I dashed off to Jackson Hole for a few days not too long ago. Driven by the need to unwind for a bit and a decade-long desire to visit the setting of some of my favorite novels (by Tim Sandlin), I set my sights on the Grand Tetons and didn’t look back. What I found upon my arrival at the Jackson Lake Lodge, one of the three hotels in the area run by the Grand Teton Lodge Company, was an unexpected culinary experience that capture me from the moment I saw the menu.
The mid-tier offering of the Grand Teton Lodge Company – with Jenny Lake Lodge at the upper end and Colter Bay Village the bargain offer – the Jackson Lake Lodge has spacious and comfortable rooms, though they are of course consistent with the price point. This is what made the property’s high-end restaurant, Mural Room, particularly exciting: it was an inspired and local menu at an affordable hotel.
Normally, mid-range hotels deliver solid, reliable, basic fare, with a decent steak constituting the top end of the menu and the rest of it being rather pedestrian. Mural Room stands that thinking on its head, with an exciting menu that blends creativity, local favorites and ol’ reliable dishes that you’d expect to be on hand for those who aren’t terribly adventurous. Of course, the local touches on the Mural Room menu are not surprising. When bread is served, it comes in the shape of a carefully sculpted moose – not my scene, but I do understand the appeal in general. Instead, I was drawn to the menu items that took advantage of the area’s local fare, such as hazelnut and ginger buffalo carpaccio and southwest and molasses spiced elk loin. Whether you go for the unique local stuff or stick to the standby dishes (like the prime rib), you’ll walk away satisfied, as the chef clearly has his act together.
What really blew my mind wasn’t the local ingredients or even the entrees. Rather, it was the lobster and brie bisque. Served with chunks of lobster and a creamy soup around it, the dish was an unexpected seafood delight far away from the place these crustaceans call home.
The price points were a bit high for the Jackson Lake Lodge: the restaurant offered entrees at close to $30 or more (in most cases) in the company’s mid-level property. That said, there’s always room to splurge while on vacation, and a bargain vacation often has room for a fantastic meal that defines the trip’s culinary experience. Mural Room delivers this experience – to the point where you’ll probably want to make reservations a week before you arrive.
My trip to Jackson Hole was long anticipated, which of course led to unnecessarily high standards. Mural Room delivered, becoming the defining moment of my trip. Some properties have a culinary surprise buried deep in the website – this is one of them.