By Shawn Parker
In French they are “guetteurs de boeuf.”
The Italians know them as “ventagli di carne.”
Here, in beautifully wild Wyoming, from mountain pass to windswept valley, they are referred to lovingly as maestros of meat; as connoisseurs of cow; and, occasionally, as beef gazers. They are the discerning folk who live for grand pub grub; the men and women of the wild west who consider a good burger an elegy to the good old days, a siren song to simple pleasures. And I, too, admire the meat.
I consider myself lucky that I live in Sheridan, the Craft Capital of Wyoming. Sure, the majestic stony sentinels of the Cloud Peak Wilderness loom large over a fertile valley known for its legendary cowboy culture, epic outdoor scene, and alluring western verve, but the real reason that this old cow town has become the fulcrum by which authentic western experiences swing?
Char-grilled, broiled, pan fried, steamed, smashed or BBQ’d – you’ll find burgers of every ilk in this gastro paradisio. What’s truly remarkable about this culinary playground is that your dining experiences can and will be tethered to once-in-a-lifetime encounters. At the top of this list might just be a Double Rafter Cattle Drive, where you’ll work alongside rootin’ tootin’ cowboys to drive hundreds of milkshake machines from one Bighorn Mountain grazing range to the other. Spending a week riding through the mountains on horseback, sleeping out under the stars, and eating massive burgers while sitting around the campfire may be the penultimate Wyoming experience.
If you’re not sold on going full Jim Bridger (legendary mountain man and rumored burger aficionado), you may be thrilled to know that Sheridan County is home to iconic dude ranches like Eaton’s Ranch (the oldest in the nation) and Canyon Ranch (with a legacy linked to the British crown). Their chefs pride themselves on doing wonders with iconic – and locally raised – Angus beef.
We won’t judge you if your Wranglers are fitting tighter after breaking burger buns with bronc busters. The good news is that our backyard offers up truly sensational hiking opportunities that will help you work up your next great appetite. Five miles from the beautiful hamlet of Dayton is Tongue River Canyon, a craggy playground of sheer cliffs, towering walls, and endless caves. Further along the Bighorn Scenic Byway is the indominable Steamboat Point; after a strenuous 600-plus foot scramble up the face of the rock, you’ll be treated to sweeping panoramic views of the Tongue River Valley below.
I could go on and on about the attractions along this byway alone – half a dozen towering waterfalls; serpentine streams stocked with trout of a thousand different dazzling colors; breathtaking peaks – but honestly, it’s all just preface to your next great bite.
Reward yourself for a hike well done at Wyoming Rib & Chop House; the fried-green tomato burger is a thing of beauty. Smith Alley Brewing & Public House’s drunken peach features a thick patty topped with peaches in a sweet bourbon sauce. And since we’re getting in our fruit and veggies, why not go for the
spicy avocado black bean burger from The Pony Grill and Bar… but have them put a 1/3-pound beef patty on it, because it would be ridiculous if you didn’t.
Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Sheridan is a destination steeped in the legends and lore of the old west. An hour to the north is the Bighorn Battlefield National Monument; on your way out, stop at the Parkman Bar for the Western Bacon Cheeseburger Delux. On your way back fuel up at the Wyoming Buckshot Saloon in Ranchester; we’re partial to the Cowboy Burger, with its shimmering crown of onion tanglers and house smoked pulled pork. You should be sufficiently sated now, and ready for a deep dive into history at Fort Phil Kearny, the Wagon Box Fight, Fetterman Massacre, Connor Battlefield, and a host of other historic destinations that should spur heady interpretive discourse.
Art! Sheridan’s artistic dynamism belies its Cowtown reputation, and for good reason. The community features galleries, boutiques, theaters museums and shops dedicated to many different mediums, with downtown Sheridan’s sculpture park featuring more than 100 pieces. You’ve made it this far, so you must know that food, too, is art, and you’ll find evidence at Uptown Shabby Eatery, where you’ll encounter the Donut Burger (!) and the Blueberry Cheesecake Burger (!!). If you’ve never ordered a 1⁄2 pound burger with blueberry compote, cream cheese, onion & lettuce on a cinnamon croissant, can you even call yourself an artist? The answer is no.
Birch Restaurant is “where art, innovation, and flavor intersect with unparalleled talent and intention,” and it may be the finest dining experience in Wyoming (BOLD STATEMENT ALERT!). I recommend putting on a tuxedo and visiting on a Wednesday for burger and beer night.
I could go on forever about Sheridan’s burger scene… so I will. Cowboy Café is a Main Street staple that serves a delicious buffalo burger, as well as The Outlaw, a double slab of beef loaded with Swiss cheese, mushrooms, jalapenos, and Jack cheese. The Ledoux Saloon & Steakout in nearby Big Horn is known more for things like steak and lobster, yet the Bronco Burger is a little slice of western paradise. Yes, you can have them top it with lobster. And you should.
The story continues for dozens of delicious chapters. We love the Frack’s Burger at Frackelton’s nearly as much as we love people watching from a perch in the bar. PO News & Flagstaff Café puts 105 years of culinary tradition into the Big Legerski, a towering behemoth made with Legerski Sausage Co.’s choicest cuts – they’re more than just Polish sausage, in case you didn’t know! Mydland Market and Welcome Market Hall are two of the newest restaurants on the Sheridan scene, and both boast epic burger offerings; sink your teeth into the McGregor Burger (1/2-pound beauty with pickled zucchini on a toasted pretzel bun) and the tenderloin sliders (flame- grilled mid-rare with secret Aioli, Gorgonzola, Balsamic glaze, and crispy onion strings), respectively.
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Sheridan County’s culinary scene is having a moment – there are 101 restaurants, breweries, bars, lounges, saloons, and pubs in our community – with so much of the success driving by adventurous entrepreneurs. Case in point; Truly \ Beef is owned and operated by Taylor & Cathryn Kerns, husband and wife and the 6th generation to work the family homestead near Sheridan, Wyoming. Their company is “dedicated to providing local farmers and ranchers with more options for expert processing of their meat products, while also supplying the region with access to expertly butchered, locally produced meats.”
The Kerns’, along with Sackett’s Market and Sheridan Meat Market, work tirelessly to provide the community with the best local options in beef (and more). They’ve truly raised the steaks on the culinary game in Sheridan. That last delicious pun is my gift to you. Now gaze upon our beef and rejoice.