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Eating Wyoming

Eating Wyoming: P.O. News & Flagstaff Cafe is Sheridan’s Little Place On The Corner

in Eating Wyoming/Column
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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

About 30 miles north of Buffalo and about 10 miles south of the Montana border is the town of Sheridan. With it’s back against the Big Horn Mountains, it’s home to approximately 17,000 hearty souls.

Small but mighty, Sheridan has a rich and storied history. Famous showman William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, used the local Sheridan Inn as the headquarters of his legendary “Wild West” show.

From 1911 to 1924, Sheridan was home to one of Wyoming’s first electric streetcar trolley systems.

At the turn of the 20th century, the town was best known for its flour and sugar mills and the Sheridan Brewery, but with prohibition, the breweries started making “soda pop” and the underground black market for alcohol spurred a subculture of speakeasies, gambling and prostitution.

Today, Sheridan is more civilized, but the Wild West history is well remembered. One of the reminders of that time 100 years ago the little P.O. (Post Office) News and Flagstaff Cafe on the corner of Sheridan’s South Main Street and East Loucks Street.

The P.O. News has changed little since the Sands Smoke Shop opened there in 1905 and it continues to offer premium cigars and pipe tobaccos as it did when it first opened its doors.

Connected to the P.O. News is the Flagstaff Cafe, established in 2007. Owner Mark Demple and his wife Janine have been owners of the cafe since 2015. As a friend once told me, when he arrived in Sheridan on his first visit, he wanted two things, a reuben sandwich and a cigar. Both of those needs were met in one location.

Being a nonsmoker, I had to take my friend’s word on the cigar part. I, on the other hand, was hunting breakfast when I opened the door. I wouldn’t be disappointed.

When I sat down, I was greeted by Lorraine, my friendly and flirty server. Lorraine made me feel like I was a regular customer before my backside even warmed the booth. Looking at the menu, there’s lots to choose from, even biscuits and gravy. On the Flagstaff’s menu, the dish is called “Biscuits & Good Gravy.”

As readers of this column might know, it’s normally my breakfast quest, but finding good biscuits and gravy is hit or miss in Wyoming. Being the gambling type, the friend I was with ordered up a plate just to see if the dish lived up to its name. However, I was less decisive.

The menu features selections such as thick-sliced French toast and the “Big Horn,” which is two eggs any style, ham steak, two sausage patties, three slices of bacon, hash brown and toast. Then there’s “The Gordo”, an 8-once black Angus steak, with two eggs, hash browns and toast. I was there after noon, typically lunch time, but I hadn’t even reached the burgers and other lunch fare.

I turned to Lorraine for help, telling her I was still in the mood for breakfast. Lorraine pointed to the breakfast burrito, a massive breakfast offering containing two eggs, ham, bacon or sausage with cheddar cheese and optional pepper and onions, smothered in chili verde.

I ordered the sausage option, sans chili.

While waiting for our order, owner Mark Demple, stopped at the table to see how we were doing. He agreed with Lorraine that the burrito was a great choice.

“The sausage is from Sackett’s Market,” he said, a Sheridan butcher shop. 

The rest of the menu also features fresh offerings from around the Sheridan, Demple said.

“Beef for the burgers is ground fresh daily at Legerski’s Sausage Company,” he said. “(Owner) Jimmy (Legerski) will come up every morning and ask how many burgers we will need, and then he goes back and grinds them.”

While shut down for one and one-half months during the COVID pandemic, the cafe opened for take out and delivery, taking advantage of a little used walk up window in the building. The business has since rebounded, said Dimple.

“Business has come back pretty strong,” he said. “We have a great local follow here, and we are really blessed with that.”

It was then that Lorraine arrived with our meals. I noticed two things right away. First, the sausage gravy and biscuits did indeed look like “good gravy.”

Second, the breakfast burrito should have been delivered with a forklift! This thing is massive!

The sausage gravy and biscuits lived up to the hype. There were big chunks of sausage in a good, smooth southern style gravy that got four forks up from my friend. Time for the burrito. This isn’t the type of burrito you get at the Golden Arches or the King, and you won’t be picking this up with your hands to eat it.

The flour tortilla was tender, soft, and filled to bursting. The first bite was loaded with eggs and sausage as promised. The hash browns inside weren’t mushy and nondescript as in most morning wraps. They were crispy! Yes, crispy I tell you!

I’m still trying to figure out how they pulled that off. Let’s face it, most hash browns in a burrito are often little more than filler. Not these however!

The crunch played well with the eggy goodness, the spice of the sausage and the melt of the cheese. Every bite was better than the one before it. I kid you not, no one is going to beat this for breakfast! I’m not exaggerating either.

There was one problem with the burrito. There was no chance I could finish it in one sitting.

As Lorraine said, it’s big, REALLY BIG! When I said it was massive, I mean as big around as my forearm, and every bit as long! It’s a good thing I could get a to-go box.

The Flagstaff Cafe is open 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. Get there early and bring your appetite!

You can find them at 1 N Main St, Sheridan or on the web at www.ponewsflagstaffcafe.com or look for them on Facebook.

P.S. The second half of the burrito made for a great breakfast the next day, and I swear by my fork, the hash browns in it were still crispy!

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Eating Wyoming: Wyoming Elk. It’s What’s For Dinner

in Eating Wyoming/Column
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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Did you hear there’s a meat shortage? Of course you didn’t, you’re in Wyoming. 

One thing you can say for Wyoming: nothing stands in the way of filling a freezer with meat and elk is the go-to game for hunters across the state. 

With the primary firearms elk season running from Aug. 31 to Jan. 31, there’s still plenty of time bag that buck.

Once you have your game processed and packed away in the freezer, though, how are you going to enjoy it? Elk isn’t like other meat. You can’t just grab a package of elk meat cook it like you would beef. 

So here are a few of my tips for preparing a delicious elk dish.

If you have never cooked elk before, the first thing you’ll notice is how incredibly lean the meat is. That poses a small problem with the meat drying out because it’s easily overcooked. 

It is recommended that elk be cooked to an internal temperature of 130 to 140 degrees. After 150 degrees, the extremely lean meat will begin to dry.

So hot and fast is the best way to impart flavor and not risk drying things out. This works great for steak cuts or searing a roast. 

Burgers are a bit easier to work with, because most people have their ground elk mixed with things like beef fat or even pork to add moisture. 

Ground elk like this is not just for burgers though. Chili is amazing with this versatile Wyoming staple. In short, you can use it any way you can use regular ground beef.

Now that we have our cuts and temperatures worked out, what should we cook? I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a newbie when it comes to elk. 

First, maybe I should tell you that I spent 20 years as a butcher in my father’s meat market. I was used to getting game meat from hunters and cooking my fair share of if, but that was wild hog, and tiny little Florida deer. Elk is a bit different, to say the least.

Recently, one of my neighbors was moving and offered to give me the elk he had in his freezer — ground elk as well as steak and roast cuts.

The ground elk made a most wonderful spaghetti. 

Now I wanted to try a roast cut. I know with a lean roast, there are two methods for cooking. One involves using a meat thermometer and bring the internal temp to the 135 degrees. I ended up tackling the second method, a slow braise.

With a camping trip to Vedauwoo planned, what better time to serve a Wyoming meat. The roast I was give, appeared to be a blade cut and was, as expected, quite lean. 

With the braising method, I would let the meat cook slowly all day, and when I was ready, it would be fall-apart tender. 

Since I planned to cook this in a cast iron Dutch oven, I began by bringing my iron up to a searing temp. Using a gas burner, I allowed the Dutch oven to heat up. Using few tablespoons of flour, I lightly coated the meat. The flour would help thicken the juices while cooking.

After the Dutch oven was up to temp, I added the a few tablespoons of cooking oil to the vessel and seared the meat on all sides. After the sear, I lowered the burner’s flame as low as possible. At this point, I coated the top side of the roast with a thin layer of tomato paste.

Normally a braise requires a liquid and you can use just about anything. I was going to use beef stock, but on this trip, one of my camping friends brought some home mademead. Mead is a fermented spirit made with honey. Depending on the brew master, mead can be sweet or dry. I thought this dry mead would be just like using a good red wine to braise with, so in went about a cup.

Since this was basically a pot roast style cook, I added a variety of vegetables. This is what I used, but feel free to use your favorites:

4 peeled and halved potatoes 

2 cups of carrots (pealed and cut for camping convenience.)

2 onions halved

3 stalks of celery

2 cups of sliced mushrooms

2 couple of cloves of garlic

2 bay leaves

and 

Couple of handfuls of Brussels sprouts

Your quantity can vary, depending on the size of your Dutch oven. 

Now that the veggies are in place, hit everything with a generous amount of salt and pepper, just pop on the lid and wait. How long? Well, a long time! This isn’t the exact science part of the recipe.

Being on a low heat, you can literally let it cook all day. Like turning on the crock pot before you leave for work. In this case, I took a long hike around Turtle Rock, which was about three hours, and I still had time to kill.

After about five hours had passed, I popped the lid off, and WOW! The first thing that hit me was the aroma. OK, OK, I was hungry after the hike, but I swear this was heaven! 

Now we come to the easy part. I take out all the vegetables and put them in bowl so I can get to the meat itself. 

The meat had a mild, almost sweet flavor. As expected, it barely resisted my fork and it was as tender as you can get.

The hardest part of this recipe was telling everyone on this camping trip, that they had to be patient as I took photos for this article. There were no other complaints in the camp, and plenty of thumbs up!

All of this was just my method cooking elk, but what I really want to know is, how do you cook it? With elk being so widely enjoyed here in Wyoming, I’m sure there are hundreds of family favorites out there.

Please, if you see this article on Facebook, let me know in the comments you would improve on my preparation. Or just share a different recipe altogether. 

I’m looking forward to learning from you all, and quite possibly trying something different next time I cook elk.

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Eating Wyoming: Jackson’s “Gather” Offers Well-Curated Menu

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

There’s a tiny little town in Wyoming that some of you might have heard of —Jackson, or Jackson Hole to some. For those who haven’t though, let me tell you a little about it.

Jackson is on the western border of the state, right next to the majestic Teton Mountains. 

With a population of just over 10,000, you would think there’s not much going on here, but you would be wrong. It seems there’s quite a lot awaiting the odd visitor who wanders in by mistake.

Jackson is in the Jackson Hole Valley, and is home to some of the best skiing in the state. There are three resorts to choose from and miles of ski runs to master. 

If it’s art you’re looking for, there’s the National Museum of Wildlife Art. Inside you’ll find works by artists ranging from Georgia O’Keeffe to Andy Warhol.

In the summer, you’ll find more outdoor activities than you can shake a stick at. Hiking, camping, fishing, and, my personal favorite, sitting. 

There truly is something for everyone in this little town. But other places in Wyoming have all this, too, So what makes Jackson so special? 

Celebrities!

With daily flights into Jackson from major cities including Atlanta, Chicago and New York, it seems celebrities from all over the country flock to the area to get away from the hard life of celebrity-ing. A few have even made Jackson their home, like Han Solo from the “Star Wars” movies, although he prefers being called Harrison Ford. It’s all about being “low key.”

With all the celebrity visitors, not to mention the few thousand tourists who visit the town every year, come a few perks. The town is loaded with great restaurants! 

While I was in Togwotee recently for a stay at a cabin, my stomach got to rumbling after a long day at Yellowstone National Park. Realizing I’d have to drive an hour to Jackson to eat, I quickly hopped in the car and headed south. 

It was already about 7:45 PM and a quick search on Google yielded a place called Gather that was open until 9:30 PM. Awesome, I’d have just enough time.

I had never been to Jackson before, so driving into town, I had to go slow and soak in a little local color before getting to the restaurant. Hey look! There’s the park with all the elk antlers! 

Not wasting any more time, I found a place to park and walked up to what looked like a pretty happening little place. There were outdoor tables with blazing patio heaters to keep diners cozy and warm. Through the window, I could see this was an upscale but casual looking establishment.

Now I should tell you, there are a couple of things I judge a restaurant on besides the food. One thing is atmosphere, and Gather seems to have that.

The other is how well restaurant staff treat a diner who shows up shortly before closing without a reservation. 

Even though I showed up at 9 p.m. without a reservation, they didn’t hesitate to seat me. As I took my seat, I noticed there were a couple of other night owls placing their orders as well, so I didn’t feel too bad.

Perusing the menu, the first thing I discovered is Gather’s finely curated selection. There’s pan-roasted salmon, elk bolognese and even Wagyu beef for those wanting the best beef there is. I see in the menu that all the ingredients are locally sourced as well. 

After a bit of review, I see something that strikes my eye. 

I ordered the slow-braised ribs, the crispy Brussels sprouts and house-cut fries. I also considered, but ultimately passed on, the pork belly bao buns, which are fresh-made bao buns and crispy braised pork belly with kimchi and Fresno chiles.

After ordering, I asked general manager Ali Gul about the restaurant. 

Gul, formerly of Turkey, tells me Gather has been open for six years and he’s been the general manager for the last two. 

“Our most popular dish is the pork belly bao buns, and the crispy Brussels sprouts.” Gul said. “Our menu is quite seasonal, with year-round favorites.”

Gather’s standout dish at the moment is its Wagyu bone marrow fried rice, Gul said.

I asked Gul about the restaurant’s locally sourced ingredients, and where in Wyoming it gets its beef and pork. 

“Snake River Farms supplies our meats and we try to source other ingredients locally whenever we can,” he said. “We are transitioning to our fall menu, and even our mushrooms will be locally sourced.”

Gather has a sister restaurant, Gul said, called Plates and located in the National Museum of Wildlife Art. I’ll have to check that out on my next visit, but for now, my dinner is here.

WOW! The first thing to strike me is the presentation of the ribs. After all, we eat as much with our eyes as we do with our mouth. 

Arranged on a long plate, topped with pickled onions, apple and cilantro, these braised ribs look like art. When a restaurant cares about how good the food looks on a plate, you know it takes the time to make the food taste good too.

Before spoiling the presentation of the ribs, I head for the Brussels sprouts. I’m a sprout head and these crispy jewels are the perfect first bite. 

The ribs are next. 

There are two kinds of ribs in this world. The first is the kind where they drag out a whole slab and bib you up so you don’t slop sauce everywhere. 

And then there’s what’s in front of me now. Four beautifully meaty pieces, each on its own bone, with not too much sauce, but enough to flavor the ribs.

As I bite into the ribs, they give ever so slightly and then come away cleanly from the bone. These are not typical overcooked BBQ joint ribs. They are in a word, perfect! 

The sauce is not too heavily spiced and lets the flavor of the meat carry everything. I think I ordered the winner here. 

The pickled onion on top wasn’t just garnish. It added a cool compliment to the spice of the dish. The hand-cut fries round out the meal and were better than any fries you’ll get in a paper sack!

I was a little sad when the meal was over, but only because I was full and didn’t have room for dessert. Maybe next time I’ll start with dessert? I’m an adult, I can do that, right? Maybe I’ll try the huckleberry cheesecake or Jackson doughnut holes?

No matter what time you choose to visit Gather, I’m sure you’ll be as pleased as I was. 

Gather is located at 72 S. Glenwood Street in Jackson. It is open for dinner from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. nightly. For reservations, call 307-264-1820. On the web at www.gatherjh.com

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Eating Wyoming: ‘Noam’s Table’ An Unexpected Treat

in Eating Wyoming/Column
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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily 

As I travel around Wyoming looking for great places to eat, I find there are so many that it takes time to tell their stories.

One such place I found was during a recent trip to Cheyenne. OK, it’s not really a “place,” but let me explain. I visited Cheyenne in June to take part in the city’s annual “Superday” celebration.

After a year’s hiatus because of the coronavirus, the event returned in 2021 with old favorite activities and at least one new option for food, the “Noam’s Table: Taste of Tel Aviv” food truck.

I was listening to a local garage band warm up on stage when the smell of something interesting filled the air.

Food vendors and food trucks were located at the back of the park, where I found classic food options including funnel cakes, tacos, burgers and even a Domino’s Pizza booth.

But what really caught my eye was a rather new looking truck with the name “Noam’s Table: Taste of Tel Aviv” painted on its side.

Growing up in Tampa, Florida, I was rather close to Tarpon Springs, which is a Greek orthodox community known for sponge diving and some of the best Greek and Middle Eastern food this side of the Mediterranean Sea. So needless to say, I’ve had some of the best there is.

I made my way straight to the menu on the side of the truck and just as I had hoped, there was one of my all-time favorites! Falafel! And hummus! Even an Israeli salad, which is a perfect way to cool down on a hot summer day.

As I stood there studying the menu, the smiling owner of the truck, Noam Mantaka, introduced himself through the window.

Noam told me he was born in Tel Aviv in Israel and that falafel and pita were staples there, eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He also said he just loved to cook and make people happy — something I can personally relate to.

Having lived all over Israel, Noam developed his recipes from the best of the best the country had to offer.

“It took me three years to develop my spices for the falafel, to make it perfect,” he said. “I love to cook. I took all kind of tricks of chefs and combined to one [recipe] for myself.”

Moving to the U.S., Noam wanted to share his food and create smiles here as well. The Noam’s Table food truck opened almost a year ago, and you can find it traveling around Wyoming, spreading those smiles.

After telling me a bit about himself, Noam invited me behind the curtain, or in this case the screen door, to see his pride and joy, his food truck.

If I thought it smelled good outside, the inside was pure heaven! There was a griddle with fresh pitas toasting, and next to that was beef grilling for gyros (more on gyros in a moment). On the opposite side of the pita was the fryer where the magic happens — where the falafel is fried.

What’s a falafel? Simply the most popular fast food in the Middle East. Falafel is a chickpea (garbanzo bean) fritter, but it can also be made with fava beans. The variety Noam serves are chickpea — my personal favorite. Noam serves falafel in round balls, but it can also be made as a patty. The chickpeas are are ground and mixed with fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, cumin, along with spices such as garlic.

I didn’t ask for the recipe, but I could tell the mix looked right. It had to be the right mix, because, as it was explained to me, no binders like flour or starch are used to hold the balls together as they fry. Also, the temperature of the oil has to be perfect, or they fall apart as they fry. 

The dark and delicious orbs are placed on a warm pita bread alongside some of the gyro beef, Israeli salad, and a slice of pickle. It’s then topped with Tahini.

Tahini is a sauce used on many dishes that is made with ground sesame seeds, garlic, lemon juice and herbs. This gyro is served with seasoned fries that Noam told me were his secret “Za’atar fries.”

Just think awesome french fries with an Israeli twist.

Now, as promised, a note on “gyros”. There’s great debate on how to pronounce this. Is it “geye-ro” or is it “yee-ro” or are both wrong? I was always taught the latter was the correct way, but listening to Noam, it realized that I had it all wrong. Gyro is seems, is pronounced “gee-ro.” I will always defer to the person who knows.

At this point, Noam proudly held up the gyro like he was a proud poppa with a newborn baby! 

Although it was too early for lunch, before leaving the truck, I was told I had to try the hummus. 

The little sample cup passed to me was filled with a beautiful blond hummus and as I dipped my finger in to get a taste, the first thing I noticed was how fresh it was. This isn’t the store-bought stuff. It’s really hard to explain how different it is when it’s fresh. You can order the hummus with pita chips for dipping, or buy a pound of the hummus by itself.

When I returned to Noam’s for lunch, Noam was pleased to see I was back to try him out. I ordered a gyro similar to the one I saw being made earlier.

Finding a shady spot on a bench, I unwrapped my lunch to investigate. One bite and I was transported to the shores of the Mediterranean or the Gulf Coast of Florida. This is a flavor I hadn’t had since moving to Wyoming six years ago and it was wonderful!

The falafel was crisp on the outside and tender in the middle. The beef was seasoned to perfection and the salad on the gyro made a cool complement to the combo.

If you have never tried real falafel or gyro, look for Noam’s Table.

The truck is based in Cheyenne area and a schedule of its stops can be found on Noam’s Facebook page or website, www.noamstable.com

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Eating Wyoming: Hanging At The Hangar

in Eating Wyoming/Column
12614

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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

Hours are:
Monday to Thursday 10:30AM – 10PMFriday to Sunday 7AM – 10PM

On the web: www.wyominghangar.com

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Eating Wyoming: The One Eyed Buffalo: Hot Springs and Hot Food

in Eating Wyoming/Column
12356

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Most people in Wyoming have heard about the town of Thermopolis, but if you haven’t, let me tell you a little about the home of the restaurant we are visiting this week.

Thermopolis, about 130 miles northwest of Casper, is best known for having the worlds largest mineral springs. Every year, thousands of people visit just to take advantage of this natural wonder, either by swimming in it or walking around it.

There’s a free Wyoming-run bathhouse, as well as multiple businesses based around the springs, each offering a unique hot water experience. As much fun as it is to visit in the summer, my favorite time of the year to stop by is winter. Steam billows in the frosty air from the hot springs terraces and an enormous ice falls is created where the water from the springs flows into the Wind River.

Besides the mineral springs, “Thermop,” as locals call it, is world-famous for its dinosaurs. No, not living dinos, but the abundance of archaeological finds in the area. Name a dinosaur and it’s probably been found in the area. There’s even a museum to showcase the finds.

You might think The Wyoming Dinosaur Center sounds like a small town tourist trap with a couple of old bones in dusty cases, but you would be wrong. The museum features old bones all right, but they aren’t in cases! 

As soon as you walk into the main exhibit room of the museum, there’s an articulated skeleton of a diplodocus. The massive display is over two stories tall and over 100 feet long! There’s even a T-Rex and a Triceratops on display. You’ll spend hours imaging what it was like when these beasts roamed Wyoming.

After you get your fill of hot springs and big bones, head on into the town of Thermopolis. This week I’m going to tell you about the other things the town is becoming well known for, The One Eyed Buffalo Brewing Co.

Open since 2015, The One Eyed Buffalo isn’t your typical Wyoming burger bar. Besides delicious food, the company micro brews a variety of beers on premises. 

“On tap right now, we have 16 handles and all but three our ours,” said Manager Jolynn Collins. “The Lake Creek Honey Ale is our most popular.” 

Kent Shook is the master brewer and he’s been brewing for more than 15 years.

On this visit, I am with three friends, and we all end up with something different.

Asking what was really good, I was told by Collins that “we are well known for our burgers like the Spicy Black and the One Eyed Burger.

”However, she added “the mac and cheese is so good it has it’s own menu.” 

I see plenty of great appetizers, burgers and sandwiches, even steaks and fish, but after some browsing, I followed her advice and ordered the chicken bacon mac and cheese.

I mean, come on, who doesn’t like mac and cheese?

Around the table, we also ordered a corned beef reuben, a prime rib melt and also the spinach and artichoke mac and cheese. The reuben was piled high with meat and served with sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing.

It looked as delicious as I was told it was. 

The prime rib melt looked just as good. It consisted of sliced prime rib roast on a hoagie roll and topped with grilled onions, mushrooms, American cheese and a horseradish sauce.

The Prime Rib Melt at the One Eyed Buffalo.

Now for my favorite, the “mac daddy” of mac and cheese! This bowl was brimming with penne pasta, creamy cheese sauce, chicken and topped with grated cheddar. The chicken was cooked perfectly. It was moist and tender, as it should be.

The Chicken Bacon Mac and Cheese at the One Eyed Buffalo in Thermopolis.

More than a meal for one, but that’s not going to stop me.

Finally, the spinach and artichoke mac. Loaded with both veggies and the penne pasta, this too was as good as it looked. It wasn’t long before all the plates were empty, and all appetites satisfied.

The spinach artichoke Mac and cheese at The One Eyed Buffalo.

If you have never been to Thermopolis, go check out the springs, the dinosaurs and don’t forget the buffalo. The One Eyed Buffalo Brewing Co. that is. You’ll surely find something so good, you’ll eat like a T-Rex!

The One Eyed Buffalo is located at 528 Broadway Street, in downtown Thermopolis. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 8 p.m. on Sundays.

On the web, www.oneeyedbuffalobrewingwyo.com

The Wyoming Dinosaur Center is located at 110 Carter Ranch Road in Thermopolis.

Hours are Monday through Sunday, 8AM to 6PM.

On the web, www.wyomingdinosaurcenter.org

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Broncho Grillhouse: Southern Cooking In The Middle of Wyoming, Made The Right Way!

in Eating Wyoming/Column
12109

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

I have only been through Torrington once, and that was while trying to get around the traffic jam following the Great Eclipse of 2017.

I never really had a reason to stop … that is, until now.

While visiting friends in Goshen County, I had a chance to visit Torrington. This time I wanted to to do more than just find a quick way through town — like find an outstanding restaurant for a bite to eat. 

Like most small towns in Wyoming, there’s more to Torrington than meets the eye.

Doing a little research, I found out that Torrington has a golf course that’s been around for more than 60 years. The Cottonwood Golf Course was created in 1959, and is an 18-hole course, with a particularly challenging back nine.

Torrington also has an abundance of parks and a 1.5-mile walking path for you to stretch your legs on. There’s also the Goshen County Homesteaders Museum, featuring a wealth of information on genealogy dating back to the area’s first settlers in 1834.

Housed in the historic Union Pacific Depot, the museum even has the county’s very first automobile on display. The museum is open Monday through Friday, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

All that activity will surely work up an appetite, but where to eat? I had gotten many recommendations.

However, while looking up directions, I noticed that most places to eat were listed as “near Broncho Grillhouse.”

Ok, that piqued my interest.

If a restaurant is known well enough to be used as a landmark for other restaurants, it has to be good.

Finding my way over to 1918 Main Street, I headed inside to see what they had to offer. The Broncho is owned and and run by Tiffany Leslie, a Torrington resident who became the owner in 2019, four years after the restaurant opened.

The restaurant is associated with the Broncho Bar, a Torrington staple for decades that is also owned by Leslie.

“I worked my way up through the steps,” Leslie said. “I started out as a bartender in the bar side in 2010, and worked my way up from there.”

Walking in, I notice the place was packed! That’s a good sign is you want good food.

I don’t mind a wait if it’s worth it, and plenty of people there seemed to agree. My wait wasn’t long, as a hostess had me seated right away, a server approached my table and my drinks were set in front of me before I knew it.

Looking at the menu, I see there are the requisite burgers — a Wyoming staple — as well as appetizers and even breakfast served until 1 p.m. There’s even a salad bar, with an all-you-can-eat option. 

In the menu, under the heading “Put On The Feed Bag,” I noticed “Chicken Fried Chicken.” The description read “Breaded chicken breast served with mashed potatoes and country gravy.”

Now, having grown up in the South, I know what country gravy it. It’s normally a sausage gravy, the kind served with biscuits and gravy. 

I should stop here and say that I have been to a lot of places in Wyoming that claim to make sausage gravy, and many times, I’ve been disappointed.

Normally I get back a gloopy white paste that someone put sausage on top of, or worse yet, no sausage at all. But I keep searching for someone in the state that can make it the way they do south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

You might say that sausage gravy is my white whale. When asked about the gravy, Leslie gave all the credit to her chef.

“He’s been working in a kitchen since it was 16 years old, and he came to me one day and said ‘Let’s give this a try,’ and people love it,” she said. “Our chicken fried steak is hand breaded daily and the same gravy goes on top.”

That settled it. I had to try the chicken fried chicken. However, I swapped my mashed potatoes for onion rings.

After a short wait, out comes my meal, and it looks promising. I can already see the sausage IN THE GRAVY! It smelled wonderful too. 

On the side of the chicken cutlet smothered in gravy were, as promised, golden fried onion rings, and next to that, green beans. Oh, but these beans weren’t fresh from a can, they were fresh from the farm!

There’s a huge difference between canned or frozen and fresh, and these fresh green beans were cooked perfectly. Nice crunch and not overdone and soggy.

As I tucked into my lunch, I look over at my friend’s lunch, a thick Ruben sandwich. Like my search for perfect gravy, his must-have item, when on the menu, has always been a Ruben.

This Ruben was loaded with lean corned beef, sauerkraut and served on marbled rye. All I heard was “Mmmm!” so I assume it was to his liking. But back to my country classic.

From the first bite, it was obvious this was a winner. The chicken was tender, the breading was crispy and what can I say about the gravy? It was, as promised, REAL sausage gravy. Not too watery and not gloopy. It wasn’t overly salted and it had just the right amount of sausage flavor. 

The size of the chicken cutlet alone made this a good value and the addition of the fresh sides made the meal worth every penny.

Leslie tried to sway me toward the burger for my next visit.

“We’re best known for our Cowboy burger and our Texan, which are fresh, hand-made half-pound patties,” she said. “The Cowboy is topped with barbecue sauce, onion rings and bacon, and the Texan topped with barbecue sauce as well, with cream cheese and jalapeno.”

So now that I have stopped in Torrington, I will be back — if for no other reason than just to eat at the Broncho.

If you find yourself on Torrington’s Main Street between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, or as early as 7:30 a.m. on the weekend, stop by and give The Broncho Grillhouse a try. 

Maybe you’ll find that classic you’ve been looking for.

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Eating Wyoming: ‘Sleepy Coyote’ A Hidden Gem At Foot Of Big Horn Mountains

in Eating Wyoming/Column
11777

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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

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