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Eating Wyoming: Attempting To Eat Sanford’s Monster Burger Called “The OMG”

in Eating Wyoming/Column
21708

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

I called out a new challenger and I took him on. This is the story of what happened. 

The ending isn’t a pretty one.

You know this column is about food in Wyoming. You know as your culinary warrior, I’ll take on any challenger. Recently I got a text message that informed me there was a new challenger that I needed to call out, just for honor’s sake.

You might be wondering who this challenger is. Well, it’s not so much a who, but rather, a what. 

First the who. Many of you could be familiar with Sanford’s Grub and Pub. There are two in Wyoming, one in Cheyenne and one in Casper. There’s even one in Dickinson, North Dakota. 

They have a ringer that’s taking down food challengers one by one, knocking them out. This new challenger is currently undefeated, with a record of 12 and 0! Will it be 13?

Now the what of the who. Sanford’s as most people call them, is diabolical! They created a monster burger called “The OMG.” This monster is a multi-layer plate crusher that refuses to die! Or in this case, be eaten. 

Yes, I took it on, but hang in there, I’m getting to that.

I called James Martin, general manager of Sanford’s in Cheyenne, to tell me the story of the OMG, and to warn me about what I would face.



According to Martin, the story goes like this: About 10 years ago when Sanford’s created its menus, there was a graphic in the middle of the burger section of this huge stacked burger. It wasn’t a menu item, but people would ask if they could get one. 

So recently when they did a menu update, Martin thought it would be a total joke to add the burger depicted in the graphic to the regular menu. Thus a legend in the making was born. 

“Just a burger,” you think? Think again. Here’s what’s on the OMG, and why it’s a gut buster extraordinaire. As I listened to Martin’s description,  I had two emotions: curiosity and a strong sense of fear. The voice in my head said RUN! 

Here’s what you get delivered to your table: On the bottom layer is a hamburger, followed by a cheese burger, then a bacon burger and, if that wasn’t enough, barbecue bacon burger after that. All together, this is 4 pounds of meat alone. Including the eight buns and fixings, it weighs in at 5 pounds and stands about 15 inches tall. Let that sink in a moment. 

I let James know that I would be coming down on the Saturday of Cheyenne’s annual Super Day celebration. As the day approached, I tried to psych myself up for the fight of my life. Mano e Mano, or man vs. burger. 

As I walked around Lion’s Park for Super Day, I kept telling myself “You can do this! It’s just a burger, and besides, you skipped breakfast.” 

As lunch time drew near, I was feeling a bit hungry and nervous. 

“Yeah, I have this. In… the… bag!” I kept telling myself.



I head on over to Sanford’s, introduce myself to James, and he tells me that regardless of finishing the OMG or not, I still get my photo on the wall. Sounds like a memorial to the fallen. Then he added that if I FINISHED the burger, I’d get a Sanford’s T-shirt too. 

I asked if anyone had gotten the shirt. He said no, but someone came within three bites before tapping out. It was then that the worry started to sink in. I’m not one to fade from a challenge, so I said, bring it on.

What happened next made me weak in the knees.

I spent my time waiting for the OMG concocting my strategy. Do I eat all the burgers first, then all the buns and finish with the fixings, or do I start at one end and work my way to the other? My honor was at stake here and I had to do something, fast! 

It was just then, I caught a glimpse of the beast! 

When they bring this out, they don’t just set it on the table, oh no! They literally walk it around the WHOLE RESTAURANT, stopping at EVERY table asking, “Is this yours?” in-between stops, chanting “O-M-G! O-M-G!” 

Now, when they get to your table, everyone is looking at you, and saying what everyone is thinking: “OMG! Is that guy crazy?” 

When James sat the tray down, I could swear I heard the burger mocking me with laughter. There was a knife stuck in the top and I don’t know if it was from another fight, or if it was a supposed to be a handle. 

Nodding at the knife, James said “Grab it here.” It was off balance and ready to fall over — or lunge at me. 

It was then that James said “You got this?” as he stepped away, saying “You’re on your own dude!” My only reply was a whimpering “Heeeelllllp!?”



Even I said OMG. This thing was massive! I could barely see over it. Now what? 



Suck it up Tim! You can do it! In the opening round, I managed to wrestle the beast flat to the tray it was on. This thing was as long as my arm, literally! It sat there, looking at me, and again I heard a mocking voice say “Yeah? Whatcha gonna do now punk?” It was then I took the one end to the other strategy. 

There isn’t a time limit on finishing this burger, and maybe that should have scared me. It’s at this point that I should tell you I had gotten a little cocky and ordered this with a topper of onion rings. I know, I know, what was I thinking? 



Round two began by drinking lots of root beer, and rethinking my strategy. I mean come on, I wanted the onion rings on top first. This is where the challenger struck. Out of nowhere, he went straight for the gut punch! While my strategy was a steady end-to-end approach, his was to distract me and tempt me with the onion rings. 

When I did get back on track it was too late, the blow had done its work. I was only able to get a normal burger’s worth eaten, and the onion rings, of course. It was only a matter of time, the end was in sight. The fight concluded with a TKO from the OMG.  I was defeated…kind of. As I lay on the floor with my last fork full, my backup plan was already in motion. 



When I came to, what was left of the OMG was still on the table. I motioned to a server, she winked, and right on cue, she came over with three to-go boxes. I piled the remains of the OMG into the styrofoam hurt lockers, and said “Check please?” 

On the way out the door, it was my turn to laugh mockingly. I patted the boxes on the top and said “See you when we get home!”

If you would like to take on the OMG, it is currently available at the Sanford’s locations in Cheyenne and Dickinson. Possibly coming to the Casper location soon. 

Get down there and take the challenger on! Get your photo on the wall, and learn why everyone that sees this behemoth says “O…M…G…!”  

Sanford’s Cheyenne location is at 115 E 17th St. You can catch them on Facebook and at thegrubandpub.com. 

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Eating Wyoming: Lazy River Cantina

in Eating Wyoming/Column
21264

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How I got soaked and fell in love!

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

When you are really, really hot and really relaxed, there’s nothing better than something equally cold and… a good taco! Let me tell you where you can get both.

This week’s intrepid road trip takes us deep into the wilds of hobo country. 

When I say hobos, I mean those that soak in the famous Hobo Hot Spring in Saratoga … It’s late May as this story unfolds, I put my life at grave risk to get it to you. 

A friend and I were both getting cabin fever from our long Wyoming winter and it was decided that a trip out to Saratoga and a long long loooong soak in the hot springs would be just the cure we both needed. 

I’ll remind you, that this was late May, and weather this time of year can be iffy at best. For the week leading up to the trip, we watched the weather. By watched, I mean watched every weather forecast we could find. One day it looked great for the trip, the next day it looked a little worse, and as the date approached, the forecast called for blizzard conditions the very next day. This was going to be cutting it close. 

We rolled the dice and decided to go for it. Heading out west from Cheyenne, we made our way to Saratoga in about two and one-half hours, racing straight to the Hobo Hot Spring. We got out of the car and it was already getting cold and windy. We knew what was coming, but would it hold off long enough to get in and get out? This was going to happen one way or another. 

Tucked down in the hot springs’ pool area, we were protected from the wind, and the steam rising from the spring pushed back the impending cold. 

Ahhhhhh! This is Wyoming paradise! The mineral spring, tucked into the side if the Platte River, reaches temps in the 116-degree range in the “Lobster Pot,” which is the small pool inside the main spring. The larger pool is in the hot but comfortable 104-degree range. This is where I would spend the next 90 minutes.

You can almost see your aches, pains and trouble dissolve into the water. You spend a little time among the bubbles floating up from the bottom of the pool, and then you get out and get cool again, then repeat this ritual over and over until you are reborn and the cabin fever is cured. 

It seems this spring really is magic, as I really did feel like a new man. But being a newly born human from the water’s womb …. I was freakin hungry! Time had gotten away from me, and my untested land legs needed something to fuel them. 

Until now, what I failed to mention was this was a late evening trip and it was getting close to 8 p.m. and, like many small towns in Wyoming, Saratoga rolls up the sidewalks early. Hurrying to get back into dry clothes and become publicly presentable, we rushed into town to see what we could grab to eat.

Now, before moving on to the food portion of this column that you’ve been waiting for, I want to take just a moment to proudly introduce a new sister column to Eating Wyoming, written by Cowboy State Daily’s Jen Kocher. 

Her new column is “Drinking Wyoming.” As you might expect, she’ll hit all the watering holes in Wyoming, and help you find the best places to wet your whistle.

Anyway, as we rolled down the street, the choices were few. Then we spotted friendly lights ahead and the name “Lazy River Cantina.” I looked at my friend and we were reading each other’s minds.

“TACOS!?” 

We walked inside and it was dimly lit, with tables of diners enjoying a late evening meal. There were young people gathering to laugh, eat and take selfies. That’s what young people do, right? It’s been so long since I was one, that I don’t really know. 

A waitress showed us to a table and went to get us a couple of menus. Looking around, this place reminded me of a place I used to eat at when I really was young. The memories of Taco Viva came flooding back. There were paintings on the walls that reinforced what kind of eatery this is. A luchador, or masked Mexican wrestler, painted on one wall, and on another wall was a woman with sugar skull makeup. 



Being hot from the springs, and a little dehydrated from the heat, I asked our server if they had margaritas. They did indeed have this magic elixir. The server told me they had a house margarita, lime, and strawberry, but when she said mango, I stopped her right there and said, “Yes please!” 

Turning to the menu, I knew I wanted tacos, but what else might tempt me? I see the prerequisite burritos, all of which sounded good. There’s even a chicken tinga burrito. 

Chicken tinga is traditionally made with shredded chicken in a tomato sauce made with chipotle chilis in adobo. That almost swayed me away from the tacos and if that wasn’t enough, there was a long list of enchiladas to choose from as well. 



The waitress returned with a bowl of tortilla chips and the most wonderful salsa. Not too much cilantro and in this case, just enough heat. This would keep me busy as I flipped over the menu. On the other side were starters and snacks like chips and guacamole, cantina nachos, and even hand cut fries smothered in queso cheese. 

There were chicken and steak fajitas, which almost stopped me right there. I mean fajitas are close to tacos, right? 

I’m getting close, because I see taco salads below that. You can get your choice of chicken, beef, chorizo or flank steak. The beef taco salad would be my friend’s choice tonight while I floated on down the Lazy River’s menu, to the taco section. 

There it is! Six different street tacos to choose from, had me salivating before I could choose. 

The “OG Taco” is a traditional seasoned ground beef, cheddar, lettuce taco, served with either a soft or hard shell. The “combo taco” is a soft flour taco spread with beans and wrapped around the OG Taco! 

Then I saw one that grabbed my hunger by the neck and shook it. The “Chorizo Diablo” taco is a white corn tortilla with spicy chorizo, with shredded cabbage, lime crema and cotija cheese topped with pickled red onion.

Since these were an a la carte thing, I was going to have one of these, but with one other. I noticed a “chicken tinga” taco, which is similar to the diablo, but with that adobo seasoned chicken, and guacamole. Below that was “shrimp taco” with grilled shrimp of course, more lime crema, cabbage and pico de gallo. Hmmm? Maybe? 

But there it was! The king of street taco, the “carne asada.” Filled with grilled sliced beef, onions, cilantro, lime crema and cotija cheese, served on a corn tortilla, there’s no doubt why this is the king of the street stand! 

I’m so hungry now that I’m going to stop writing and run down the road to get some tacos to power my way through this. 

Ok, I’m back. Where was I?

Oh yes… Our server returned just in time, and carrying the frozen concoction that was destined to bring down my body temperature to a pre-soak level. I’ll have to tell you that as I’m typing this very sentence, I wish I had one of these mango margarita in front of me now. 

I quickly placed my order for one Chorizo Diablo and one carne asada taco, and then turned to my new friend. 

From the first sip, this margarita was spectacular. The frozen version of a margarita is the Slurpee for adults. If consumed too quickly, it’s a brain freeze-inducing beverage that’s split my skull on more than one occasion. This mago flavored treat did just that, as I attempted to rehydrate too quickly, but I couldn’t stop sipping! Mango anything is my tropical flavored favorite, and this beverage was right there among the best. 

Now that I’m becoming properly cooled down from the inside out, it’s time for the taco! BRING ME TACOS NOW! 

That was the monster inside wanting to be fed, and here they come. The taco salad came to the table first, and this one looks like those you might be familiar with, layered on the bottom with the beef and beans and other goodies, carefully covered by lettuce and topped with sour cream and salsa. The shell isn’t your ordinary dish like the one served at the bell down the street. This one was light and crispy and for me, is the desert of the salad. It demands more salsa for dipping. 



Seemingly in slow motion, with a mariachi band full of trumpet fanfare playing in the background, the two beautiful street tacos were lowered to the table in front of me, guarded by two wedges of lime.

I spun the plate around looking for the best angle to photograph for you. There wasn’t a best angle. That is to say, no matter which direction I spun the plate, they looked like art. 

Drizzled with crema and topped with shredded cabbage, they begged to be folded, and eaten. Which one first? The Chorizo Diablo or the carne asada? I was curious about the diablo, so I went for it first. 

Now a street taco is little bit different from the ones found at your average John or Bell, these are something special. Smaller than a normal yet packed with goodness, these make you stop and savor the flavor.

After the first bite, I did just that. The Diablo’s spicy chorizo played well with the cool cabbage and crema. Not overpoweringly hot, yet it wanted to be chased by a sip of cold frozen margarita. What a great combination. Admittedly, I was hungry, but I’m not exaggerating, that this hit spots I didn’t know I possessed. 



There is a sad side to street taco, and it has to do with the size. They are normally for most mouths, a three bite experience. They sadly leave you wanting more, but there always is more. In this case it was the carne asada queued up and waiting on the plate. This one I squeezed a bit of lime on before gently picking it up and folding it over. 

There’s a trick to eating a taco of any kind, and this one was no different. There’s the “cup it in the palm” approach that attempts to keep the filling from escaping. It’s always fun to watch someone try this way and lose all the filling back onto the plate…amateurs! 

Then there’s my technique. Folding it in half, I tuck one side of the taco in between my pinky and ring finger, then pinching the middle between my thumb and forefinger its filling is practically escape-proof.

The carne asada accepted my Spock-like Vulcan Taco grip, and trying not to over-pinch it, I took a bite.  The corn tortilla was soft and tender and didn’t split like some I’ve had. The meat was grilled and tender and didn’t struggle at all. The flavor of the beef stood out and the lime gave it a perfect zing. Each consecutive bite proved to be equal to the last. That is to say all three bites. 

As with the chorizo taco, this one was gone before I knew it. This time though there was no longing or sadness at its short life. I was satisfied, full and happy. The mango margarita was making slurping sounds, as my straw found the bottom. The only word was more like a feeling: “Ahhhhhh!”

My aches and pain were taken by the hot spring, and the tacos at the Lazy River Cantina took my hunger and slaked my thirst. Life was good.

There was just one thing to worry about, the weather! Yeah, I forgot about the impending blizzard. We made it through the pass back to Cheyenne just in time, because the highway was closed behind us. It was worth the risk though.

My recommendation? Go soak like a hobo in Saratoga, and even if you rise from the healing waters late in the evening, go to the Lazy River Cantina for a taco. Get a margarita and see if you feel the “Ahhhhh”! 

The Lazy River Cantina is located at 110 E Bridge St, in Saratoga Wyoming. It is open from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., Tuesday through Saturday and is closed Sunday and Monday. Catering is also available and the restaurant can be contacted at 307-362-8472 

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Eating Wyoming: Eating Yak Meat With Cosmetics Mogul Jeffree Star

in Eating Wyoming/Column
20504

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

This past Memorial Day weekend, hundreds of people gathered early in Casper on a Saturday morning so as not to be left out of a big event that was about to take place. An event so HUGE that people lined up for hours to get in. 

Now, you might think that I’m talking about the big Harriette Hageman-Donald Trump rally over at the Ford Wyoming Center, but you would be wrong. 

Let me take you back to the Friday before and you’ll understand. 

It’s late evening when I get a text message from my editor Jimmy Orr and he had an assignment for me. The conversation went like this…

Jimmy: “Hey Tim! How would you like to cover a story tomorrow for Eating Wyoming?” 

Me: “Sure thing. What ya got?” 

Jimmy: “You know who Jeffree Star is?” 

Me: “The YouTube makeup guy here in Casper?”

Now I’m thinking he got Eating Wyoming confused with something else, but then…

Jimmy: “Yeah, he’s selling yak meat tomorrow from his ranch in Casper.”

Me: Yak? Oh cool! This should be interesting. I’m in!”

Are you all caught up now? No? Don’t know who Jeffree Star is? I’ll quickly fill you in and explain how he came to raise yaks in Wyoming. 

Jeffree Star is an entrepreneur and the founder of Jeffree Star Cosmetics, a cosmetics line estimated to be worth over $1.5 billion. Star is also a YouTuber and has one of the platform’s largest followings at 16 million subscribers.

A former Los Angeles resident, Star left the glitz of LA and moved to the quiet of Casper, purchasing a ranch at the foot of Casper Mountain. 

In my interview with Star, he explained that he always wanted “…a lot of land in the middle of nowhere.” 

With all this land now at his disposal, Star decided to take up yak ranching. But why yaks? Even more important, what is a yak? 

While traveling in the Swiss Alps years ago, Star came across, as he described it, a sea of yaks grazing on a pasture. It must have been a scene straight out of the film “The Sound of Music.”

Having never seen a yak, he asked “Are these hairy, horned cows?” 

Later he explained to me that these animals are the divas of all bovines, and thus he fell in love with yaks. 

Fast forward to his new, though animal-less, ranch in Casper. He had all this land to use, yet never thought about raising animals.

But then, remembering those Swiss divas, Jeffree realized how awesome it would be to raise yaks.  One problem, he didn’t know anything about raising them. 

Quickly Googling “yaks in Casper,” he found the only place in Casper that’s raising them, Prairie Wind Yak Ranch. Star reached out to the owner Sunshine Schultz, who gladly invited him to come on down to her ranch. 

It was at this ranch where Sunshine and Star would meet (see what I did there?) and he would intern, learning all things yak. Learning their behavior, how to care for and groom them, even learning to trim their hooves with a grinder. 

As he describes it, “It was everything out of my element, but it felt natural and fulfilling.” 

Starting out with six yaks on 600 acres, the yaks had more than enough room, but as Star would put it, “Where are they? They get lost in the landscape.” So the Star Yak Ranch was born. 

It wasn’t until he tried the meat and looked up its nutritional value that Star started thinking about the meat production side of ranching. 

“It’s the perfect meat for people that can’t have most red meat, and it’s really good,” he said.

Today, Star Yak ranch has a full-blown, genetically controlled breeding program, with 120 head in four different pastures.  

Currently the ranch has about 40 pregnant cows waiting to increase the herd’s numbers. All the livestock are DNA tested, tagged and entered into an online registry with UsYaks.org. 

However, only a few lucky pampered yaks are pets. The rest are destined to be dinner. 

This is a true prairie-to-plate operation and 2022 is the first year for the sale of Star Yak Ranch meat products.

If the lines at this first sale were any indication of interest, those 120 cows better get busy for next year too! 

Now you should be all caught up. 

When I arrived at Star’s warehouse in Casper, there were already cars lining the road, waiting for the sale to begin. I queued up and entered the small room in the front of the building, where four 8-foot chest freezers were loaded with beautifully vacuum-packed cuts of all kinds. 

There were about twenty cuts available, ranging from ground yak to ribeyes, tenderloins, roasts and even yak tongue, which Star says is one of his favorite cuts. 



I selected a few cuts to sample and patiently waited for an opportunity to talk to Star about his ranching operation. As I waited, the line outside grew longer and longer and longer! The tiny front room was quickly filling up with customers.



Some people were there as much for a meet as for meat, that is to say, to meet Jeffree Star. Star posed for photos with folks who were eager to try what was on sale. Consequently, I had to wait my turn in line. OK, not actually in line, but off to the side as Star expertly worked the crowd. 



After patiently waiting, I was given a nod to follow Mr. Star back into the quiet of the warehouse, where I would conduct the interview for this article. 

I’ll have to admit, I love people who are passionate about what they do, whether it’s a hobby or profession. Star is obviously passionate about yak ranching, saying he’s really embracing the Wyoming ranch life. 

The culture here is much different from his native Huntington Beach, California, but as he said, his neighbors have all been inviting and happy to show him what it takes to be a Wyoming rancher. 

After one of the easiest and most fun interviews I’ve ever done — one in which Star was excited to share his new passion for ranching — I returned to the front room.  I had expected the crowd would have thinned by now, but to my surprise, it was even bigger than before.

Looking outside, there was a line of people that had to be at least 75 deep! Not wanting to take up more of his time, I thanked Jeffree, paid for my yak, and somehow made it through the multitudes to the outside. 



Now I have a box full of yak in hand but what was I to do with it? Like most of you, I’ve never cooked yak. I picked out several cuts to try, eventually settling on making a yak chili with yak stew meat and ground meat. 



In the interview, Jeffree suggested cooking yak slowly, and in the case of burgers, not overcooking it. After all, it’s extremely lean, over 90%! I could have used a slow cooker for my chili, but being curious and impatient, I broke out my Instant Pot pressure cooker and really, who doesn’t have one these days? 

I used traditional chili seasoning but you should feel free to use your favorite recipe. The seasoning in this case wasn’t as important as the meat. 

I loaded up the pot and set it for 53 minutes, with a 15 minute natural pressure release. Most of the time I’ll use beef in my chili and it often comes out dry, but in this case, I was in for a surprise. 

At this point, you might be asking, “What does yak taste like?” Well, being in the bovine family, I would find out the meat is much like beef, but then again completely different. 

I was surprised how amazing yak is. Even after pressure cooking, it retained an almost sweet flavor. The stew meat I used was tender and not dry at all. 

There was no gamey taste, as with other super lean cuts like elk or venison. The yak had a very clean taste that didn’t overpower the dish. 



Honestly, going into this article, I didn’t know what to expect, having never prepared yak before, but I would use it again. The leanness of the meat has obvious health benefits and as with other Wyoming ranch products, it’s always good to know where your food comes from. 

If you would like to try yak for yourself, and I highly recommend that you do, look for Star Yak Ranch on Facebook and Instagram for the latest news on sale times.

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Eating Wyoming: Classic Cafe & Pizza In Glenrock

in Eating Wyoming/Column
19978

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A Story of Discovery, Change, And Not Judging A Book By Its Cover

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Sometimes it takes a lot of hard work to bring you these stories of food exploration. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. 

Today, it was “one of those days.” At one point, I almost threw in the towel and took up the trombone. Don’t worry, it all worked out in the end, and I walked away fatter and happier for the experience.

As you might have noticed, restaurants and cafes all across Wyoming are undergoing a profound change. Hit hard by the covid pandemic of 2020 through 2021, many places are changing ownership, or they have just closed all together.

It takes a special kind of person, and a special kind of drive, to run your own business, to be the master of one’s own ship. Sadly it doesn’t take much to run aground, as the pandemic has brought to light. 

Sometimes it just takes that special person to grab the rudder, and chart a new course.

Recently, looking for someplace to sink my fork, I thought about Glenrock. A half hour east of Casper by back road, Glenrock is much like many towns I’ve told you about. Small, tight-knit communities with quiet streets. A place where everyone knows you, and you just can’t keep a secret if you wanted to. Towns like this, and Glenrock is no exception, normally hold a gem at their center. Finding a gem like that would be my quest today.

I had planned on checking out a place that a friend found online that he said has good reviews, if you were to believe Tripadvisor. So my friend and I headed towards Glenrock.

While on the way, I looked up directions to the restaurant, and right there on Google maps, in bold red letters, was “Closed permanently!” Strike one. 

Ok, now what? I know, I know! I should have checked before leaving, but it was too late now, we were halfway there.

A quick online scroll through nearby eateries showed another restaurant with great reviews and nice photos. Choosing that one, Google quickly rerouted me, and we were back on track.

Now I’m going to withhold the name of this second candidate as well, because I’m not here to tell you where not to eat, but rather help you find someplace you would enjoy. 

As we get closer, Google Maps speaks up and says “Your destination is on the right,” but where? I don’t see it. Oh, NOW I see it. I wasn’t impressed from the outside, but the photos online painted another picture. What the heck. I’ve already come this far so why not?

As I opened the door to this replacement destination, the cigarette smoke slapped me so hard that I immediately released the door handle, letting the door slowly close, taking the stench with it. This isn’t the place for me, and probably not for you either. Strike two.

Back to Google Maps.

This time, I found a possible third place worth writing about. The Higgins Hotel and Paisley Shawl Restaurant had a rating of 4.5 to 5 online with 59 reviews. Sounds promising. We’ll see.

I notice this is an old hotel, but I didn’t think that had anything to do with the restaurant, especially after the good feedback online. I walk into the main lobby and I can see straight through to the dining room. Well-set tables with folded white linen napkins were neatly stood at each place setting. Now we’re talking!

There was just one problem. There were no people in the dining room. No servers, and it was then I noticed, no smell of food. Was I too early for service?

It was just then a clerk mysteriously popped up at the front desk, and I do mean mysteriously, like someone rubbed a lamp and he was there to grant me three food wishes, so I asked if the restaurant was open. 

“Not yet,” he replied. 

“When does it open?” I asked. 

“Summer” said the clerk. 

I turned to my friend, while hiding my inner frustration and growing hunger, and jokingly said, “I’ll have a seat in the lobby and wait!” 

Turning back to the clerk, he explained that the hotel was in the middle of being bought out. See? There’s that trend again. Plans are to resume dining service later this summer. 

Ok, that explains it, however, that means swing and a miss! STRIKE THREE!

Soldiered On

It was then that I thought about throwing in the towel and calling the day a wash, but being your culinary champion, I soldiered on. Asking the clerk if there was any place in town to get a good meal, and he suggested Classic Cafe & Pizza right across the street. I looked at my friend and back at the clerk, but he had vanished as suddenly as he appeared. I later found out that this hotel was haunted, but that’s another story.

To be honest, I was looking for something a little more than a diner to tell you about this time, yet I was really hungry, so I thought I would just get some food and try again another day.

As I walked up to the front of the cafe, it seemed like many other establishments I’ve visited before. Kinda simple, kinda unassuming, just a diner. But when I opened the door, instead of being greeted by smoke and gloom or a disappearing clerk, this time it was the smell of food coming from a kitchen, and diners! I mean people! Customers! Was this where the town was hiding its gem?



As I took a seat in a sparkly red upholstered booth. The waitress came over and introduced herself as Wendy and, as is custom, she took our drink orders while I browsed the menu.



I saw a great selection of starters and one choice stood out, “Rattlesnake Bites.” I knew this wasn’t real snake, but rather a jalapeno popper, as they are sometimes called. Split jalapeno peppers filled with cream cheese and then breaded, but in this case, wrapped in bacon before being sent for a swim in the fryer. This is one of my all time favorite starters, so there’s that part decided.

Looking further, I noticed the other items I could have chosen, like potato skins, chili cheese fries, and even a pound of wings, with my choice of sauces. 

There were lots of sandwiches, like the crispy chicken club that sounded good, as well a steak and cheddar dip. Below that was a Philly Steak sandwich, served with peppers, onions and in this case a side of au jus. This would be my friend’s choice, but I was still looking.

There was a good selection of salads, but remember, this quest left me hungry, and my hunger was getting worse, so I looked on. 

A burger sounded good, but then I’m always telling you about those, although the blackened cajun burger made me pause and think. The next section below the burgers was the “South of The Border” fare.

Rolled enchiladas, tacos, burritos and chicken quesadillas all competing for my fork’s attention. Not being one to disappoint, I’m going to order the combination platter, which is a smothered burrito, an enchilada and a taco, served with rice and beans. Can’t go wrong with combinations, huh?

Wendy returned with our drinks and shortly after, the Rattlesnake Bites. As she was taking our order, we chatted a bit, and she told me that soon she is going to be taking over as owner of the restaurant, hopefully by the end of the year, and that the current owners are ready to retire.

As I’ve written before and as mentioned above, many restaurants in Wyoming are doing this very same thing. The Chugwater Soda Fountain just changed ownership, as has the the Winchester Steakhouse in Buffalo — which is now The Cattleguard Steakhouse — so it was no surprise that this diner is going through such a change. 

With owners Doug and Michelle Dohetry planning to retire by year’s end, Wyoming native and the cafe’s 8-year veteran server Wendy Sinske already has plans to continue it as a family-run establishment. 

Sinske is not just a server at Classic Cafe & Pizza, she’s a budding entrepreneur. 

“I have been ready to buy, for three years now, and this is my chance,” said Sinske, adding “My husband and I don’t want to work for anyone else. We want to work for ourselves.” 

That screams Wyoming, doesn’t it?

With plans to pick up the baton, or wooden spoon, and continue the cafe, there aren’t many plans to change much else. 

“Glenrock residents don’t like a lot of change. They don’t mind new things, but they want the flavors they currently enjoy.” says Sinske. 

It appears the cafe and its fresh-made pizza dough, the house-made dressings and other Glenrick favorites are safe from the trend that’s closing so many Wyoming eateries.

Now let me tell you about those Rattlesnake Bites. These jalapenos were a few notches above others that I’d had before. I’ve had some that were just battered and breaded imposters, masquerading as a pepper. Some that were just a breaded, pepper shaped, blob of cheese that sat briefly sat next to a jalapeno. Thankfully, these emerald beauties were the real deal!



The bacon on the outside was crispy and in return for its crispiness, it protected the cream cheese and the pepper beneath. Not a spicy pepper, these had just a hint of heat on the back of the tongue that slowly built with each passing bite. Several times I contemplated not eating them all, because I wanted to save room for the main course. 

It was a fleeting thought, as the peppers were quickly consumed. If this was an indication of what was to come, I was ready for it.

After a short wait, Wendy and her friendly smile returned with our lunch.

Now a burrito is often just as burrito, but sometimes, it’s A BURRRRITO! Yes, that was typed with an accent. This “burrrrito” was a real plate filler! And how they stuffed the enchilada and taco on that plate, along with the rice, beans and a copious amount of cheese, was nothing short of diner sorcery! Go on! Have a look at this photo, as taken from the international space station. Huge, right?



Next down on the table was the Philly Steak sandwich. As cheesesteaks go, this one had it all. And it had one thing that most places forego, the au jus! I mean what’s a cheesesteak if you can’t dip it into that liquid gold siphoned off from the roasting pan?

Ok, raise your hand if you’ve had a bun so hard that it was probably used to tenderize the meat, or one so soggy that it was like it was never baked? Yeah, me too! This Philly had neither. A perfectly soft bun filled with tender steak, cheese, and loaded with grilled peppers and onion. 

The bowl of au jus should have been served with a diving board attached, because if there’s any left after dipping, you’ll want to go for a swim.



Don’t worry. I didn’t forget about the burrito. After a perfect bite with some of the rice and beans on the side, I could see it was filled to overflowing with moist flavorful beef. The tortilla was soft and tender and the red chili smothering it all kept it that way. This was a burrito worthy of note.

The taco was equally as good, with a crispy shell protecting well seasoned beef, topped with cheese and all the fixings, but I was half way through the burrito when I remembered the enchilada was down there somewhere. 

I mounted a fork expedition and dug my way down to it and there, hiding beneath the taco, was a beefy cheesy treat that made the whole plate worth it.

Sorry mom! I’ll have to be honest, I didn’t eat everything on my plate. I mean, how could I? It was huge to begin with, and the Rattlesnake Bites got me halfway to full. Gleefully, this was a take out box meal.

You can see that what started out as a trip with a specific destination turned into a three strike disappointment, but ended with a meal worth writing about after all. Had I given up after the third strike, or dismissed the Classic Cafe & Pizza as just another diner and had I not opened the door, my day would have been wasted. 

Sometimes, the good things in life are like geodes, you have to crack them open to find the hidden gems inside. Glenrock and the Classic Cafe & Pizza are just waiting for you to crack them open too.

The Classic Cafe & Pizza is located at 201 S 4th Street in Glenrock

Their hours are Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday until 8:30 p.m., closed Sundays.

They can be reached at 307-436-2244 or check out their Facebook page. 

Wendy says not to be confused by another restaurant elsewhere in the country, with the same name. There’s only one in Glenrock.

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Eating Wyoming: Cattleguard Steakhouse & Saloon in Buffalo, Wyoming

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Maybe before I regale you with tales of this week’s culinary destination, I should tell you a little about myself, because the two stories go together like a steak and baked potato. 

Literally. 

I was raised the son of a man who was a real butcher. By that I mean he worked as a butcher and owned his own butcher shop back in Florida. My dad was a butcher for 40 years, and trained me from the time I was about 12 and I was a butcher for 20 years myself. So I guess I was raised knowing which end of a steer to chew on, so to speak.

A steakhouse for me never made much sense. Why get a steak at a restaurant when I can reach in the showcase and pick the best there is? And yes, I know how to cook it, too. 

But now that I live in Wyoming and poke at a keyboard for a living, I don’t have that luxury. That doesn’t mean I go without a good piece of steak. It’s just that now I don’t mind handing over the grill to someone else.

That’s where this week’s Plate O’ Goodness comes in. 

Buffalo’s premier steakhouse for years, according to many, was the Winchester Steakhouse. It was popular year-round, but had recently fallen off of people’s radars. 

Enter Dan and Deb Buckley, who purchased the Winchester in December and set about rebranding it as The Cattleguard Steakhouse & Saloon. 

“This place just needed to be brought back to life,” Dan Buckley told me. “I want this to be the premier steakhouse in Johnson County, and hopefully beyond.”

Entering the Cattleguard, the first thing you see is a beautiful free-standing fireplace which on this night was lit with a roaring fire. On the dining room side of the fireplace is a spacious dining area that Dan says he has plans for.



The menu is pure steakhouse cuisine, but there are other items as well. Baked halibut, bacon-wrapped sea scallops and even fresh salmon can be found, as well as desserts. 

Soon there will be more to choose from, Dan said. 

“We have lots of plans for The Cattleguard,” he said. “We’ll soon be adding barbecue.” 

Dan says that out back there will be a big smoker grill, churning out ribs, brisket and pork butts along with other smokey fare. Since I have a friend in Buffalo, expect to hear about the barbecue sometime in the future.

Tonight however, I’m here for the aforementioned steak!

As with a lot of steak houses, the focus is on the beef. The beef in this case is choice grade Angus. 

“I wont stand for less,” Dan said. “Twenty-seven day hang for aging. It’s well aged and fresh cut every night.”

There are plenty of cuts to choose from. Prime rib with au jus of course, New York strip steak, and a whopping 30-OUNCE porterhouse steak among others. Can you say “Bring your appetite?” 

Tonight I would order my favorite steak, the 16-ounce char-grilled ribeye served with fresh mushrooms and cauliflower gratin. Across from me, my friend will be dining on the popular Winchester steak, a Delmonico topped with mushrooms, caramelized onions and Swiss cheese. Next to me will be the classic 14-ounce bacon-wrapped fillet minion.

Before the steaks arrive, we had our salads, which were lovely and fresh, along with an appetizer of fried green tomatoes. 

These were made extra fancy for this Florida boy, with a topping crab meat and drizzled with a balsamic vinegar. This was a rare treat for me and I was surprised how well the crab meat paired with this southern favorite. I could have made a meal out of this side dish alone. 

My filet-ordering friend chose the French onion soup as her appetizer, and on top, it was overflowing with toasted Swiss cheese. It was a perfect spoonful of sweet onions in every bite.



Oh look! Here come the steaks! I almost stood up and saluted!

The smell of the grill was the first thing to reach me. First the ribeye. I ordered my steak medium rare, and this one was prepared just that way. It had to be, because there was a little certified Angus beef tag in it that said “Med Rare” on the back. No guessing here.



Next on the table was the Winchester. I wasn’t sure if I had made a mistake with the ribeye, because this steak looked amazing! The toppings protected another perfectly prepared medium rare steak.



Last but not least, was the filet. This one needed a standing ovation! Fourteen ounces of all-American, tender, juicy beef here!



Now I’ll cut to the chase, or in this case, the steaks, which were one great bite after another. No need for steak sauce here. You wouldn’t want to cover this up. I mean unless it was with those mushroom, onions and Swiss cheese. 

The char on the steak was as it should be, and the flavor divine. There were lots of happy forks all around and the knives did very little work freeing each tender bite. I’m glad I let the grill master do all this work this time. 

So if you are looking for someone else to take over the grill for the night and serve you instead, consider The Cattleguard Steakhouse & Saloon in Buffalo. This restaurant is well on it’s way to being the premier steakhouse that owners Dan and Deb Buckley want it to be! 

The Cattleguard Steakhouse & Saloon is located at 117 U.S. Highway. Hours are Tuesday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The restaurant can be reached at (307) 259-2171.

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Eating Wyoming: Western Sky’s Family Diner

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Putting Family in Family Dining

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Wheatland might be just another place that a lot of us drive past on our trips down the interstate, but thankfully, my job is to turn right, go down the offramp and see what gastronomic delights these communities offer. 

It’s always a pleasure to find a true family restaurant, run by friendly people, that actually serves up great food — for example, Western Sky’s Family Diner just off of Interstate 25 in Wheatland.

Western Sky’s is one of those places that reminds me what a real hometown diner is all about. It’s operated by locals, for locals. But everyone is local when they walk in the door. Greeted by my server Carla, I was welcomed like I had been there a hundred times.

Looking around, I could see this place was clean and bright and the décor was tastefully western. I had arrived just before noon, and there were a good number of tables full of patrons already enjoying a meal. That’s a good sign, as it means that I’m in the right place for lunch. 

Once seated, Carla took my drink order and handed me a menu that had more than a few pages in it. I see that Western Sky’s Family Diner is open for breakfast, and has lots to choose from. 

There’s country-fried steak and eggs, the ever popular breakfast burritos and a long list of omelets. There are pancakes, waffles, French toast, breakfast sandwiches and even a bowl of oatmeal if you want one. 

Focus Tim! Focus! You’re here for lunch!



Okay, let’s look at the lunch part of the menu. As I was about to do that, my lunch buddy, Glenn, spotted “The Freedom Burger.” 

The menu reads: “To: Patriots And First Responders, In Honor of Our Patriots Standing In Harm’s Way Around The World And At Home Defending America’s Liberty WE offer the… FREEDOM BURGER!” The description promises a 7-ounce hamburger patty with American cheese, bacon, & grilled onions on Texas toast with “Freedom Sauce” unique to Western Sky’s.

So the Freedom Burger was spoken for. But now what? I see a substantial list of other burgers, but I also see a ribeye steak sandwich on Texas toast and a classic French dip sandwich. Over in the corner of the menu is even a spaghetti and meatball dish that sounded good. 

Looking on to dinners, there even more! You’ll have to hang on to your hat, because this is a long page! Just a few things on this page included country-fried steak, roast turkey, roast beef, a 12-ounce or 8-ounce ribeye steak, and, what I finally would settle on, a seafood basket.

The seafood basket was a combination of battered cod filets and battered shrimp. Both of which are offered as separate entrees as well. Sounds really good, but I also see something under the side dishes that I couldn’t pass up, white cheddar mac and cheese. As Carla came back to take our order, I was already salivating.

I gave Carla my order but when it came to my friend’s choice, as he said Freedom Burger, Carla raised a fist and yelled out “Freeeeeedom!” kind of like Mel Gibson in the movie “Braveheart.” Seems there’s a running joke with a chef in the kitchen that every time someone orders that burger, she should yell that out. Good idea, because it prompted a few other people around us to ask about it. Plus, it was just funny!

While waiting on our food, I see the place is really packed now. Carla better have skates on. 

Just then, owner Pat Hollingworth stopped by the table, so I asked her about the diner. She tells me that she’s been running the diner for the past 10 years. I asked her if she had been in the restaurant business before.

”No, but I was a cook since I was 12,” she said. “I didn’t like that poverty mentality, so I went to work at 12. I’ve always liked cooking.” 

I asked her just who was responsible for the Freedom Burger. She smiled proudly and said “Me!” She said she really wanted to offer something to honor our heroes and first responders and thus, the Freedom Burger was born. 

I asked what the most popular dish was and without hesitation she said the roast beef. Our order is coming, and I can smell the Freedom Burger before it gets to us! WOW! This smells amazing! The bacon is the first thing to greet you. Then you get a whiff of the grilled onions, and this is all before it is put in front of you. 

It doesn’t disappoint either. A take on the classic patty melt, the Texas toast is nice and thick, buttered and grilled nice and golden. On the side were “fat fries” as our server Carla called them.



Next up is the seafood basket. Ok, it wasn’t in a basket, but I’m not going to complain about that! There were two nice golden cod fillets and lots of those battered shrimp. It was served up with more fat fries, with cocktail and tartar sauce. 

I’m from Florida, and every now and again, I need seafood in my soul! This was going to be good.



Before I could stick a fork in my first shrimp, I was already getting an “Oh my gosh!” from across the table.

“I know you wanted the seafood for variety, but you’ll want this next time!” Glenn said. “Trust me!” 

Glenn said the beef was nice and crisp on the outside as a patty melt should be, with a tender juicy middle. The bacon and onions make a great topping, but the Freedom Sauce drives this over the top. 

“I don’t know what this sauce is, but I love it!” added Glenn.

Remember, that was all before I had my first shrimp! Speaking of which, I finally got one. Really nice medium-sized shrimp with just the right amount of batter. Dunking one of the shrimp in the cocktail sauce, it was a wonderful change of pace for me. I do love fried shrimp! 

The cod fillet was next, and as with the shrimp, the batter was perfect. Just enough to give you that crispy crunch that contrasted with the flaky tender cod. The fish was just right. Moist and juicy with a fresh flavor. The tartar sauce on the side went well with every bite. 

This meal is a diner winner, 100%, though what I’m really excited about is diving deeper in to the menu and trying the roast beef that Pat said was so popular.

It is well worth mentioning, and one of the reasons I wanted to stop here was that Western Sky’s Family Diner has an online rating of 4.4 stars with 858 reviews! With that kind of buzz, I couldn’t pass up the chance. 

So head on over to Western Sky’s Family Diner and see how they put the family in family dining.

Western Sky’s is located at 86 16th St. in Wheatland. Hours are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. You can call them at (307) 322-9302

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Eating Wyoming: The Chugwater Soda Fountain

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By Tim Mandese, Eating Wyoming columnist

The decline of Wyoming’s small towns has been documented.

The communities that were once hubs of activity have become shadows of their former selves, like Jeffrey City, or have been partially wiped away, like Shoshoni.

Not one to give up, Chugwater is digging in its heels in and resisting this trend of rural decline.

Chugwater famously hosts the annual Chugwater Chili Cookoff and Round Up. This annual event sees Chugwater’s population swell from a little more than 500 residents to more than 3,500 with the arrival of visitors for the event. 

When entering the town, one of the first things visitors see is a freshly painted, mint green building that looks like it’s frozen in time. 

This is the Chugwater Soda Fountain, the oldest operating soda fountain in Wyoming. In the opinion of this writer, it should be a national monument to perseverance! 

Opened in 1914, as Latta’s Drugs-Fountain, it’s been the heart of daily Chugwater life ever since.



Latta’s continued operation as a soda fountain and pharmacy until the 1960s, but when it began serving lunch, the business slowly morphed into more of a restaurant. 

Flash forward 60-plus years. In April 2021, author, homesteader and rancher Jill Winger, along with her husband Christian, bought the soda fountain. 

“I have been in Chugwater since 2005, and I’ve been driving by the place all this time,” Jill told me. “The place just called to me. I thought, I think we need to buy it.” 

She says she tried talking herself out of it many times as her and her husband are busy with the other businesses they operate. However, there was something about this place that always drew her back, and she couldn’t stop thinking about it. 

The business wasn’t for sale, but she reached out to the owners anyway and as luck, or fate, would have it, they were ready to retire, to pass the torch. A deal was struck and the ownership changed hands.

Jill Winger may write cookbooks, but she had never worked in food service, and never operated a restaurant. She said the transition from a well versed home cook to a commercial cook was a bit of a challenge. 

“I like food, so that helps,” she said. “The hardest part for me is that I cook a lot of whole foods, very home grown, very organic at home. I have food beliefs and standards that’s hard to translate to a commercial setting.” 



Since taking ownership, the Wingers have been remodeling the little soda fountain, updating a lot of things while protecting its 1914 charm. 

The soda counter, which was built in England and installed in 1927, is still there. The biggest change has been the addition of a full restaurant kitchen in the back. 

Completed just a few months ago, the kitchen is dishing out the best food in the area! 



The Wingers have already found many pieces of  of the building’s past which will be put on display in the pharmacy’s original apothecary cabinets. 

The goal is to have everything completed within a month, says Winger. 

But I didn’t make this trek to Chugater just to talk to Jill about the remodel, heavens no. I’m here to eat! I have four hungry friends with me too. 

One of the biggest changes, besides the refurbishment of the soda fountain, is the recent revamping of the menu.

As I eagerly look over the lunch menu, I see it’s got everything there. 

Burgers of course, and the world famous — or at least Wyoming famous — Chugwater Chili. You can even get a salad if you like, and you can wash it all down with an ice cold soda or, surprisingly, a frosty beer!

I had the Swan Ranch Burrito, named after the well known local Swan Ranch. This dish is a seasoned beef and bean burrito made with local grass fed beef. It’s topped with red or green chili (red in my cas) and lettuce, tomato, onions and cheddar cheese. Let me tell you, this was the best burrito of its kind that I have ever had! The beef and beans were moist and flavorful. The tortilla was soft and tender. The toppings were fresh and delicious. This might be my go-to favorite here, but I haven’t tried the burgers yet.



My friends across the table, however, did order the burger. The Wyoming Burger is made with more of that locally sourced, grass -fed beef. You can order it any way you like and top it with all the classic burger fixings. This time it was cheese and a big ol’ slice of onion. 

I was told the beef was tender and cooked just the way it was ordered, and the seasoned fries on the side were hot and crispy. Something they would definitely order again.



Next up on the tour of the table were the Buffalo Nachos. Crispy nachos covered with Chugwater Chili, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion. It was a huge serving and when my friend was asked if she would like a to-go box she responded with “Are you kidding? Of course not!” They were gone a few minutes later, so I’ll just let you wonder how good they were.



Next up, and to my right, is a nicely grilled Polish Dog on a toasted bun, served with more of those seasoned fries we talked about. OK, I will confess, I artfully applied the mustard in the photo, but I’m assured you can use ketchup as well. Or is it catsup? In either case, this, too, was well received and generated a few “Mmm Mmmmm!” moments.



Now that lunch is over, it’s time to order a malt. Yes, I had room! There’s always room for a malt or a shake. 

But what’s the difference between them? As Jill Winger put it, a shake is just milk and ice cream blended together with the flavor of your choice, but a malt is a whole different experience. A malt is thicker and richer thanks to the addition of malted milk powder.

For my malt today, I ordered my old favorite the peanut butter malt. The crew behind the counter lovely crafted this milky, malty creamy creation to perfection. I’ve had them other places, and normally there’s hardly any flavor. This one is worthy of a gold star!

If you thought I was finished, think again! I came back for breakfast the next morning. I just had to try their Steamboat Breakfast Burrito! 

And I wasn’t disappointed. This breakfast fare was the topper for the weekend. A soft fresh tortilla filled with my choice, which was crispy bacon, eggs and cheese. It was topped with creamy sausage gravy. This and a glass of OJ got me going for sure!



So if you find yourself on a trip down Interstate 25, please do yourself a treat and get off at the exit to Chugwater, and head into town. Trust me, you can’t miss the soda fountain, located at 314 First Street. Pick up a malt for me while you are there. You know which kind. 

Their hours are Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

You can also find more information on Facebook, or at www.chugwatersodafountain.com

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Eating Wyoming: Accomplice Beer Company Right On Track

in Eating Wyoming/Column
15914

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Cheyenne is one of the most well known and historic cities in Wyoming — and perhaps in the West as a whole.

At the root of that history is the Union Pacific Railroad, whose arrival in eastern Wyoming in 1867 spurred development of the city that would become the state’s capitol.

The railroad’s presence was marked with an imposing depot standing at one end of Capitol Avenue facing the Capitol Building at the other end like two gunfighters squaring off at high noon.

The current depot was completed in 1887, and remained the property of the Union Pacific until 1993, when it was donated to the City of Cheyenne.

In its 134-year life, the depot has seen its share of history. The 1903 hanging execution of the notorious range detective and Pinkerton agent Tom Horn took place in the shadow of the depot in the old Laramie County courthouse.

The depot saw the rise of automobiles and the completion, in 1913, of the Lincoln Highway connecting Times Square in New York City to Lincoln Park in San Francisco.

In 1936, the depot welcomed president Franklin D. Roosevelt on a whistle stop campaign tour.

Today, the depot and the plaza it sits on are at the heart of Cheyenne and serve as a major venue of entertainment. The plaza hosts concerts, car shows and a range of other attractions, while the building itself is home to the Depot Museum.

The east end of the depot has been home to several restaurants over the years but what brings me to the depot today is Accomplice Beer Company.

Owner Rory Sandoval opened Accomplice Beer Company in 2016 and according to its website, the restaurant “was founded on the belief that great craft beer should be complimented with excellent food and customer service.”

Rory’s mother Kathy Sandoval tells the story of opening Accomplice in a space where at least three other breweries had opened — and then closed.

“We took a semi’s load of trash out of the building and it was in such disrepair that it was an overwhelming task,” she said. “Everything went out from the old brewery because it wasn’t usable, so everything is new that’s been brought in.”

The brewery now serves up a number of award winning beers.

“We have seven core beers on tap, and two on rotation,” said General Manager Steven Mitchell.

You could come in and sample any of beer for free, but you won’t want to stop at a sample! Mitchell tells us that his favorite beer on tap is the Nue Dogma IPA, a brew described as a “super juicy, hoppy, fruity, New England Style IPA…” The brewery’s most popular beer, however, is “Krimson King,” named after owner Sandoval.

Kathy Sandoval tells me with a mother’s pride, “it’s number one because he’s number one, and his name, Rory, means ‘Red King’ in Gaelic.” 

“Last year at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Krimson King won second place,” she said.

Kathy’s own favorite is the brewery’s Slumber Car Porter, which won a first place trophy at the Saratoga Springs Beer Festival.

The brewing process at Accomplice is quite involved, as one might imagine. I spoke with eight-year brewing veteran and assistant brewer Brian Gill. Brian enlightened me as to the stages of the brewing process, from empty vat to a full glass.

The first step is the milling of the grains that will be used. Malt is the most commonly used grain but depending on the end product, the brewer will also use rye and wheat as well.

The next step is mashing. In the mashing stage, the milled grain is added to very hot water, ranging from 144 degrees to 158 degrees. 

“This is the stage that activates enzymes that convert starches into sugars,” Gill said. “We then separate the solids from the liquid, and that becomes what we call wort.”

The wort is then boiled with hops and other flavors. Adding the hops at different times in boiling process will impart a different flavor to the wort. 

“Seasonally, we make a wet-hopped IPA, made with hops harvested within 24 hours of brewing.” Gill adds “You can only do this one time a year, right at harvest time. For that reason, we get those hops close by, in Eaton, Colorado.” 

The infused wort is then cooled to about 65°f before brewer’s yeast is added.

Fermentation takes place over the next four to six days, when the yeast converts the sugars in the wort into alcohol. The wort is now beer. It is cooled again to 30°f, which allows the yeast to settle to the bottom of the fermentation tank for separating.

This clarifies the beer before the next step, racking.

Racking is where the beer is pumped into a “bright tank,” in which carbonation is added before kegging, bottling or canning. 

All this talk about beer might make you believe that’s all Accomplice is, a brewery. However, regulars like myself will tell you there’s much more to Accomplice than beer. This is “Eating Wyoming,” not “Drinking Wyoming,” after all. So, yes, there is a full range of foods to discuss.

Burgers, pizza, sliders and sandwiches are all part of the menu. General Manager Mitchell is a fan of the basil pesto pizza, but he also commented that “all the burgers are great.”

Kathy Sandoval’s favorite menu item is the kale salad with tuna. It’s kale salad, feta cheese, dried cranberries and toasted almonds and a champagne vinaigrette. 

“I like to pair it with my favorite beer, the Slumber Car Porter,” she said.

During my visit with several friends, I ordered the “Fish San-Which,” which features fish coated in Accomplice beer batter and then fried until crispy and served with melted American cheese. It is served on a toasted harvest moon bun and topped with Accomplice’s San-Sauce, a kosher pickle and dressed romaine. Absolutely amazing! 

The beer batter wasn’t your average fare, nor was the fish itself. Not overcooked and dry, the fish was moist and flaky. The side of shoestring fries made this my top pick, but hey, I hadn’t tried everything…yet.

Next up was the my friend’s Black and Blue Burger. A blackened 7-ounce ground Angus burger on a Kaiser bun with blue cheese and fixings.

I’ll be honest here. I didn’t get a photo of this burger, because our order came while I was talking to assistant brewer Brian Gill. But I was told the burger was cooked perfectly to order and was capital “D” delicious. 

To make up for that, here’s a photo from Accomplice’s Facebook page. That’s the burger behind the pork chop dinner, which is served over caramelized apple, potatoes and arugula with apple cider gravy. I know, it’s hard to concentrate on the burger, huh?

I highly recommend Accomplice Beer Company.

If you find yourself down by the depot in Cheyenne, and you are either thirsty or hungry, head on over and fill your glass, or your stomach. While you’re there, pour a pint for me!

Accomplice is located at 115 W. 15th St. Cheyenne, WY

Their hours are 11am to 9pm daily.

Phone: (307) 632-2337On the web at accomplicebeer.com

Eating Wyoming: Eggington’s: Casper’s Good Egg

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

The three best known and most visited cities in Wyoming are arguably Jackson, Cheyenne, and Casper.

Each has its unique downtown area, with its historic buildings and cowboy claims to fame. Each has its cozy little shops and restaurants.

But only one has an Eggington’s, and that would be Casper.

Really? You haven’t heard of Eggington’s? Step into the light my friend and let me tell you about it.

Grabbing a meal at Eggington’s has been a Casper tradition for 18 years. The restaurant has been owned since 2010 by Amber and Peter Fazio.

“It’s our passion,” said Amber Fazio. “We love seeing new guests and making it a great experience for everyone.” 

Peter Fazio’s restaurant background goes back to 1985 and his parents’ pizza shop in Massachusetts. 

“He’s been doing this his whole life, about 30 years now,” Amber said. “We met while working at Ruby Tuesday.” 

Amber, a Casper native, said when the couple got tired of the East Coast, they came back to Casper in 2009.

Eggington’s is open for breakfast, brunch and lunch and, as could be expected from a restaurant whose name begins with the word “egg,” it plates up the best breakfast in the city. 

How many places have you been to that serves eggs benedict FOUR different ways? Traditional, Florentine, Greek and Southern. 

The traditional uses Wolferman’s English Muffins topped with Canadian bacon, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. 

The Florentine is a Wolferman’s muffin topped with spinach, sliced tomato, applewood smoked bacon and hollandaise. 

For a twist, the Greek has spinach, tomato feta cheese, artichoke hearts and hollandaise.

And the southern style consists of foccacia biscuits, country ham, scrambled eggs and sausage gravy.

All that is contained in just one corner of the menu! 

If the benedict isn’t your things, there’s a breakfast quiche, breakfast tamales, and even breakfast tacos! You can’t go wrong with anything taco! 

“Our most popular items are the Avocado Omelet or the The Cowboy Skillet, which is peppers, onions, mushrooms, bacon, sausage, ham, red potatoes, country gravy and eggs,” Amber said. “My favorite is the Huevos Eggington’s, with our homemade green chili.”

If it’s lunch you’re looking for, there’s a variety of burgers and sandwiches on the menu — everything from a classic cheeseburger to a “Hawaiian burger” with fire-roasted pineapple, teriyaki and cheddar cheese with lettuce, tomato and onions.

With our party of four, we ended up with a good cross-section of the menu. 

The recommendation that day was the Pot Roast Philly Sandwich. The tender beef pot roast was served on a toasted French roll with peppers, onions and pepper jack cheese and a side au jus for dipping. 

My fellow diner described it as the best pot roast he ever had and the au jus dip sent this sandwich to a whole new level of good! 



The classic Denver Omelet comes with one of those famous Wolferman’s English Muffins and a side of crispy hash browns. The omelet was and perfectly cooked, with plenty of peppers, onions and ham — as it should be. The English muffin was a cut above what most people know. 



The other plate across from me was a fine example of a reuben sandwich. Corned beef and Thousand Island dressing was topped with tangy and delicious sauerkraut. It’s one my friend always orders, and this wasn’t a disappointment. 



My order was a BLTA. How can you ratchet up a good BLT? Add slices of fresh avocado and serve it up toasted, surrounded by sweet potato french fries. The bacon was crisp and smokey, the lettuce and tomato were fresh and the avocado was ripe and creamy. Why haven’t I thought to put avocado on a BLT before? 



Next time you are in downtown Casper, consider Eggington’s. You might have to wait to find a seat on the weekends, but trust me, it’s worth every minute! 

If you have no time to wait, you can always call ahead to pick up a meal. I’ve used this option many times and my order is always waiting and ready to go.

Located at 229 East Second Street in Casper, Eggington’s is open 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday to Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. To order ahead, call 307-265-8700. You can also visit the restaurant online at eggingtons.com or on Facebook.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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

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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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Tim Mandese: “So NOW You Like Spam?”

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily.

WARNING!! I’m going to use A LOT of exclamation points in this article!!!!

Are you self-isolating? Quarantined? Social distancing? Hunkered in the bunker? If so, then I can understand the toilet paper hoarding. We all need TP. Maybe not 1,200 rolls though! 

But which one of you bought up all the Spam? I only know three people who eat it, including myself. So where did it go? I imagine pantries full of Spam, those cans sitting in the back being saved for a last resort.

If you are going to hoard it, use it! Bring those cans to the front and put that macaroni helper in the back! I’m here to tell you Spam is the new filet mignon! 

Wait, Wait! Come back! I mean it! You’ll see. 

You might ask first, what is Spam? Spam has been around since 1937 and is eaten worldwide. In the U.S., its biggest fans are found in Hawaii, where 7 million cans are consumed annually!! What do they know that we don’t? 

What is Spam? According to the website, it is made up of “pork with ham, salt, water, modified potato starch, sugar, sodium nitrite.” So what are you afraid of? As long as I can remember, I’ve always been told that the word “Spam” is short for “spiced ham.”

Modern Spam is much more diverse than the product you remember your grandma cooking. Now it comes in 15 different flavors, like bacon, jalapeno, teriyaki, and my two favorites, garlic and chorizo!

It’s not so hard to believe that the recipe options are endless! The Spam website has a page with 100-plus Spam recipes! Getting excited now?

There are classic like Spam omelets, wild and wacky creations like a “Spam and Ramen burger“, the “Spamalicious Jalapeño Cheddar Biscuits,” (  ) and my favorite, “Spicy Spam Rice Bites“.

So if you are self-isolated, going stir crazy, and feeling like Spam in a can (pun intended), get that canned goodness out of the back of the pantry and use it! Because I know it was you who bought it all! 

One more thing. While you are on the Spam website, check out the store page. All kinds of Spam accessories for your Spamming pleasure. 

I want the Spam lunch box! 

Eating Wyoming: There’s Nothing More Cowboy Than Cast Iron Cooking

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

In the 1800s, whether on the prairie or in the kitchen at the homestead, there was one thing that kept Wyoming fed, and that’s cast iron cookware. It’s versatile, durable and easier to use than you might think.  

And it’s just as useful today as it was on the windswept prairie more than a century ago.

A brief history of cast iron
The first known use of cast iron cookware was during the Han Dynasty in China, around 220 A.D. It became popular in Europe by the 16th century and its popularity spread worldwide from there. 

In 1707 a sand casting method was developed that was similar to the way modern cast iron is made now. This manufacturing technique in 18th and 19th centuries lead to an explosion in cast iron’s use. Cast iron cookware was so important to daily life that in his book, “The Wealth of Nations,” Adam Smith wrote that cast iron cooking pots were worth more than gold.

There’s nothing more cowboy than cast iron cooking. You can fry in it, sear in it, stew in it, bake in it, you name it — as demonstrated by the recipe at the end of this article. An important property of cast iron is its ability to retain heat. When you sear a nice steak in a cast iron skillet, the heat isn’t instantly sucked away, like thinner stainless steel or aluminum pans. Meat will continue to brown longer and create the flavorful layer we all love.

In the 1960s, cast iron fell out of favor and most cooks replaced it with stainless steel and aluminum nonstick cookware. Serious chefs and home foodies still prefer the tried and tested cast iron skillet. For the inexperienced cook though, it can be a mystery to use and an even bigger one to maintain. However, this doesn’t have to be case. Let’s demystify the alchemy that is cast iron.

Preparing or “seasoning” cast iron

Preparation is important to getting your new skillet working like you want. Brand new cast iron are great right out of the store, but can be seasoned even more, to improve performance. Seasoning in this case has nothing to do with salt and pepper. Seasoning is the coating that protects the pan from rust and gives it its nonstick properties. This is a thin layer of carbon that is baked into the surface. 

To add more seasoning to brand new cookware, use a paper towel to evenly coat the entire surface with a very thin layer vegetable oil, making sure to cover the top, bottom and handle, 

Place the cookware upside down in a 350°f oven for one hour and then allow to cool in the oven. This turns the oil into a carbonized nonstick coating that’s as hard as diamonds. You can repeat this process a couple more times for an even thicker nonstick surface. 

Restoring and re-seasoning vintage cast iron

Do you have old cast iron pieces hanging in your kitchen that haven’t been used since grandma fried her last chicken? Get them down and put them to use! In some cases, grandma might seem to be lacking in how she cleaned her skillet, but trust me, she knew what she was doing. I’ll share with you a skillet that my mother passed down to me. 

This skillet fried more chicken than KFC, and slow cooked more pot roast than Rival’s crockpots! As you can see, the skillet has so much built up, burnt on, crud that you can’t read the stampings on the bottom. There was even a fair bit on the inside walls. This had literally not been removed since I chewed my first chicken leg.

The way I like to get rid of the old cooking scale and start over again with a brand new seasoned surface is to put the cookware directly into a campfire. Cover it with hot coals, and get it get glowing hot. Once the metal is red hot, take it out and set it aside to cool slowly. Do NOT let it get above a nice red glow! Most importantly, DO NOT quench it in water, or it will crack and or shatter! Just let it cool slowly.

Once cooled, all that old scale will be turned to ash and it can be easily removed with steel wool or a soft wire brush. Any slight rust that forms on the uncoated cast iron will be removed in the scrubbing process. 

Scrub your cast iron with soap-less steel wool until clean and rust free. Dry it quickly and place on the stove top, or in the oven, for about 5 minutes or enough that the moisture in the metal is dried completely. Allow it to cool enough to handle, and apply a thin coating of cooking oil with a paper towel.  
Time to make it new again. Using the seasoning process for new cast iron described above, complete at least three cycles of oiling and heating. Four to five cycles would be better. This doesn’t have to be done all at once. If you are using your oven anyway, take the time to add a layer of seasoning, until you have fully built up the seasoning layer. Now you can now enjoy your vintage, yet brand new cookware for years to come.

Cooking with cast iron:
Unlike modern nonstick cookware, cooking with cast iron takes a little patience. It’s a lot like cooking on stainless steel in that you need to wait until the food you are cooking caramelizes, or browns, before turning. If you try to turn your food too soon, it will stick.

On high heat, 30 seconds to a minute should be enough time for the food to brown and release from the pan. This searing process also imparts flavors to meat that you just can’t get any other way. 

Avoid using metal utensils with cast iron. Tongs are fine for turning, but you don’t want to scrape at the bottom of you newly acquired seasoned surface. Wood or nylon work wonderfully and protect that valuable layer.
Another way to damage your cast iron cookware’s surface, is to cook foods that are high in acid, like tomato sauce. While it won’t ruin your cast iron, the acid in tomatoes can eat away at the iron and you could be forced to start over with the seasoning process. This would be a problem for tomato sauces that are cooked for hours. Feel free to use them in normal cooking. Other than those tips, cast iron will be the best performing, longest lasting cookware you’ll ever use.

Cleaning cast iron: I know what you are saying. “But, how do you clean this stuff?” There are a couple of sure fire ways to cleaning and one that I’m not sold on. The easiest way to clean your skillet is to scrub it with a stiff bristle brush and hot water. “Can I use soap?” Nope! Avoid using soap, because like other cookware, you actually want a thin layer of oil left behind. Next time you hear your skillet, it will add to the seasoning layer. 

My favorite way to clean my mom’s cast iron buddy is to use salt. Just wipe out whatever you can with a paper towel, and then use about a quarter cup of salt, or as little as a couple of table spoons. Dump in the salt and scrub with a dish towel. The salt removes any residue, without being too abrasive. Just dump the salt in the trash and then rinse and wipe dry.

There are specialized tools for cleaning, like a small square of what looks like medieval chainmail. I think these are too abrasive and actually damage the seasoning layer, and besides, salt is cheap. 

After cleaning and drying your cast iron cookware, put a small amount of cooking oil on it and wipe it around with a paper towel. You just want the thinnest of coats though. Now put it away until next time. It’s that simple.

Take your cast iron on a road trip!
Do you like camping? Got a Dutch oven and don’t know what to do with it? Make sure it’s been properly seasoned and take it to the woods. The Dutch oven is probably the most versatile piece of cast iron ever. You can fry in it like a skillet, use it like a cooking pot or as the name implies, bake in it.
The three legs of the Dutch oven allow it to sit over your coals, giving heat from below, while the flat lid allows hot coals to be placed on top, giving heat from above. The number of coals placed under it, and on top will determine the temperature you are cooking at. There are many cookbooks that deal only with Dutch oven cooking. 

Don’t let your vintage cast iron hang on the wall collecting dust. It’s waiting for you to put it back on the heat where it belongs. Try out this simple Dutch oven recipe, to get you going on your cast iron adventure.

Dutch Oven Peach Cobbler

To create a 350 degree oven environment, place 14-20 coals on top, and 7-12 coals on bottom. Replace as needed.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour 1 stick butter

1/2 cup water 1 cup of brown sugar

3 cans of sliced peaches 1 1/2 cups milk

2 tsp ground cinnamon

In a bowl, mix your peaches with the cup of sugar. (This can be done at home ahead of time and placed in a container, ready to go.) Now melt the butter in your Dutch oven.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour and milk slowly to prevent clumping. Pour mixture over melted butter. Do not stir. Spoon fruit on top, gently pouring in syrup from the can.

Sprinkle top with ground cinnamon. Batter will rise to top during baking. Bake until batter is browned and cooked through. Approximately 30 to 45 minutes.

Tip: Lining the Dutch oven with foil or parchment will allow you to lift it out making serving easier. 

Eating Wyoming: “On the Hook Fish and Chips” Food Truck is a Wyoming Success

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By Tim Mandese, “Eating Wyoming” columnist, Cowboy State Daily

What do you get when you cross hard work, perseverance and fresh cooked goodness? A recipe for success. 

“On The Hook Fish and Chips” ticks all the boxes for a Wyoming and culinary story worth sinking your teeth into. 

Company founders Hunter Anderson and Ocean Andrew started making their business plan when they were juniors at the University of Wyoming. Ocean’s father is the captain of the Bering Sea fishing vessel The Northern Leader, operating out of Alaska’s Dutch Harbor. 

Ocean suggested to Hunter that they make his family’s dream of opening a seafood restaurant come true. Hunter was hesitant at first, thinking it wouldn’t work, but his best friend eventually won him over. In May 2016 the two started down the path that would lead them to running 11 food trucks operating in 10 states. 

The two budding entrepreneurs would work on their fish and chips recipe after class (the two admitted the work often required skipping homework). They went through more than 50 variations of a recipe before finally settling on the one that would be their crown jewel. 

Since starting their business, Hunter and Ocean have traveled to England and costal American cities looking for ways to improve their product, but they proudly say they still like their recipe the best. 

But they keep looking.

“We like this one [recipe] but I still think we can get a lot better,” Hunter said.

On the Hook’s wild, line-caught Alaskan cod is unbelievable for two young guys in the least populated state in the U.S.! The batter is light and crispy. The fish is flaky and tender. You can really taste the freshness in each bite. On The Hook employees batter dip and fry each filet on the truck. 

The menu is simplified for speed of service, forgoing some side dishes like English mushy peas or corn bread. The focus is simply on fish and chips and accompanying dipping sauces, including Sriracha mayo, tartar sauce and malt vinegar. 

At their fastest, Hunter and Ocean’s trucks can produce three orders per minute. It’s a good thing too, because the lines can be long to get an order. Just look at these brave souls lined up in the snow. 

Operating 11 trucks isn’t without its challenges. The company carries over 200 business licenses in the states where they operate and they have an entire department dedicated to scheduling trucks and setting up locations to park. Sometimes, they can’t park a truck where they would like.

“When you are finding a new town, sometimes it’s taken like 10 locations before finding one that says, ‘Yeah you can park here.’” says Hunter.

In the company’s first year, Hunter and Ocean worked about 100 hours a week, a number that has since dropped to about 80 hours.

“We worked, we scrubbed our own trucks. We were on our hands and knees scrubbing floors.” Hunter said. “Through hard work, you can run through every brick wall that comes your way.” 

Currently On The Hook Fish and Chips employs 65 people. Each truck’s crew averages between three and four people and averages nearly 1,000 miles a week on the road. The trucks can be found in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Nebraska, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Montana and Missouri.


RELATED VIDEO: Hunter Anderson Tells His Story

“It’s really wonderful to take someone that may not have had the chances or opportunities going to school or through the workforce, employing them and seeing them work up to what you would call a corporate position.” Hunter said.

There are plans in the works for a brick and mortar location, but Anderson was cautious not to give out too much information, just saying that he and Ocean love Wyoming. 

The trucks travel widely in their 10-state territory, stopping at different cities daily. If you’ve missed them in your town or nearby, follow them on Facebook for updates on their locations. They do take requests to visit your town seriously, so ask them! 

“I think it’s a good thing so go to a lot of towns, and especially small towns and give them something that they have never had before.” says Hunter.

If you love fish and chips, you’ll end up like I am, on the hook!    

Eating Wyoming: Casper’s Little Shop Of Burgers

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By Tim Mandese, Eating Wyoming columnist for Cowboy State Daily

It’s creepy, crawly, weird and wacky and offers up some of the best burgers around. A horror-themed restaurant serves up whimsy with a side of fries, and it’s the best kept secret in Casper.

Have you found yourself hungry for a good burger, but you’re surrounded by clowns and kings and endless drive-through lines? Well, if you’re in Casper, head north down Center Street….way down Center Street. Just before K Street, you’ll find a place that’s truly off the beaten path — Little Shop of Burgers

Walking into the Little Shop of Burgers, you’ll find it’s a treat before you even get seated. The walls are covered with vintage horror movie posters and the shelves are decorated with enough creepy items to make the most avid Halloween fan giddy. 

On one wall, there’s a movie poster for “The Mummy,” on another, one for “Dracula.” There’s a suitcase full of heads on a shelf, and playing on the speakers are songs that would fit in at a monster’s ball. On the top of the wall next to your table is a little girl’s doll with clown makeup that would send chills down the Joker’s spine. 

In September of 2018, owner Sarah Weikum opened this one-of-a-kind burger shop. Having worked in the restaurant business in places like San Francisco and New Orleans, as well as Casper, Weikum wanted to bring her love of good burgers and classic horror movies together in one place.

Menu items are all named with a macabre sense of humor. 

Burgers like “Fungus Among Us,” which is Sarah’s take on the classic mushroom Swiss burger. Then there’s the “Drac Attack,” a burger topped with garlic sauce and Havarti cheese.

Sarah recommends her favorite, the “Freddy,” a jalapeno and cheese lover’s dream. 

My go-to burger is “The Fester,” named for Uncle Fester from The Addams Family. It’s a bacon cheeseburger with an amazing barbecue sauce. 

All of the patties are made fresh by hand, seasoned, and each burger is cooked to order. 

Want something other than a burger? Look no further than the selection of chicken sandwiches. But which one? “The Ripper?” Barbecue sauce, bacon, cheddar and green onion on grilled chicken breast. 

Or maybe “Carnival of Chickens?” A crispy chicken sandwich, with your choice of cheese. 

All of the sandwiches at Little Shop of Burgers comes with PLOTS. What’s PLOTS? Pickles, Lettuce, Onions, Tomatoes and Sprouts of course. 

What about the sides? All the fries are fresh cut. My personal favorite, the garlic parmesan fries, will scare off the vampire hordes! But you can go for the crispy onion rings, tater tots, sweet potato fries, sweet potato tots (YUM) or chips. If you want a lower carb side dish option, there’s cottage cheese or side salad.

Shakes? Of course. New on the menu is a full lineup of fresh made milkshakes. You can order “The Gloop,” a Chocolate shake named after Augustus Gloop, the naughty chocolate-craving kid from the movie “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” It’s a shake so full of chocolate and chocolate chips, that you need a spoon, because a straw just won’t cut it. 

You have got to try the “Candy Man,” another name taken from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” It’s a scrumptious Butterfinger delight.

As if the amazing burgers, fries, shakes and theme weren’t enough, Little Shop of Burgers has a movie screening room! Yes, you can watch a horror movie and eat your horror-themed burger and drink your horror themed shake, all at no extra charge! The screening room features family friendly movies such as “Goosebumps,” as well as the classic Universal Films monster movies and others. Check with your host to see what’s playing. Being the most popular room in the restaurant, it is often rented for parties and business functions. 

Little Shop of Burgers is located at 1040 N. Center St. and is currently open during its winter hours of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Sundays. In April, the restaurant will switch to its summer hours of 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Phone: (307) 234-3472 

Follow Little Shop of  Burgers on Facebook to discover the daily specials. If you are an Instagrammer, look for them there as well. 

For a scary good burger, don’t be afraid to get the off the beaten path. If you are alive, dead or one of the undead, you’ll be glad you did.

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