2014 Roadtrip Restaurant Reviews

Snake River Grill—Jackson, WY

For the first dinner of our vacation, we headed into Jackson to the Snake River Grill. I had done extensive online research for the best place to get dinner in Jackson and settled on this location. We arrived early, and the staff was more than happy to seat us before our reservation time. We were brought to a romantic corner booth inside the warm, cozy dining room. I would describe the décor as lodge-meets-NYC with its log siding walls, stone fireplace, and white linens.

Our server was very attentive and knowledgeable about the items on the menu and wine list. I ordered a glass of melon de bourgogne, a French white wine from the Loire region. It was served much too cold to be enjoyed immediately. From the get go, I thought something was off with the wine. I requested a new bottle be opened to compare the two. Our server was most accommodating with this and brought me a glass from a new bottle, which was clearly in correct form. 

We ordered truffle fries as an appetizer, an absolute must anywhere, in my book. Thinly sliced and crispy, with the perfect amount of truffle and cheese, they were just what I hoped they would be.

For my main course, I ordered the Lava Lake lamb ribs with herbed rice. I had high expectations for this dish since the lamb is superb out west. I was quite disappointed with my choice. The ribs were mostly fat with thin slivers of meat on the bone. The spicy sauce that came on the ribs was sparse and tasted of tomato paste. Something closer to a curry or red wine reduction would have been more appropriate. The rice that came with the lamb was under done, and heavy on the herbs. I felt like I was chewing on a mint leaf. There were also chunks of raw onion in the rice, which was very unappealing.

The excellent service was almost enough to forgive the lackluster entrée. However, service is not enough to bring one back to a purportedly creative and high quality restaurant. The meal is the star of the show, the service is the prelude and the intermission. A poorly written show will receive no applause. I will tip my hat to the staff at Snake River Grill, but let my hands be still otherwise.

Jackson Lake Lodge—Grand Teton National Park

I didn’t originally plan on reviewing our breakfast at the Jackson Lake Lodge, but excellence deserves to be recognized. We stopped here on our way to Yellowstone National Park after rising early to photograph the famous Mormon Row. We arrived just before the end of the breakfast buffet. I presumed the buffet would be a step above a Holiday Inn continental breakfast, nothing more. I was completely mistaken.

The view in the Mural Room of the Jackson Lake Lodge alone is enough to captivate anyone. The Tetons tower over the fields and Jackson Lake outside the floor-to-ceiling windows. But the food is what will keep people coming back. It was hands down the best breakfast buffet I’ve ever had. The sausages were fresh and juicy, the orange juice tasted fresh squeezed, and the breakfast potatoes were delicious. The scrambled eggs were made with real eggs. The waffles were fluffy and seemed to be homemade. It was well worth the median price and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s hungry or looking for a great view. 

Cristina’s Restaurant and Bakery—Ketchum, ID

We stopped in Ketchum to get a quick lunch on our way to Stanley, ID. A quick online search told me Cristina’s was the place to go. Nestled on a side street in this ski town, the salmon colored building that is Cristina’s was easy to spot. Seeming to be no bigger than a postage stamp, our walk inside revealed a small dining area and sunroom, deli, and a good-sized patio. The interior was chic and modern with bright walls that warmed everything.

There were excellent deli and dessert options available in addition to the well-rounded menu. The staff was very friendly and willing to answer any questions. We ordered some dishes to go and were treated to fresh squeezed lemonade on the house since our order was going to take a little while. When we got our bags, an additional treat of chocolate chip cookies had been added to our bags for our troubles. I know the stress a server can feel when one knows a customer’s order is going to take longer than expected. I always tried to keep the customer comfortable while they waited. The cookies and lemonade were two special touches that showed how thoughtful the staff was.

The food was equally as thoughtful. The salad that accompanied my quiche was served room temperature, not freezing cold straight out of the refrigerator. The greens were fresh and the vinaigrette dressing was skillfully made. The quiche was light with juicy sausage, fresh broccoli, and melted cheese. The crust was flaky perfection. I was licking up the crumbs as I drove to get every last bite. I will be dreaming about Cristina’s until the next time I’m in the Ketchum area. 

T Maccarone’s—Walla Walla, WA

After a couple hours of wine tasting in the area, we descended upon T Maccarone’s for dinner. Located off the main drag, the restaurant isn’t easy to spot except for the faintly lit sign above the windows. The cool blue interior with ambiance lighting has a cooler-than-you vibe, but we weren’t offended. There is a small scrap of a patio along the street that holds about four or five tables. We were lucky to snag one on that balmy fall night. 

The drink menu featured local wines, but other than that was unmemorable. Our appetizer of beef carpaccio, thinly sliced raw beef with Parmesan cheese, greens, poached egg, and house crackers, was rather middle of the road. The egg was a nice touch not normally seen, but the meat needed more seasoning and love put into it. It was pounded too thin to be enjoyed properly.

The bread service was average as well. I don’t think the bread was made in house, or even locally. The density and lack of crunch in the crust implied a frozen bread was used. 

For our entrees, we both ordered dishes our server recommended. I had the pappardelle alla Bolognese, and Tyler had the Upper Dry Creek lamb gnocchi. My pappardelle pasta was perfectly al dente, but the beef and pork ragout was dry and overcooked. The ragout should have been much more moist, especially with the beef and pork being milk braised. Tyler’s gnocchi were slightly overdone and mushy, but the lamb in the dish was excellent. Lightly shredded and tender with well-paired herbs and spices, it was mouth watering. The portion-to-price ratio didn’t quite add up, however. Gnocchi are relatively cheap, so throwing an extra handful in to fill up the plate would have made it look more appropriate. 

To the average consumer, this meal would have been the highlight of the week. While it wasn’t disappointing, we are not the average consumer. Mistakes were made that a restaurant of this caliber shouldn’t have made. If I am ever in the Walla Walla area again, perhaps I will stop in and see if this was just an off night at T Maccarone’s.