Wyoming is where the buffalo roam. It’s also where you can eat them as steak, burgers, sausages, meatloaf, and chili. If you crave wild game or pitchfork cookouts, head to the Cowboy State for an authentic taste of the Wild West.
From industrial-size slabs of prime rib to wild huckleberries and Rocky Mountain oysters (if you dare), here are some iconic local dishes I tried during my first road trip in the state.
I was hosted as a guest of the Wyoming Office of Tourism. All opinions are my own.
1. Prime Rib Au Jus
To feast on prime rib, I headed to the Proud Cut Saloon, a lively wood-paneled hangout named for a stallion that stays feisty even after gelding. Amid the wall-mounted animal trophies, I savored a succulent slab of pinkish beef dipped into a bowl of brothy dipping gravy along with a baked potato. It was a meal worthy of a rodeo star.
The Irma Hotel Restaurant & Saloon — longtime hangout for cowboys, ranchers, outfitters, and locals — also showcases its slow-roasted prime rib. Served four ways, the prime rib is available in the Irma Cut (10 ounces), the Western Cut (12 ounces), the Buffalo Bill Cut (a gut-busting 16 ounces), and the famous all-you-can-eat Prime Rib Buffet.
2. Bison Steak
A different meat takes center stage at The Silver Dollar Bar & Grill in Jackson Hole. Bison (also referred to as buffalo) is a must-try in Wyoming where it’s the state mammal and appears on the state flag. The restaurant, adorned with iconic Western paintings and lined with red leather booths, dishes up an elaborate version of the animal: the Grand Teton Oscar. Grilled bison filet is topped with smoked Idaho ruby trout and béarnaise sauce — a memorable combo.
Jackson Hole’s Million Dollar Cowboy Steakhouse, a Western-style bistro, also serves a bison steak drizzled with chimichurri sauce; not to mention a bison-and-huckleberry sausage hoagie at its landmark bar.
3. Buffalo Burger
Buffalo is also popular as a lowly burger throughout the state. Cody’s Irma Hotel Restaurant and Saloon serves a classic version, which tastes remarkably like a hamburger, but less fatty. In fact, cooked buffalo has about half the fat of cooked beef and about 25 percent fewer calories.
4. Pitchfork Fondue
Embrace cowboy culture at the Pitchfork Fondue, an authentic Western cookout in Pinedale. Longtime local and former adventure outfitter Matt David uses bubbling cauldrons over a wood fire to perfectly deep-fry steak, chicken, trout, buffalo brats, and veggies on a pitchfork along with onions and showstopping homemade kettle chips.
When the food is ready, it’s served by pitchfork on communal picnic tables under red tents in the shadow of the majestic Wind River Mountains. Salad, fresh fruit, and baked potatoes round out the trimmings, along with half a dozen meat-dipping sauces from dijon barbecue to horseradish. The friendly environment and lip-smacking food draw locals as much as visitors.
“We can seat 120 people,” David told me as the sun was setting over the spacious grounds. “People come to relax. It’s fun. I want to help you enjoy your stay here.”
Dinner is served nightly from late May until early September. Is it worth the 1.5-hour drive from Jackson? You bet.
5. Rocky Mountain Oysters
Okay, these are not actually on my must-try list. But if you really want to take a deep dive into cowboy food, buckle up for some Rocky Mountain oysters. These batter-fried bull testicles have a chewy texture similar to oysters but without the sweet brininess of the mollusks. But even dipped into cocktail sauce or creamy horseradish sauce couldn’t mask the unpleasant flavor. I sampled them at the Irma dining room, where the menu refers to them as “Buffalo Bill’s original sack lunch.” Perhaps they are an acquired taste.
6. Bread Pudding With Whiskey Sauce
Much more palatable at the Irma is its signature bread pudding with whiskey sauce. Soft sweet layers of bread are drenched in creamy whiskey sauce that packs a punch. “I heard it was strong today,” said my waitress when she served me, referring to the dessert’s alcohol content.
7. Bread Pudding French Toast
Bread pudding (it pops up often on Wyoming menus) takes a breakfast turn at Jackson Hole’s Persephone Bakery, a chic French-style coffee shop with a lovely outdoor deck. I started my day here with freshly baked croissant bread pudding-turned-French toast, served with whipped lemon ricotta, fresh fruit, and maple syrup. It was all mostly sourced from local farms and dairies and was worth every calorie.
8. Sweet Roll With Caramel Sauce
Forget bacon and eggs. Kick-start your morning with a plate-sized, freshly-baked sweet roll, served oven-warm and drenched in enough caramel sauce to bathe in at Granny’s Restaurant in Cody. It’s so large, my waitress called it “a mini birthday cake.” You can also order the cinnamon-flavored roll sugar-glazed. Either way, this popular downhome institution delivers a high-octane sugar rush to last all day long.
9. Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Sodas
Take a sentimental journey into a bygone era with an old-fashioned ice cream soda at Annie’s Soda Saloon & Café in Cody. Belly up to the long wooden bar or perch on a stool at a table to sip a huge soda, served in an oversized glass mug with a straw and long-handled spoon, and accompanied by a flavored soda chaser.
Choose from 16 ice cream soda specialties, based on 40 soda and 14 ice cream flavors. They range from the Cowboy Ricky (limeade soda and cherry ice cream) to Nuttin But Butta (butter beer soda and butter pecan ice cream with butterscotch topping). You can even customize your own combo. I indulged in a chocolate overload with The Dirty Annie — chocolate soda and chocolate ice cream.
Rounding out the throwback fountain offerings are old-time egg creams and thick milkshakes (malt, optional).
10. Meeteetse Truffles
More heavenly chocolate awaited me at Meeteetse Chocolatier, where cowboy-hatted, master chocolatier, Tim Kellogg, hand-makes artisanal truffles in an environmentally sensitive and ethical manner. Using the finest natural ingredients, Kellogg sources the beans himself (“Belize has some of the best cacao on earth,” he said) and avoids all additives and preservatives. He grows his own herbs for extracts and even has his own honey bee hives.
Each day, he works solo in his spartan storefront in tiny Meeteetse (population: 305) — as unlikely a place to find high-end truffles as possible. “I want to challenge people’s perception of what chocolate should be in this little town in Wyoming,” Kellogg told me.
“I like having regional flavors you can’t get anywhere else, such as sage and prickly pear,” he added. But consistent best-sellers are huckleberry, Wyoming whiskey, and peanut butter, among the two dozen flavors. Passionfruit-jasmine and mango habanero (“the kick comes at the end”) were both inspired by his frequent trips to Belize to source his beans. Pinch yourself if you can attend one of Kellogg’s chocolate tastings.
11. Pig Candy
Bacon lovers, rejoice. Candied bacon bits, aka “pig candy,” are the signature garnishes sprinkled on a delicious mixed salad at Café Genevieve in Jackson Hole. The restaurant coats thick applewood-smoked bacon in a blend of sugars and spices and bakes it “low and slow” to perfection. Pig candy has become so popular that Café Genevieve sells its bacon strips by the box on-site and by mail order. But it’s best to enjoy it at the lovely restaurant, located in a historic log cabin dating to 1906 with a foliage-draped outdoor deck.
12. Cowboy Cookies
For a delectable takeaway, pick up some “cowboy cookies” — oversized oatmeal confections generously studded with chocolate chips and pecans — from Annie’s Soda Saloon & Café in Cody. They’re absolutely perfect for long trail rides.
Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn may be from Missouri, but the Cowboy State has passionately embraced the plump, tart-sweet berries that grow in the cool mountains of the northwestern United States — from Wyoming to Alaska. Sweeter than blueberries, which they resemble, huckleberries resist cultivation and must be handpicked in the wild, which only enhances their mythical appeal.
Native to the Americas, they were used by the Native Americans as both food and medicine. In fact, wild huckleberries are rich in iron, vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants. Today, the humble huckleberry is so prevalent around Wyoming that it might well be adopted as the state fruit.
You can feast on grilled elk tenderloin with charred scallion huckleberry relish at the Million Dollar Cowboy Steakhouse, or try the crispy smoked pork belly with huckleberry jam at the Silver Dollar Bar & Grill, both in Jackson Hole.
Sweet lovers can slurp the Huckleberry Squared made with huckleberry ice cream and huckleberry soda at Annie’s Soda Saloon & Café, enjoy pancakes with huckleberry compote at Jackson Hole’s The Bistro, or pick up a huckleberry pie at the Bunnery Bakery & Restaurant in Jackson Hole.
In Cody, the Wyoming Buffalo Company sells huckleberry ice cream sandwiches, jam, vinaigrette, barbecue sauce, syrup, pie filling, marmalade, jelly, taffy, chocolate bars, and pancake and slushie mixes.
While in Jackson Hole, the Yippy I-O Candy Co. stocks huckleberry cocoa, lemonade, tea, coffee, cotton candy, honey gumballs, caramel nougat, jelly beans, gummi bears, and much, much more. Is there anything that isn’t huckleberry-flavored?
Wyoming is a landscape waiting to be explored: