Wyoming is known neither for its stand-up stand-up comedy nor its unique culinary traditions (steak!).
But every once in a while, in one of the quirky towns that dot the wind-blown landscape, the restless locals pull together an event — usually spawned by the long winter isolation and weeks of below-freezing (if not below zero) temps — that rivals anything you can find in the Big City. Good food, good drink, good laughs.
On this chilly September evening, as the nights grew longer and the days colder, all of us who appreciated good (crude) comedy headed down to The Middle Fork, a boutique, chef-owned restaurant in the heart of historic downtown Lander, to enjoy the acidic and surprisingly nostalgic humor of young Vince Tropea, an up-and-coming stand-up comedian working his way through the Western contingent.
During his two sets, Vince kept the audiences rolling with laughter, and he kept a good handful of jokes for us Ohio natives and Ohio University alum. His incredible eye for detail captures the absurdity of real life, and his twisted sense of humor leaves no inappropriate subject untouched.
In between sets, Vince sifted through the crowd, flirting and schmoozing with his adoring audience.
His show was accompanied by what has quickly become one of the staples of Lander life: food and drink from The Middle Fork. This breakfast and lunch place, tucked into a quiet venue next to Gannet Peak Sports on Main Street, is a relatively new addition to this small town, but an indispensable one. Everything is made in-house, including pastas, sausage gravy, handcut fries, and corned beef. They have a unique take on eggs Benedict that is worth the 2-hour drive up from I-80 (the nearest interstate), their French press coffee is strong and smooth, and their other seasonally-changing menu items are some of the best in the state and beyond. Not bad for a town of 7,000 people. Service can be a bit slow, but it allows for time to sit down, relax, sip your coffee, and enjoy some people watching from the sidewalk bistro tables or the gurgling flow of the stream that runs through their outside patio.
Inside, The Middle Fork takes full advantage of the historical details that dot every corner of the building: classic crown molding, restored wood floors, and a distinctive 1920s flair. It’s the perfect venue for any event, especially a stand-up comedy night full of gratuitous insults and acerbic wit.
If you ever get the chance to see Vince Tropea, sometime in YOUR town, don’t miss it. The guy is young and ballsy and terrific and puts on one helluva show. And if you’re ever in Lander, Wyoming, don’t forget to stop in for lunch or breakfast or brunch at The Middle Fork for one of the only gourmet, non-steak (and certainly one of the best) meals you’ll find in Wyoming.
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