Who here has ever heard of Pavillion, Wyoming? No one? Right.
So it stands to reason that no one has ever heard of Miss Ginny’s Roost Steakhouse, either, right?
Which is really too bad. This place is classic.
Pavillion is a town of fewer than 300 hearty residents and no less than 150 miles from any major road. In the middle of nowhere, this place looks up at the Wind River Mountains, down into the Wind River Indian Reservation, and over at the endless high planes of Wyoming. For most of us, there is no reason to ever go to the town; I’ve lived in the same county for four years and had never been there until this weekend. There is no way you would find yourself accidentally passing through. It boasts a post office in a double wide, a general store with a “Basketeria” sign out front, and a bar. And most importantly, The Roost.
The owner, Ginny Warren, came to Wyoming after Katrina when she had finally had enough of the hurricanes. Why she chose the little cattle ranching community of Pavillion, I don’t know, but she brought with her a love of crawfish, Cajun spices, and the NOLA dining experience. I’ve seen it described on places like Trip Advisor as a “typical” cowboy steakhouse or saloon, and it’s really not, unless you’re talking just about the Old West façade out front. The building itself looks like something out of Tombstone. But inside, there is very little that screams “Wyoming” except maybe the prevalence of cowboy hats among the clientele. In fact, the interior looks more like something you’d find in rural Louisiana: pink flamingo décor, faded wood accents, perpetual Christmas lights, checkered tablecloths, plenty of kitsch to go around.
And last weekend, thanks to a random Facebook post and a brilliant idea, we found ourselves making the 40-minute trek from Lander, WY, to Pavillion (even compared to a town in the middle of nowhere, this place is in the middle of nowhere) for a New Orleans Easter Sunday Brunch. Like most of the seatings, The Roost features a multi-course, prix fix menu with your choice of Cajun or Creole or otherwise New Orleans main course.
Be forewarned: the service can be a bit (a lot) slow. Partially due to the New Orleans culture—which generally encourages sitting and enjoying and sitting and enjoying some more—and partially due to the small town and limited availability of servers. So come prepared to spend time hanging out and socializing; trust me, it’s worth it.
Our brunch looked something like this:
Starter: beignets (of course)
Second Course: three shooters of delicious soups, including carrot bisque, sausage gumbo (of which I could eat many, many more shots!), and mock turtle
Third Course: shrimp rémoulade
Salad: baby spinach, berry, goat cheese, and candied walnuts
Main Course: between the two of us, we tried the cowboy eggs Benedict, with medium-rare, locally-raised steak medallions instead of Canadian bacon; and sautéed shrimp and baked cheesy grits with a homemade, whole wheat biscuit
Dessert: we had the lemon cloud (basically a lemon custard with a graham cracker crust) and the dreamsickle cheesecake, which tasted just like an orange creamsickle (I mean, JUST like!)
And drinks: a standard mimosa; a brandy milk punch with brandy, milk, sugar, and nutmeg; an Easter egg basket of (very adult!) cheery vodka, triple sec, cream, grenadine, a coconut rim, and a peep for posterity; and a Louisiana Purchase, made with Grand Marnier, grapefruit juice, and…. Other stuff? Honestly, by that point, who cared? It was dry, crisp, and refreshing!
I would just like to say that everything was delicious. The beignets were bite-sized and made a wonderful introduction to the meal. The gumbo was nothing short of amazing, and apparently Ginny serves it as a main course for dinner. The rémoulade was light and just a little spicy. My sautéed shrimp was flavorful but not spicy, but several shakes of hot sauce fixed that, and the grits were perfect. And steak instead of Canadian bacon?!?!? Holy cow! And the desserts were generous and refreshing and rich. Other main courses included a pain au chocolate, grillades (apparently akin to a chicken fried steak) with baked jalapeno grits, crawfish frittata, and biscuits and gravy. Not really vegetarian friendly, but what is in Wyoming? (Answer: absolutely nothing; this IS cattle country, after all)
The menu changes every day that they are open, and Ginny tries to emphasize ingredients that are seasonal or seasonally festive, and each dish is handpicked by the diligent, if a bit scatterbrained, owner. Currently, The Roost is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday starting at 5:00 pm. Sometimes she gives Sunday brunches a whirl, and she often does special meals for holidays. Keep up with (often last minute) updates on Facebook or give her a call at (307) 857-6019 and leave a message. Reservations are often recommended just so Ginny knows how much of each course to prepare.
Pavillion, WY, is certainly not a place you would stumble on by happenstance, and because of the remote nature of the community, Miss Ginny’s Roost isn’t the kind of place you would just drive by and think, “Man, that looks interesting; let’s try it!” (though if you ever DID find yourself in town, it certainly would be the kind of place that would draw in random travelers) And though it’s off the beaten path, this unique, Cowboy Cajun hidaway is worth a stop, whether you’re passing through Wyoming on your way to Yellowstone or you’ve lived in Lander for years.
The night was heavy with the threat of snow and the chill of winter not yet ready to let go. We clung to our wool coats and our scarves, and we pulled our collars up around our necks in a vain attempt to avoid the cold. The boardwalk made dull thwomps as we made our way across town, bending and groaning slightly under the pressure of ice and stilettos and boots. But as we stepped inside the glass doors of the little bistro, warm air rushed out to greet us and welcome us inside with laughter and a friendly embrace. “Welcome, Welcome, have a drink! You are here!” it seemed to sing as we stomped our feet and dusted the flakes from our coats.
The foyer is always bustling, people sitting on the sofas and clinging to the dark corners, chattering, drinking, listening to the din of happy diners beyond the thick wool curtain. We had reservations for once, knowing that the end of ski season rush meant that tonight could be a busy one. What luck! There are two bar seats open just for us! We prefer to sit at bars, somehow they always seem more intimate to us, sitting next to each other, our knees touching, our elbows getting in the way, instead of reaching across an entire table of food and drink and assorted culinary accoutrements just to get that secret, gentle contact between lovers.
Trio Bistro is our regular haunt in Jackson, Wyoming, with it’s subtle, dim lighting, industrial-chic chairs and tables, and roaring wood-fired pizza oven that drives away the last remnants of winter in this busy mountain town. The wine list is extensive and fluid with the seasons and always includes varieties off the beaten path… blends or strange flavors or grapes from Morocco or Thailand or other places that would never conjure in the mind’s eye scenes of rolling vineyards or the lush spring of wine country. The food is excellent, as well, with plates of game and pastas that rival any found in a big city. But we always go with a pizza, crispy wood-fired crust, fresh toppings (try the duck!), deliciously hot and deliciously burned and satisfying in a way no frilly steak could be. We sit for hours and nibble our food and sip our wine and watch the world turn around us, pretending that for two hours we are in a cafe somewhere on the far side of the world.
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