Cafe Dining in the West
Last fall, Don and I ate lunch at the Red Lodge Cafe. It was during our road trip, traveling to lots of National Parks and staying at some pretty iconic rustic lodges.
So, the cafe was not part of a real lodge... it was just a little old cafe in the town of Red Lodge. But it did have a mighty fine neon sign!
We left Yellowstone Park that morning. It was a fun drive with some buffalo in the road and then some breathtaking views along the Beartooth Highway. By the time we finished that drive, (The road looked like an endless squiggly rubber band on the map) it was time for a late lunch.
Flower Baskets and Brick
We pulled into Red Lodge about 1:30 and the little town looked picture perfect, with colorful flower baskets and charming storefronts.
Red Lodge Cafe
We are always ready for a small town cafe and this one was hard to beat, with the red teepee sign.
We walked up to the door and noticed the CLOSED sign. My watch said 1:45, but the cafe still had a lot of diners. Sometimes you just pretend you don't know how to read and you open the door, if it's unlocked.
In We Go
A somewhat weary waitress approached us from the back of the room. "I'm sorry, we're closed." She spoke with just a hint of a question in her tone. I tried my overly enthused, rather than demanding tone. "Oh! I'm sorry, I thought you were open till 2:00."
The waitress fidgeted nervously and I continued. "Oh, I'm just so disappointed, we were so eager to eat here! I really love those murals!" She looked back towards the kitchen and said she would see if the cook would change his mind. "Oh tell him we'll order something easy and we'll eat fast!" I chimed in.
While we waited I had quite a good time studying the murals. They were signed and dated 1962. The images looked just like the views I had photographed from the car window while driving the Beartooth Highway.
Taking it In
We were so obviously first-timers as we pivoted around, checking out the totem pole inspired carvings and the murals. The place was just curious. Even the old-timers sipping their coffee at a nearby table, seemed sort of interesting.
Another waitress came over and saw the upturned cup and tried to give Don a fill. He explained that he wasn't having coffee and she clunked that mug down in it's proper "No Coffee" position. Whew, it helps to know the rules.
Our menus were covered with a crackly layer of plastic, so it was kind of hard to see the nighttime image of motorcycles lined up outside the cafe. But I could read the note in the corner. "Due to Avian bird flu, all breakfasts will have an increase of 25 cents per egg."
The mention of flu on the menu should have made me loose my appetite. But I was so distracted by my surroundings I cheerily ordered, " A half egg salad sandwich and cup of beef and barely soup, please." What was I thinking? That was an egg thing. But, I was never charged 25 cents extra and I didn't come down with Avian bird flu. And hopefully the cook appreciated how I ordered something speedy.
More to See
I'm guessing my soup was from a can and Don's tuna sandwich wasn't all that exciting either, but we enjoyed everything around us. The opposite wall had a carved structure holding mirrors ( that reflected the murals) and old wooden skis and some Native American figures.
The topographic map mounted on the wall, made me kind of feel like I was in a classroom. But we actually had fun with it, retracing our travels in the last few days.
Gotta Love the Wheels
You can be sure there wasn't another diner in the place, taking notice of the wagon wheel light fixture or the yellow, pressed tin ceiling. And you can be even more sure that other no diners took out cameras to capture the images of the cafe.
We Weren't Last
There were two tables lingering over coffee by the time we were ready to check out. So we weren't the last, after all.
I so wish I could have done a little magic and cheered our waitress a bit. She never quite warmed up to us and that's okay. Maybe it was the cook who had made her a little grouchy. We'll never know. Chances are we'll never be back. But I am glad we had our Red Lodge experience.
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.