CASPER — Sherrie Lopez sprinkled salt around the steps of a West Yellowstone Street restaurant as a gust of wind drove snowflakes through the air on a cold January morning.
The sign above reads “Sherrie’s Place Restaurant.” The 69-year-old owner of the joint at 310 W. Yellowstone Highway believes in leading by example — she’ll do any job that needs to be done.
“I love what I do,” she said. “I’ve been here for 27 years.”
Inside the 49-seat restaurant, it was three-quarters full at mid-morning. Just an hour earlier there was a 20-minute wait to get a seat for the hometown comfort food local have come to expect — and crave — from Sherrie’s.
A white board on one wall advertised the specials of the day and on the other wall a framed salute to Lopez from Hilltop Bank that includes a cover from a 2010 Food Network Magazine that recognized the restaurant for serving the best breakfast in Wyoming.
Lopez always greets customers by name, most are regulars. She pointed to a table of lawyers, another table of real estate agents, she nodded at a couple in a booth and called them “friends.”
Place ‘Like Home’
Waitress Tammy Stoops, who has been with Lopez for 24 years, said Sherrie’s Place is more than a diner, it’s “like home.”
“It’s just like a little mom and pop place. It’s like one of those little diners,” she said. “My mom and dad called it a ‘golden hole in the wall.’ It’s just one of those places that you find when you travel that just makes you feel comforted and home. It’s a good home meal, all of it homemade. She takes pride in her stuff.”
Every morning, Monday through Friday, Lopez arrives at the restaurant at 4 a.m. There are cinnamon rolls and bread to bake, and on Thursdays, donuts as well.
Each day carries a particular special for lunch. She will get the soups rolling and join efforts with members of her nine-member team for the 6 a.m. opening.
Lopez has been in the restaurant business for most of her life. Her stepfather and mother owned five restaurants, including one in the historic 1917 building Sherrie’s Place now occupies.
“My parents owned this from 1976 to 1981. There have been a lot of people in between,” she said, adding that prior to 1997, she was working for a man who was operating a restaurant in the building when he offered to sell it to her.
Lopez credits Hilltop Bank for helping her buy the place and open it two weeks later with her name out front.
The restaurant features breakfast from 6-11 a.m. and then lunch until 2 p.m. It’s not open on weekends. She credits the schedule and wages she pays her employees as the reason for the longevity of her staff, most of whom have been with her for years.
All About The Breakfast
Her breakfast menu offers pancakes, eggs, bacon, waffles, omelets, biscuit combos and breakfast platters such as the chicken-fried steak that impressed the Food Network.
For lunch, there are 13 burger offerings such as Sherries classic burger and a guacamole and bacon cheeseburger, as well as 14 other sandwiches. The lunch menu includes eight salads, six appetizers led off by breaded mushrooms, kids’ meals, a south-of-the-border section and specialties like steaks.
Then there are the daily specials.
“Tuesday is homemade meatloaf,” Lopez said. “In 1997, on a Tuesday, we opened up the restaurant with meatloaf and I’ve served it every Tuesday since then.”
Other specials might be burritos, chicken-fried steak with real potatoes, soup and homemade bread. Another is roast pork and dressing made from scratch.
“I don’t do a lot of cooking, but I do a lot of baking,” she said. “I have such a good staff. We make as much as we can from scratch and I try to listen to customers. If they are gluten free or if they are vegetarian, I have that idea of being ready for them when they come back in.”
Stoops said nearly 80% of her customers are people she knows by name, and she knows what they want. Staff sometimes push tables together at the front of the restaurant to create a cafeteria atmosphere.
“We’ll put tables together and so many people have become friends. They’ll start talking and exchange numbers, and next thing you know they come in and start eating together,” Stoops said. “It starts out with a couple of people and they invite people to sit down and it just grows and grows.”
During the morning when the Cowboy State Daily visited, a medical flight crew from Lander walked in. Flight nurse/paramedic George Plumlee said he likes the food and short wait times.
“I tried going to another popular restaurant and they are always busy,” he said. “I just Googled restaurants in the area and this one is very highly rated, and I came here for the first time and have been coming back since.”
Allegiance to the restaurant is noted by the more than 100 Christmas ornaments that line a beam on the ceiling. Lopez offered a deal that if customers brought in a food Christmas ornament such as a cup or cookie, they could get a free dessert.
In addition to her popular cinnamon rolls, the restaurant offers homemade pies, cake, bread pudding, cookies, ice cream and shakes. There is even a jalapeno shake.
Lopez said her husband keeps asking her to retire, but she has no plans for that.
“This type of restaurant is going away. Mom-and-pop places are going away, which is sad,” she said, then paused to call out to a customer: “Morning, Dave.”
“That’s my goal, knowing everybody’s name, making sure the customer is happy,” she said. “That is very important to me.”
Dale Killingbeck can be reached at email@example.com.