Trip Report: Jackson, WY

Yuko and I took a trip to Jackson, WY after falling in love with the Four Seasons there (where we ultimately didn’t stay). We used a voucher from Delta, which prohibited us from flying into JAC itself, but instead we made a forced visit to Idaho Falls.

This turned out to be fortunate, as the drive from Idaho Falls allowed us to pass through Victor and the Targhee National Forest.

View of the Tetons from Signal Mountain

View of the Tetons from Signal Mountain

Food

Villa Coffeehouse - There isn’t a whole lot of non-chain breakfast options in Idaho Falls. We chose to visit this coffeehouse before driving two hours to Jackson because of their extensive breakfast sandwich list. Their food didn’t disappoint: the breakfast burrito was delicious. Stick to drip coffee (first refill free) over their espresso offerings.

Grand Teton Brewing Company - This brewery is located between Idaho Falls and Jackson. Their tiny tasting room was a great pit stop. Their beers were great, the popcorn was hot and fresh, and both the staff and the visitors were convivial. I heard their home-made root beer on tap was quite good. They have chairs on the deck which looked lovely, but it was a bit too cold when we visited to take advantage of them. Aside from delicious popcorn, they don’t serve food, but a food truck might eventually arrive. Get a few special release bombers to go for the evenings in Jackson.

Local - Upon arriving in Jackson, we walked around the town center to get our bearings. We came across Local and decided to have dinner at the bar. As it turned out, Local was already on our shortlist of restaurants to visit, as T&L claims they have the #2 burger in the area. We liked the food, the menu, tap list filled with local brews, cocktail list, and bar service so much we returned a few nights later. (We did see that food was slow to arrive for some other patrons, however. Pass the time by having another beer!).

Jackson Farmer’s Market - The market surrounds the town square on Saturday mornings. There are a number of eateries with stands. The breakfast sandwiches from Sweet Cheeks Meats. Both sandwiches we had were only okay, but the optional pickled toppings gained some acclaim. The wait was also long and they were slightly disorganized in handling orders. We got massive donuts from Nom Nom Donuts. I like the plainest of the plain donuts and had the cinnamon twist; it was quite good, though expectedly too sugary for me. Yuko had the nutella doughnut, which was filled with a metric ton of hazelnut spread.

Snake River Brewing - The largest local brewery, Snake River was on the top of my list because it won Small Brewery of the Year twice at the Great American Beer Festival. The food is fine bar food, but otherwise unremarkable: The peach/chorizo pizza was worth trying if only due to originality (though the barbecue sauce added even too much sweetness). The pulled pork was average. The beer, though, was great. I had both of their IPAs on offer: Olde Gregg, an alternative to their best-selling Packo’s, and the I Do, which was specially brewed for the brewmaster’s own wedding. I wish we had the time to come back just for drinks.

The Handle Bar at the Four Seasons - I had wanted to check out the Four Seasons’ grounds and their beer and whiskey-oriented restaurant was conveniently on the way to the hiking trail we chose. I had completed my bike ride earlier and was starving, so had the burger, which was excellent, paired with a Deschutes IPA. It was fun watching the downhill mountain bikers complete their runs from the outdoor, umbrella-covered patio. The service was impeccable for us, as can be expected at the Four Seasons. It’s worth coming by if you’re in the area.

Persephone - This is a cute little bakery that you must visit at least once. Persephone ticked most of the boxes I have for a breakfast place:

  • They have delicious baked goods: I’ve never seen Yuko fawn over a cinnamon morning roll before).
  • They take coffee seriously (I was warned that my macchiato would be made properly, not like most outposts in the midwest; indeed, it was perfect).
  • Their prepared breakfast foods (mostly egg-based) are good (but small).

The biggest downside is that they only offer counter service, which was distracting: it requires that you listen for your name and make several trips around their tiny storefront between lots of people and tables. If it were warmer out, we would have eaten outside on the deck, which looked lovely.

The bike path through Grand Teton National Park

The bike path through Grand Teton National Park

Cafe Genevieve - We were in need of lunch and sat down on their patio outside. The food was only okay (the chorizo tasted like the Ortega taco mix my mom used to use when I was a kid). The bathroom was disgusting. The location, right off of the town square, and the seating were great.

Moo’s - Yuko is an amateur ice cream critic and gives Moo’s a solid 810. She likes the huge variety of flavors (they serve 24 each day out of their repetoire of 200), the good chocolate-covered waffle cones, and the organic and locally-sourced ingredients. She required that we return another day for a second cone. Strangely, you can also resupply for your next paintball outing here.

Couloir - This was the surprise of our vacation. While we were sitting at the bottom of the mountain at The Handle Bar, I mentioned to Yuko that there is a restaurant and bar at the top of the mountain. She found the last reservation for the following evening for the last seating of the night, at 8:30pm. They serve a four-course prix fixe menu with many choices for the first three, with a dessert sampler to finish.

To get there, you have to take a phenomenal ten minute gondola ride, and includes a glass of sparkling wine. (In fact, this gondola is how all of their supplies are transported up to the restaurant as well). The view was fantastic, though the sun was only up for part of our stay. The food was excellent: we thoroughly enjoyed every course. The service was on par with the food. The wine list is so extensive that they have won Wine Spectator awards for their program. The ride back down via the gondola in the pitch-black darkness was exhilarating.

I think the winning move here is to book at least one night at the Four Seasons, have lunch at The Handle Bar, get a reservation for that night at Couloir, and enjoy the wine and beer in the safety of not having to drive through buffalo-filled roads.

Old Faithful Inn - After driving to Yellowstone in the morning and arriving at Old Faithful just before an eruption, we had lunch in the namesake restaurant. The service was good, but the food was slow to arrive. The vegetarian reuben was surprisingly good. The buffet was surprisingly sad looking. If it were a bit warmer, I would have preferred to get a sandwich from the adjoining cafe and sit out on the deck overlooking the geyser.

Lake Lodge Cafeteria - This cafeteria (in the style of a college dining hall) was along the return leg of our Yellowstone drive. Its primary purpose is to serve the visitors staying at the adjoining cabins and campgrounds. It was surprisingly good cafeteria food: I had a Thanksgiving-style turkey dinner that I wouldn’t mind having again. It was likely the best dinner option we had after a long day of visiting Yellowstone and having to drive back to Jackson.

Nora’s Fish Creek Inn - This restaurant got put in our travel plans because it won the 2012 James Beard Award for the American Classic category. As recommended, we came for breakfast, on our way from Jackson to Idaho Falls. The breakfast burrito with choizo was phenomenal. The ambiance was rustic log cabin, and there were a lot of locals in the seats. Come early, come often, but definitely come.

Activities

Running in the National Elk Refuge - This was one of my favorite runs I’ve ever done (though I’m not an avid or accomplished runner). National Elk Refuge Road runs through the entirety of its namesake and starts right at the edge of town. The surface is fine gravel all the way and it provides some beautiful views of the surrounding buttes.

Grand Teton National Park - I really loved visiting this park. Not only are the mountains gorgeous, but there are hidden lakes, great drives, and a lot of wildlife.

  • Hiking Taggart Lake - I would do this easy hike again.
  • Cycling between Moose and Jenny Lake - We rented some bikes from Dornan’s for Yuko’s second bike ride in her adult life. The path is set quite away from the road and offers a very relaxed ride with amazing mountain views.
  • Road biking between Jackson and Signal Mountain - I rented a decent, working road bike from Hoback Sports and did a 70+mi out-and-back from Jackson to the only notable road climb in the park. Getting out there was gorgeous and the view from the top was stunning, but getting back took a bit of extra energy due to a headwind. Gros Ventre/Mormon Row/Antelope Flats was a worthy dirt-laden detour to add some variety. Here’s some more inspiration for other rides.
  • Getting way too close to bison - When we were there, a huge herd of bison would congregate around Antelope Flats Road near sunset. They seemed like such docile creatures, but I’m happy we made it out in once piece!

Yellowstone National Park - It isn’t possible to spend one day in Yellowstone and see everything that is worth seeing. We decided to stick to the lower loop and see whatever we could.

  • Old Faithful - Go here first and wait for the next eruption. It was surprisingly worth waiting for.
  • Upper Geyser Basin - We spent a ton more time visiting all of the smaller geysers, fountains and pools that we had expected: they are all so different and interesting.
  • Grand Prismatic Spring - Amazing colors. Definitely stop.
  • Fountain Paint Pots - Bubbling mud of a variety of colors. I liked this more than Yuko did.
  • Red Rock Hike - We did this short-but-vertical hike because we thought the trail would lead to a great view of the Lower Yellowstone Falls and we weren’t disappointed. Definitely worth seeing.
  • Artist’s Point - Totally overrun by tourists, detracting from the beautiful view of the canyon. I probably would skip this if I knew about the competition from other visitors.
Taggart Lake

Taggart Lake

Accomodations

Rustic Inn at Jackson Hole - We researched almost all of the resorts in Jackson Hole and settled on this one because of the kitschy individual cabins. The pictures on the website make the cabins look pretty spread out with a view of the creek and a hillside. In actuality, the cabins are very close together, and ours had a scenic view and acoustic environment of a parking lot. The interior of the cabins themselves were nice. The included breakfast was fine and standard. I would probably look elsewhere for our next trip.

Holiday Inn Idaho Falls - Exactly as you would expect. It was totally sufficient for a single night before heading out to Jackson.

Food, researched but not visited

The following are places that made our list of places to go, but we didn’t have enough time to actually get to.

  • Betty Rock - #1 lunch according to T&L. The turkey, cranberry, pesto sandwich is recommended.
  • Bridger Deck - This is the bar located on the lower level of Couloir. I’d totally come here for a drink or two, since it includes a gondola ride to top of mountain. They are supposed to have a good margarita.
  • DOG Breakfast - BREAKFAST BURRITO ALERT. I can’t believe we didn’t come here one morning: I keep reading about it after having come back. Call to order ahead ahead to avoid a wait.
  • Granary - Cocktails on a deck with a view. Jazz Friday, piano Saturday.
  • Haydens Post Breakfast #3 breakfast - T&L.
  • Idaho Brewing Company - For obvious reasons. We didn’t happen to be in Idaho Falls during its open hours.
  • Jackson Hole Roasters Coffee - Well regarded roastery.
  • Liberty Burger - Lots of variety. #1 burger according to T&L.
  • Mangy Moose - Good cocktails, recommended: spicy margarita.
  • Million Dollar Cowboy Bar - Pretty famous. Saddles for barstools. We would have gone even though it isn’t really our scene.
  • Pinky G’s Pizzeria - Pizza On Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.
  • Sweetwater - #4 lunch - T&L.
  • Thai Me Up Thai + Brewery Never been to a Thai place that brews their own beer.
  • The Lotus Cafe - Organic/vegetarian/vegan. OMG vegetables would have been amazing. (Also on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives).
  • The Rose - Food & Wine top 25 Cocktail bar.
  • Wild Sage - #1 thing to do for couples - T&L. 7 tables == make reservations.
Yuko being rained on by a geyser.

Yuko being rained on by a geyser.

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