As in Park City, we confined ourselves to restaurants with outdoor dining. A number of tempting options were therefore off the table, but we managed to eat well in any case. Because it draws wealthy travelers, Jackson, Wyoming, tends to be an expensive place to dine. Restaurants have appealingly upscale atmospheres and excellent people-watching. But the high prices do not always translate into sophistication, making it wise to temper one’s culinary expectations.
I love tucking into elk tenderloin and bison burgers as much as the next restaurant reviewer, but an occasional break from Rocky Mountain cuisine is refreshing. This Italian spot in downtown Jackson came highly recommended by our hotel’s concierge. He secured us a fine table on the popular terrace, abutting the renovated house containing the main restaurant. The “Handmade Pasta” section of the menu immediately captivated my attention. The bowl of campanelle we split had a flavorful, delightfully spicy sauce of basil pesto, chile flakes and crunchy breadcrumbs, but by overcooking the pasta, all the work they had put into making it by hand went to waste. My main course was much better: half a succulent roast chicken in a sweet and aromatic truffle-honey glaze with savory bacon, spicy Calabrian chile and slightly bitter turnip cubes. A glass of Erbaluce, a bright and lively white from Piedmont, cut right through the sweetness and richness of this elevated comfort food. When I told our server how much I enjoyed the dish, she replied, “Oh good! A lot of people ask about the turnips. They’re like, what’s a turnip?”
242 Glenwood Street. Tel. (307) 733-3888
Just north of the city of Jackson, the hillside patio of Palate has a particularly fine view, overlooking a valley designated as the National Elk Refuge. This contemporary American restaurant is within the National Museum of Wildlife Art, which has an extensive collection of wilderness-themed paintings and sculptures. Many of the latter are scattered around the grounds: From our table, we could see a bronze of a bear reclining on a log. I started our lunch with a cup of hearty game stew, a mix of long-cooked and very tender elk and bison with carrots, quinoa and puréed lentils. The bison gyros came highly recommended, but in need of something lighter, I opted for the refreshing and surprisingly complex watermelon salad with arugula, pea pods, almond slivers, mint vinaigrette and rich cilantro-brie cream. Fortunately, the personable water gave me a taste of the Idaho Chardonnay before I committed to a glass; it lacked acidity and was unbalanced. A fruity and focused Cooper Mountain Pinot Gris from Oregon’s Willamette Valley was a much better choice. Lunch only, closed Sunday and Monday.
2820 Rungius Road. Tel. (307) 413-2744
This stylish and convivial Lebanese restaurant doesn’t have a patio, but since it is inside the Hotel Jackson, we were able to experience its cuisine via room service. Because main courses are limited to kebabs and shawarma, we decided to make a meal of the mezze. A trolley of treats soon arrived at our door: mild pickled grape leaves stuffed with lamb and rice, smoky grilled eggplant with ripe tomatoes and delectable garlic sauce, and creamy hummus topped with savory chicken shawarma. The latter came accompanied with warm, pillowy pita. Some Jackson Hole Winery unfiltered Chardonnay — made with Russian River Valley fruit — moved from creaminess to tartness, making it a fine pairing for all three dishes.
120 North Glenwood Street. Tel. (307) 733-2200