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Rocky Mountain Munchies
Wyoming is where the buffalo roam. It’s rich in farmland, ranches, picturesque national parks, some of the best skiing in the world and an exciting culinary scene. For anyone craving wild game, stream-caught trout or a proper whiskey cocktail, these savory bites (and sips) will give you a real taste of the Wild West.
Illustration by Hello Neighbor Designs
Chuck wagon-style dinners are popular all around the state, giving guests a glimpse into what it was like to dine as a cowboy back in the day. But contrary to common belief, the food — usually consisting of baked beans, salty meats, coffee and biscuits — is mediocre at best. One worth-the-journey take is in Pinedale, where Pitchfork Fondue’s Western cookout experience embraces the cowboy culture in an inviting way. Take in views of the Wind River Mountains while enjoying steak, chicken and buffalo bratwursts cooked on a pitchfork, as well as homemade potato chips, deep-fried onions, homemade brownies, fresh greens and more.
When visiting Cody, the Rodeo Capital of the World, a stop at historic Buffalo Bill’s Irma Hotel for the famous prime rib buffet is practically mandatory. Though a buffet can be a hit or a miss, Irma’s is a grand slam. You’ll find a chef cutting mouthwatering, succulent slabs of fresh-from-the-oven roasts. If that’s not enough to fill your plate, the spread includes barbecue ribs, seafood, mashed potatoes, a salad bar and housemade desserts.
Buffalo Bill’s Irma Hotel
American Indians discovered soda bread by mixing flour and soda — a natural soda found in wood ashes — together to create quick-rising bread, and they passed along their knowledge to pioneers. At Cavalryman Steakhouse in Laramie, Wyoming Soda Bread is crafted from an adapted pioneer recipe recorded by a local mother more than a century ago.
Grown at 7,400 feet in elevation in Big Piney, Wyomatoes are unlike any tomato you’ve ever tasted. They’re also highly coveted by chefs all over the state. Those lucky enough to taste them know exactly why they’re so sought-after: They have a specific sweetness and juice to them that rivals the best peak-of-summer equivalent. At Spur Restaurant & Bar in Teton Village, Executive Chef Kevin Humphreys adds seasonal dishes to his menu that spotlight the plump fruit. A nod to the South, his Fried Green Wyomatoes are a huge hit.
Spur Restaurant & Bar
In Cheyenne, Luxury Diner prides itself as being one of the “most unchanged restaurants in America.” This trolley-car-turned-diner opened in 1926 and its décor has remained remained untouched, ever since. On any given day, it’s filled with a mix of regulars and tourists, all enjoying friendly conversation and made-from-scratch comfort food. While many dishes appeal, the diner’s signature is the chicken-fried steak. Sure, you can find this on many diner menus out West, but this homemade gravy and perfectly crisp, breaded chicken stands out.
In Lander, Deka-Guy Hee (Shoshone for “The Eating House”) at Shoshone Rose Casino and Hotel gives guests a taste of the state’s American Indian heritage via Fry Bread, a popular Indian taco dish. The platter is like a taco salad, but it features housemade fry bread instead of a taco shell. The fry bread serves as a palatable landing for cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and ground taco meat.
Rocky Mountain Oysters
Wyoming is known for many things, including gorgeous national parks, epic fly-fishing, and some of the best hiking, skiing and mountain biking around. On the more notorious side is, of course, Rocky Mountain Oysters. Forewarning: These are not your average saltwater mollusks. They’re actually calf testicles, which are considered a delicacy out West. If you’re a rookie, Winchester Steak House in Buffalo, a fine-dining spot that’s been around since 1999, is a solid choice to experience them. Many say Rocky Mountain Oysters taste like chicken, but you can be the judge of that.
Winchester Steak House
Tim Kellogg, owner of Meeteetse Chocolatier, has put small town Meeteetse on the map, thanks to his small-batch truffle creations. His storefront, located in town, looks like something out of a Western movie. Crafting truffles by hand for more than 12 years now, he has built a business that lures customers from all around the region. Adding a local flair, he crafts Wyomingesque flavors (and best-sellers), including Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit, Sage, Wyoming Whisky, Sarsaparilla and Huckleberry — souvenirs that just may never make it home.
Before two-stepping the night away at the famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson’s Town Square, head downstairs to the Million Dollar Cowboy Steakhouse for a meltingly tender buffalo steak. Chef and co-owner Paul O’Connor revived the legendary steakhouse into a modern, speakeasy-style joint with a plethora of wild-game offerings, including elk and boar. His 16-ounce bone-in buffalo rib eye, dry-aged to perfection, is particularly memorable.
Million Dollar Cowboy Steakhouse
When it comes to game meat, buffalo is often the first thing people turn to, but elk is also a staple throughout Wyoming. Cowboy Cafe in Dubois is a no-frills Western-style restaurant that’s satisfied local appetites for breakfast, lunch and dinner since 1993. You can expand your meat repertoire with the Wild Game Platter, featuring spicy elk sausage, smoked bison, grilled onions and vegetables.
If you’re looking for a meat break, Wyoming is one of the top fly-fishing destinations in the world, which means there is an abundance of cutthroat trout to be consumed at local restaurants. At Teton Village’s Italian hotspot, Il Villaggio Osteria, Executive Chef Serge Smith changes up his trout creations each season, playing with different flavor profiles. His latest is a butterflied trout with Idaho lentils, acidulated onion sauce, a Brussels sprout-fennel salad and blistered tomato.
Il Villaggio Osteria
When morels are in season in Teton Valley, you’ll find both locals and chefs out in the wild foraging the coveted wild mushrooms. Chef Jeff Drew of Snake River Grill, the quintessential fine-dining spot in Jackson since 1993, offers a small plate of morels in spring and sometimes early summer, depending on availability. Drew allows the morels to shine, serving them simply in a delectable bath of buttery and herbed sauce, salted to draw out the earthiness.
Snake River Grill
For the quintessential Old West experience, stop by Annie’s Soda Saloon & Cafe in Cody. In true saloon fashion, guests can grab a barstool and order one of the many sodas made with pure cane sugar — after viewing a Wild West shootout re-enactment in town. You really can’t go wrong with a Raspberry Rattler, topped off with a scoop of ice cream. Housed in a historical building, the saloon actually served as a drugstore with a soda fountain and jewelry store back in the day, inspiring owner Jeanette Prosceno to open up the shop and keep the old-fashioned soda shop tradition alive.
Annie’s Soda Saloon & Cafe
Made locally in Jackson at Cafe Genevieve, Pig Candy is a bacon lover’s dream come true. Thick applewood-smoked bacon is cooked fresh daily and covered in a blend of sugars and spices; it’s baked “low and slow,” which results in the ultimate coating. Pig Candy became so popular that the restaurant now sells it by the box on-site and at select shops around town. At brunch, step up your salad game with the aptly named Pig Candy Salad, which features the chopped candy sprinkled on top like bacon bits.
Walk into one of Jackson’s handful of coffee shops and you’ll probably overhear a customer ordering a Wild Tribe. Sipping the blended frozen mocha drink at Pearl Street Bagels should help outsiders understand why it’s so addictive, especially on a warm summer day. The frothy sip is icy, caffeinated and, if you add a banana to it, a solid breakfast option. Plus, Pearl Street Bagels is home to the best bagels in the valley. Just know there’s a no-toasting policy because they’re so fresh.
Pearl Street Bagels
Biscuits and Gravy
Biscuits and gravy grace diner menus all across the country, and they are especially popular throughout Wyoming, perhaps dating back to days of hearty ranch breakfasts. Try a hearty plate at J’s Prairie Rose in Laramie, home to the University of Wyoming. This version proves to be a cure-all after a night out on the town and a comfort food staple that keeps locals packing the building. Two homemade buttermilk biscuits are smothered with gravy and served alongside hash browns.
J’s Prairie Rose
Tuna tartare in cowboy country? Think again. Beef tartare is the norm out West. With ranches all over the state, chefs have access to the finest cuts of meat. To experience beef in a whole new light, try the Carter Country Beef Tartare at Rendezvous Bistro in Jackson. It’s one dish that locals would never allow to be removed from the menu. And the combination of local grass-fed beef, a runny egg yolk, capers, mustard seed and potato chips is about as fresh as it gets.
Ask anyone in Jackson what their favorite summer cocktail is and the majority will likely say a sloshie: a frozen boozy cocktail. The ideal foil to a hot summer day, a sloshie can be picked up to-go (sealed with tamper-proof tape for safety) at several places around town. A popular stop in town is The Liquor Store, which offers a sloshie station with rotating flavors created by a mixologist. What started out in 2012 has become so popular — think over 1,400 gallons in six months — that The Liquor Store is now continuing the sloshie party throughout winter. Pina colada, margarita, mudslide and huckleberry vodka are a few top flavors.
The Liquor Store & Wine Loft
It stands to reason that a state with so much beef would also have some locally made beef jerky. It is the official cowboy snack, after all. At Westbank Grill at Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole, Executive Chef Michael Goralski earns praise for his housemade jerky. The charcuterie spread is a fine sampling, including smoked wild boar salami, buffalo jerky and elk salami. When paired with farmstead cheese, the proper accoutrements and a glass of wine, it’s a stellar way to start a meal.
Bison burgers are the norm in the Cowboy State. They’re lean, clean and full of flavor. To find one that stands out from the rest, head for Pioneer Grill at Jackson Lake Lodge in Moran. The 1950s-style lunch counter prepares The Wyoming, a 1/3-pound Durham Ranch buffalo patty with cheese and mustard aioli on a Gaston’s Bakery wheat bun. The best part? You get to drive through scenic Grand Teton National Park — where buffalo do, in fact, roam — to get here.
Pioneer Grill at Jackson Lake Lodge
Cowboy cookies don’t really have anything to do with cowboys. They’re merely a perfect marriage of sweet and salty ingredient variations like brown sugar, cinnamon, oats, chocolate and nuts, making a perfect cookie flavor profile. At Persephone Bakery in Jackson, led by husband and wife Kevin and Ali Cohane, you’ll find a regular queue of people lined up to score fresh baked goods, specialty coffee drinks and more. The super-talented duo’s chocolate chip walnut cookies with sea salt (the best part) are a perfect takeaway souvenir from Cowboy Country.
Ice Cream Sandwiches
Ice cream sandwiches aren’t anything new, but in Jackson Hole, these sweet treats from Cream & Sugar — Fine Dining Restaurant Group’s latest venture — are all the rage. Unlike the overstuffed versions from childhood, these are miniatures crafted with creative ice cream flavors that rotate seasonally — think pumpkin in fall and huckleberry in summer — then finished off with sprinkles. Find them on menus as a dessert item, or pick up a to-go tub at Bin 22, a tapas bar and wine shop.
Award-winning, family-owned Wyoming Whiskey is making a splash around Wyoming as the state’s first small-batch premium whiskey with a focus on regional ingredients. Mixologists and bartenders are having a blast experimenting with and creating new libations highlighting the spirit, so take note when perusing menus. At The Handle Bar at Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole, a popular après spot for gourmet bites and craft cocktails, the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a must. Crafted with Wyoming Whiskey, Galliano, egg, honey, orange juice and ginger, it is a great way to start the evening.
Nachos are usually a good game-day choice, but they reach a whole new game-ready level when wild game is actually added to the mix. Open Range at Sheridan Inn is a great place to experience them. An order of Bison Nachos comes complete with all the regular fixings, plus ground buffalo meat, which adds lean richness.
Nothing takes the chill off like a bowl of chili on a frigid Wyoming winter day. But where to find the best bowl in the state? Each spring, Jackson hosts a chili cook-off during ElkFest, allowing guests to taste and vote on the best recipes from chefs and restaurants around town. The Wort Hotel’s Silver Dollar Bar & Grill took home the People’s Choice award in 2016, for obvious reasons, like the fact that its recipe calls for bison brisket.
Silver Dollar Bar & Grill
Back in the good old days, cowboys were known to put coffee grounds in a sock sack and add it to boiling water to make strong coffee that was aptly coined “cowboy coffee.” Thanks to Cowboy Coffee Co. in Jackson, you don’t have to sock it out to get a solid cup of joe. Conveniently located in Town Square, the cafe is a favorite for locals, who settle in to read the local paper while taking advantage of bottomless drip, and tourists, who purchase coffee beans and artsy mugs as souvenirs.
Cowboy Coffee Co.
“Boiler maker” is a souped-up term for a beer and a shot of whiskey — a popular drink order in Wyoming. Some use the beer as a chaser, and some choose to mix the two together. Though you can order this combo at any bar, the Stagecoach Bar in Wilson will really set the Western vibe for the duo. A top local watering hole since 1942, the bar offers a real slice of the small-town bar scene.