It has a year-round population of only about 20,000 people and one of the shortest growing seasons anywhere in the country (50ish frost-free days per year), but theoe inconveniences don’t stop the outdoorsy, second-home haven of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, from having a legit food scene. (The expansive alpine views at many restaurants are a bonus.)
Menus here often highlight meat from local ranchers, some third-generation, and wild game is popular, too. Even vegan-friendly Lotus Cafe has bison tacos on its menu.
Locals line up for the breakfast “sando” of the day ($5) at the new Sweet Cheeks Meats (sweetcheeksmeats.com; 185 Scott Lane; 307-734-6328) a short drive from Jackson’s Town Square. The shop buys whole animals from local producers before butchering and curing the meat. Owners Nora and Nick Phillips try to use every part of every animal (and the spare parts they have are constantly changing), so each day’s breakfast offering remains a mystery until the couple posts a photo of it on Instagram (@sweetcheeksmeats) around 7 a.m.
Palate (palatejh.com; 2820 Rungius Rd.; 307-201-5208) needs a strong menu and beautiful food to compete with its surroundings. The restaurant is inside the National Museum of Wildlife Art, which broadly interprets the genre and has a permanent collection of more than 4,000 works, including pieces by Picasso, Bierstadt and Warhol. On its eastern side, a wall of windows frames the National Elk Refuge and Gros Ventre Mountains. Palate’s menu changes seasonally, but there is always a balance of small and large plates, such as a watermelon salad with cilantro brie, almond crumbs, sweet peas and arugula ($13) and a bison gyro served with house-made kettle chips ($16). Expect the tomatoes on any salads (like the radish and cucumber salad, $13) to come from Vertical Harvest, a hydroponic greenhouse attached to the side of a parking garage in downtown Jackson. When the weather’s nice, there is no better view of the valley than from Palate’s patio.
Go ahead and be surprised that Jackson Hole is home to the best hummus you’ll ever have. The state isn’t known for its Lebanese food, but the local family behind Figs (figsjh.com; 120 N. Glenwood St.; 307-733-1200) and the contemporary boutique hotel it’s in, the Hotel Jackson, has as much history with Lebanon as it does with Jackson Hole. (Its 40-year presence in the city includes a member serving as a county commissioner and founding the weekly farmer’s market.) Figs’ extensive menu includes nine types of hummus ($10-$15), including ginger, shawarma (with beef or chicken stirred in) and kafta (lamb). To experience the diversity of Lebanese cuisine, opt for Figs’ seven-item curated tasting menu, which includes hummus, baba ghanouj, falafel, and fried kibbeh ($45 per person; minimum of two). Being in a ski area in Wyoming, of course Figs serves sliders ($10-$12). Its take on this classic comfort food subs made-to-order pitas for buns. Five fillings are available, including beef shawarma and falafel.