did for a time, but there wasn’t enough business. That soon put his feet on the road to Sheridan, where he met and married a hard-riding, straight-shooting Western girl named Bess.
The Sheridan Years
Frackleton had many adventures during his Sheridan years, including a trip to the gold fields of Alaska and playing host to then President William Howard Taft.
Taft was so taken with Frackleton’s hospitality, he promised the dentist anything he wanted, anything at all. As it so happened, Frackelton knew exactly what he wanted — the continued vitality of Fort MacKenzie.
After the fort became a soldier’s hospital, Taft wrote Frackleton a note to remind him that of the promise and to say that he was a man of his word.
Frackleton loved the finer things of life, and would no doubt be pleased with the fine dining restaurant that carries his name today — along with all his namesake signature cocktails.
Frackleton’s hot butter rum anyone?
If you go
Frackleton’s is located at 55 N. Main St. in Sheridan. It is closed for lunch until June while its menu is being revised, and opens for dinner at 4 p.m. Be sure to make a reservation for this popular spot. Tables fill fast, and bar seating is limited.