Though it may take three flights and a bus ride to get there, a trip to Ketchum, Idaho is definitely worth the trip. Located in the Wood River Valley, Ketchum is usually categorized under the larger Sun Valley ski resort umbrella, but this town can definitely stand on its own.
Even with a population less than most colleges’ student bodies, Ketchum is home to some small town gems in terms of food. Though it may be a small ski town, Ketchum’s got big flavor. With that said, here are the eight must-try après-ski items:
1. Cristina’s San Francisco Airport Salad
Though I couldn’t tell you what makes this the San Francisco Airport salad (what about all the other airports?), you can’t have lunch at Cristina’s without ordering this heavenly combination of greens. This Asian-style salad with saifun noodles, crispy turkey nuggets and the best dressing you’ll ever taste is a must-have when lunching after a morning hitting the slopes.
#SpoonTip: Order the salad 50/50, meaning half iceberg and half spinach.
If you aren’t a lettuce person, the rest of the menu is to die for, but trust me, you’ll be returning to Cristina’s everyday once you taste this salad.
2. Java’s Bowl of Soul
If you want to sip coffee like a local, Java On Fourth is the place to be. Their signature drink, the Bowl of Soul, is the perfect mocha – a combination of Mexican hot chocolate and in-house coffee. To top it off, the barista adds a large dollop of thick, homemade whipped cream.
Scout’s honor, this will be the best whipped cream you’ve ever tasted. Even if you aren’t a mocha lover, top off your drink the right way with the white fluff of your dreams.
3. Wrapcity’s Chinese Chicken Salad Wrap
Whoever thought it was a good idea to wrap various sandwich, salad and breakfast items into a tortilla was brilliant. At Wrapcity, you can find anything your heart desires wrapped up in a warm tortilla.
The first item on the menu, the Chinese Chicken Salad wrap, is a definite winner. The ingredients (grilled teriyaki chicken, Napa cabbage, peanuts, green onions, cilantro, crunchy rice sticks, jasmine rice and sesame dressing) are all wrapped up and ready for you to enjoy right off the mountain.
4. Grumpy’s Schooner
Though the sign outside may read “Sorry, We’re Open,” I promise you’ll want to go inside. After a long day on the mountain, Grumpy’s is the quintessential spot for a beer – preferably a schooner – and a fowl burger (yes, that is a menu item).
If you don’t order a schooner at Grumpy’s, you may or may not be heckled by the bartender (all in good faith, maybe). This 21-oz goblet of beer is iconic in the Wood River Valley and is an important part of the ski bum lifestyle. After your visit, if you don’t want the t-shirt with a schooner on the back, you’re doing something wrong.
5. Johnny G’s Sub Shack’s Mama Sass’s Meatball Sub
Johnny G’s Sub Shack has been whipping out subs since 1998, and honestly, you can’t go wrong here. Though I don’t know who Mama Sass is, I can tell you she inspired a great sub. Served hot, this combination of Italian meatballs, marinara sauce and parmesan cheese is out of this world.
Though the rest of the menu is worth trying, Mama Sass’s Meatball sub is the right way to end a day on the slopes. After ordering this sub every Wednesday throughout my middle school career, I can guarantee you won’t regret hitting up Johnny G’s Sub Shack.
6. Despo’s Chimichanga
You may need to make a friend on the gondola to help you finish off the chimichanga from Despo’s. This restaurant is committed to going green while still cooking up your favorite Mexican dishes. The chimichanga, a classic, is a Despo’s house favorite made of a crisp flour tortilla filled with chicken breast and Monterey Jack cheese served with their infamous rice and beans.
#SpoonTip: Start your meal off with house-made guacamole and escabeche along with some chips, served hot, and house salsa.
7. Pioneer Saloon’s Jim Spud
Let’s be real here… Ketchum is in Idaho, so this list wouldn’t be complete without a potato. If you are looking for the real deal, head to the Pioneer Saloon, or, as the locals call it, the Pio. For your potato fix, order the Jim Spud.
When the traditional Idaho potato with the works (sour cream, bacon, cheese, etc.) isn’t enough, the Pio’s signature menu item, the Jim Spud, will fulfill your potato dreams. Think baked potato with teriyaki prime rib, grilled onions and cheese. If that isn’t an Idaho classic, I don’t know what is.
#SpoonTip: If you still have room for dessert, check out Sheila’s famous mud pie. Nothing beats a colossal slice of mocha ice cream with Oreo crust, fudge, chocolate, almonds and whipped cream.
8. The Roundhouse’s Fondue
If you are looking for a blast from the past, take the gondola up to The Roundhouse — located on Bald Mountain (better known as Baldy). Opened in 1939, The Roundhouse has been serving up the best fondue in the valley since the doors opened.
A gooey concoction of gruyere, Emmental and vacherin cheese served with grapes, apples, pears, potatoes (it is Idaho…), pretzels and sourdough bread is the must-try item on the menu. As you enjoy your fondue, admire the expansive view of Ketchum and the rest of the Wood River Valley from The Roundhouse. It’s breathtaking, I promise.
Now, if you really want to a ski like a local, get off the mountain by noon and head to one of these Ketchum hotspots. This may be one of the only towns where it is totally acceptable to wear your snow pants on and off the slopes, so take off your boots and hit up one of these après-ski must-tries.