OK, lots to do this time. In rapid-fire succession:
Look, the town is not Jackson Hole. The town is Jackson. The topographic feature is Jackson Hole, and the ski area is Jackson Hole Ski Resort. But the town itself – all 8,500 residents – is Jackson. And it’s easy to love.
The Wort Hotel is super. Built in the early 20th century when Wyoming was still a bit of a frontier, it had gambling catacombs underground and over 2,000 silver dollars lacquered into the top of the bar. It burned down a couple of decades ago but has been rebuilt, right there near the town square. The draught offerings in the Silver Dollar Bar are not terribly impressive, but the rooms are very comfortable, and wireless internet is included in the cost of the room. qb’s room was $109 a night, although I’m sure it’s much higher during the high seasons (starting about right now through the summer, and then during ski season).
Jackson is too small a town to support four Thai restaurants, so I was suspicious and went around to all of them before convincing myself that only one of them was worth sampling. It’s true. Don’t bother with all of the others; go to Teton Thai, which is a tiny shack tucked away 20 meters or so off Cache St. just south of the Episcopal church. You’ll have to look hard for it. It’s a family-owned cafe, and it’s the real deal. I asked for my meal to be off-the-charts hot (“pet maahk, pet thii soot, khrap!”), and they delivered. The jasmine rice is perfect. You’ll have to ask for the fish sauce if you want it. And the tom yung goong (a traditional, spicy soup appetizer with shrimp, chile, lemongrass, mushrooms, and cilantro) was fab.
Now, remember you’re in Jackson, WY, so nothing’s going to be cheap. This meal cost me $25 including tip. And I had to sit at the little bar overlooking the kitchen, which was not comfortable. It was hot and cramped. But the mom and daughter will jaw with you; like most Thais, they are very friendly and accommodating when a farang stumbles through his poor efforts at remembering the mother tongue. Dad, on the other hand, seems to keep one squinty, suspicious eye on every male that comes in the joint.
I heartily recommend it. Thai food is about the food, not the luxurious ambience.
What about breakfast? Once again, a home run, at The Bunnery, almost immediately across Cache St. from the Episcopal church. The service was adequate, but my veggie omelet was piping hot, tender, and served with hearty multi-grain toast and righteously crisp pan-fried hashed browns. Decaf was fine, though not remarkable. But this would be the place to get breakfast; lots of good options on the menu.
A big plus: real butter. A moment of silence, please.
This is cattle country, so we’ve got to spend a minute on steak. Our group had a team meal in the basement of the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar: In the front door across from the town square, then immediately right and down the stairs. The menu for our group was a set of four options for each course, so I never got a look at the full menu. (The wine menu, however, is another story.) Faced with a choice of NY Strip, ribeye, 6 oz. filet, and one other, I chose the filet, medium rare. It’s a risky choice; many “ordinary” steakhouses get tenderloin with a surprising amount of gristle and tough meat, and sometimes cooks are afraid to leave any interior red. But in this case, the order was fulfilled almost perfectly. The filet was juicy, tender, and utterly gristle-free. My only complaint was that it was on the medium rare side of medium rather than being truly medium rare. But I had no difficulty enjoying it.
The wine menu is short, but it does include Cakebread Cellars and Charles Krug by the glass. (In case you’re wondering, Cakebread chardonnay – a truly magnificent chard – was $16/glass, and Krug cab was $14. qb had neither, out of respect for the host who was paying for all this.) You will not be blown away by your oenophile’s options, but you can get a few great labels in a pinch. The other offerings are adequate, $8/glass and up. (Ouch.)
OK, you might say, but what about the DDP? Have no fear. Three blocks and a 5-minute walk WSW from the Wort Hotel is the nearest Loaf ‘n’ Jug, a Rocky Mountain fixture among the convenience-store set. And it has DDP on the fountain. I wish fondly that this Rockies institution would switch from the translucent plastic cups to styrofoam so the nectar would not go flat so fast, but beggars cannot be choosers. Give Jackson a B+ for at least carrying our lifeblood.
OK, that’s about it for this tour de Jackson. I definitely wanna go back, this time for a week or six.
Did I mention it’s the gateway to the Tetons, the National Elk Refuge, and the southern entrance to Yellowstone? Plus, some years back qb and family stopped at the Pinnacles campground upstream from Brooks Lake, a short drive from Jackson, and absolutely slew the rainbow trout using yellow-and-red and yellow-and-black 1/16th oz. Panther Martins on an ultralight spinning rig. I caught one every other cast – fishing right next to the little bridge, for the love of Pete! – and they were nearly all eating size. We dined on rainbow trout that evening, tentside.