Highway 21 climbs to the top of Banner Creek Summit, an elevation of 7056 ft then drops down into the Stanley Basin. The highway becomes straight, cutting through green fields that edge up to the Sawtooth Mountains. The fields are like green dust bowls devoid of vegetables and fruit. My vegetarian belly has learned not to be fooled by common sense observation.
Eating vegetarian in Idaho has its surprises. Towns like Middleton, Kuna, and Emmett are surrounded by vegetables and fruit. Despite the abundance of food most vegetarian choices on the menu taste like an unwanted step child. If you’re not following here’s a different perspective. Reader let’s pretend your a horny 20 something straight guy. All day you walk along Venice Beach observing fields of women. The sunny California female beach bathers have excited your taste buds. Later that evening you are in the mood to hear some local music and talk to a beautiful woman. You decide to check out the bar scene off the boardwalk. The first bar plays techno music and claims to be the friendliest gay bar on Venice Beach. You keep moving. The second bar has Erasure night. Buffed out men are dancing and mouthing the words,
“And if I should falter
would you open your arms out to me?
We can make love not war
and live at peace with our hearts.
I’m so in love with you
I’ll be forever blue”
You ponder what does forever blue mean to a bar full of guys? Bar after bar packed with flirtatious men. You are confused, the beach has field after field of women similar to Idaho small towns with field after field of fruit and vegetables.
Despite only observing cows in the Stanley basin, surprisingly a vegetarian can eat amazingly creative thought out meals from sun up to sun down. I am so blown away that I might look for Mrs Right in San Francisco’s Castro District.
It’s Sept 14, Stanley Baking CO. & Cafe seems to be the most popular eatery at this time of day. I get into line. Clouds have socked in the Stanley Basin. The Sawtooth Mountains are obscured from view. I wonder will the seasonal disorder effect of no sunshine and the stress of a hopping eatery effect the cooks? Distressed cooks and pigs don’t make good meals. I start perusing the menu wall. Holy moly a vegetarian has more choices than the typical cheese omelet, waffles, and pancakes. A person can substitute real meat for fake meat. Here’s the dish that made my vegetarian belly tremble. This dish didn’t involve fake meat substitutions it’s the real deal. A signature vegetarian dish called the “Mingas.”
“Our version of a Mexican breakfast. Two eggs any style, tortilla chips, potatoes, green chilies, feta, provolone, jack cheese and black beans baked in a red New Mexican enchilada sauce & topped with homemade salsa.” Eureka!
Despite a dark weather mood the chefs cooked like two happy pigs that go on daily walks and get their bellies scratched.
I spent mid morning and early afternoon exploring the shore of Redfish Lake. After some enjoyable hiking I stopped in at The Redfish Lodge for lunch. The outdoor grill menu offers a veggie burger. Before ordering I asked, “do you make your garden burger?” To my surprise The Redfish Lodge services frozen garden burgers. I decided to head down highway 75 to Smiley Creek Lodge. Their website boasts homemade food which means no frozen veggie burgers.
When approaching The Smiley Creek Lodge an urban restaurant goer might keep driving. City restaurants typically don’t have teepees, wood carved bear art, a gas station, and boast they sell non alcoholic beer.
Inside I’m quickly greeted by a friendly server named Lisa. I ask her is the Abe’s Chair Garden Burger a fancy name for some pre made frozen veggie burger bought at Costco? Lisa has incredible delivery on the same level of a comedian or motivational speaker. She gave a long pausing smile then said, “Our chef makes the veggie burger. The fries are home cut and the bun comes from Bigwood Bread. After I take your order I think I’ll have an Abe’s Chair Garden Burger.” Enough said!
Here’s the menu description.
Vegetable and bean patty, on a Bigwood Bread organic challah bun, topped with a cilantro jalepeno sauce.
I am going to pose a question. Would the Mona Lisa have the same impact tacked up on the wall of a mechanic shop framed by hotrods with models posing on the hoods? I think not. Great works of art are properly framed and the buildings that house the art are of the same awe inspiring level.
Welcome to the Sawtooth Hotel’s patio. If you’re a mushroom lover and love the Sawtooth Mountains you’ll be enjoying a little piece of heaven.
“Mushroom Ragout wild and cultivated mushrooms stewed with fresh herbs and aromatic vegetables served with buttered orzo.”
An amazing dish like this served in a smokey truck stop won’t taste the same as enjoying it the presence of the Sawtooth Mountains.
Side note: When preparing a menu for a smokey truck stop cafe does the chef ask questions like, “Would a roasted beet salad with spinach, goat cheese, toasted walnuts and a roasted garlic vinaigrette taste good with a Lucky Strike?” After a moment of thought with a Lucky Strike in the left hand and a beet in the right hand the chef answers his question. “No, a Lucky Strike won’t compliment the taste of a beet but I’m sure a rocking chair, PBR, and The Sawtooth Mountains will.”