The Jackson Hole Valley is so breathtaking that in the 1970s when the US launched Voyager II into space, scientists attached an Ansel Adams photograph of the valley as a representation of life on Earth in the event aliens discovered the vessel. Spanning two spectacular mountain ranges (the Grand Tetons and Grand Ventres), Jackson Hole just may be the most picturesque valley on the planet. It’s an Eden with winter. It’s also among the most expensive and desirable havens in the universe. Space aliens captivated by the Ansel Adams photograph and wanting to visit had better up the credit limits on their credit cards. They might also have to lower their expectations as to intelligent life on Earth. The valley is home away from home to Kanye West and Kim Kardashian among other glitterati.
Well-heeled aliens will find luxurious amenities throughout the valley. Four- and five-star resorts and hotels offer world-class services, dining options and spas sure to spoil any extraterrestrial. So will concierge services that lead to the very best of the Valley. It won’t be longe before our sojourning aliens are getting fitted for tuxes and gowns so they can attend film, music and art events. Soon they’ll be counting calories as they dine at local restaurants which offer everything from waist-expanding fine dining to casual joints featured by Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
Those of us who don’t have deep pockets might not even be able to stay and dine in Jackson in the style of the affluent aliens, especially during peak tourist season. There are, however, other ways to enjoy perhaps the most amazing beauty God bestowed on humanity and aliens alike. Sticker shock set in when we reviewed options for area accommodations in the Jackson Hole Valley. Rather than blow our vacation savings in one-fell-swoop, we looked for and found AirBnB lodgings some 32 miles away in Driggs, Idaho. Not only was this a less expensive option, it proved a breath-taking opportunity to see even more.
During winter if the Teton Pass (Wyoming Highway 22)–is even open, it’s bound to be a white knuckle drive. At more than 8,400 feet in altitude, the Pass can be treacherous any time of year with its precipitous curves and steep drop-offs. A ten-percent gradient defines much of several stretches. It’s an hour drive from Briggs to Jackson under the best of circumstances. There’s so much to see on this drive including a scenic overlook of Jackson Hole. You might see an elk, deer, moose, eagle or bear along the route. Surely that’s the type of intelligent life aliens more representative of the Jackson Hole Valley than gawking tourists like us.
As a perpetual planner, I did significant research on Jackson’s dining options. As expected, those options are plentiful and varied. To no surprise, Jackson is one of Guy Fieri’s favorite Triple D locations. Ultimately, the decider for me was in finding an eatery offering the “Best Reuben You’ve Ever Tried.” Shortly before leaving the Land of Enchantment, my Kim brought home a Reuben from a Rio Rancho restaurant. Let’s just say that it could have given Egyptians a lesson in mummification. Jackson’s best Reuben would have to redeem one of my favorite sandwiches. But, I digress…
Our initial Jackson destination goes by the curious appellation Miazga’s (despite my spellchecker’s attempts to spell it “miasma”). It’s named for owner Jennifer Miazga. Jennifer moved to the Jackson Hole Valley in the ’90s. For more than a quarter century, she built up her credentials in the restaurant industry before realizing her lifelong dream to launch her own neighborhood restaurant, one which serves the classic comfort food with which she grew up in Cohoes, New York. Her family heritage is both Polish and Italian. Her culinary heritage includes having worked at a successful family bakery in New York.
Miazga’s is located off West Broadway, the veritable parking lot of a street leading to the city center. It’s got an Old West facade with a grassy exterior area encircled by wooden post fencing (not that any fence is needed to keep diners in). The dining room is rather small and might get pretty crowded during Jackson’s winters. As you walk in, a slate board will welcome you to enjoy “East Coast comfort food served in the Wild West.” It also reminds habitues that the Friday special is a lobster roll.
True to the family’s heritage, the menu showcases a melange of Italian and Polish treasures. Reading the Pasta section brought a smile to my face. The listing for spaghetti read “spaghetti and red gravy,” not spaghetti and marinara or spaghetti and sauce. It brought back memories of my time at “red sauce restaurants” on the East Coast. Listed first on the Sandwiches section of the menu was that fabled “best ever” Reuben. An a la carte section lists such surprises as golumpki and pierogi. Appetizers and Salads are listed on the same page with Polish Favorites which include potato cheese or sauerkraut pierogi daily as well as a specialty pierogi (ask your server).
In many “red sauce” restaurants on the East Coast, a restaurant’s credibility is tied to how good its red gravy is. The Scarlati Kitchen website explains: “A well-built sauce is essential to any dish. It can make or break the experience. If a sauce is too salty or the flavors are off, it can ruin a dish. On the flip side, a perfectly crafted sauce can be the key to a truly memorable meal.” This is an area of contention between my Kim and her lesser half. While I could bathe in a good red sauce, she wants just a hint of it. Nana’s Meatballs were literally swimming in a red sauce. Kim shook much of it off, leaving more for me. The meatballs were terrific, so reminiscent of those with which I fell in love with in Massachusetts. The sauce is addictive.
For some reason my Kim ordered a grilled veggie sandwich (sautéed red onions, green bell peppers, zucchini, grape tomatoes and Swiss on marbled rye). She usually subscribes by Homer Simpson’s philosophy “I’d be vegetarian if bacon grew on trees” so maybe she thought we were eating too much junk food on our trip. As veggie sandwiches go, this is a good one, each of the veggies crispy yet grilled to an optimum degree of doneness. There wasn’t a soggy morsel in the entire sandwich. The marbled rye is superb–lightly toasted just enough to warm it. Sandwiches are available with your choice of fries, coleslaw, onion rings, house salad or a Caesar salad. Onion rings are served with a horseradish sauce that bites back.
After having placed our order, we noticed lobster rolls had been on special the previous day. There was one left and we were assured it was still fresh and delicious. It would be interesting to discern if lobster rolls in Wyoming would be better than lobster rolls in New Mexico, most of which have disappointed greatly. At least in Jackson, lobster rolls are better than those in New Mexico, but not nearly as good as those on the East Coast. Not only was the split-top bun was somewhat smaller than you might find in Kittery, Maine, it didn’t quite burst from all the lobster packed inside it. Served either hot or cold (your choice), the lobster roll is supposed to be a full quarter-pound (four ounces) so it’s no wonder the bun was small.
Much better is the aforementioned Reuben (corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing on marbled rye). It may not be “the best Reuben you’ve ever tried,” but it’ll probably be in your top five. Unlike the thick, desiccated corned beef that disgraced my last Reuben in Rio Rancho, the corned beef on Miazga’s Reuben was phenomenal. Our server told us the corned beef is sourced from a premium vendor and sliced on the premises. It’s sliced waifishly thin and is piled high with a generous amount of Russian dressing. By the way, the main difference between Russian dressing and Thousand Island dressing is that the former contains horseradish which gives it a little kick while Thousand Island dressing tends to be sweeter. Naturally my preference is for Russian dressing. Miazga’s Russian dressing exemplifies what this dressing should be. Another exemplar is the sauerkraut which is lively, sour and tangy. This just may be a Reuben that is all it can be.
Miazga’s is far from a one-trick-pony with its Reuben. In 2023, Family Destinations Guide named it one of the fifteen best restaurants in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It ranked second on the list. Family Destinations raved: ” Miazga’s wins the hearts of locals and tourists with its hearty home-made comfort meals and toothsome desserts.”
399 West Broadway
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LATEST VISIT: 10 June 2023
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Rueben, Meatballs & Red Gravy, Grilled Veggie Sandwich, Lobster Roll, Onion Rings