Like a candy wrapper caught in an updraft, I was swept down the highway at record pace. Swirling and twirling through the wild Wyoming wilderness, my destination was the remote outpost of Rawlins. A large project, over which I was lording, was coming to an end and it was now or never. While I don’t like to be away from my beautiful family, I do enjoy the ability to sample fare from all over this amazing state.

After a long work day, I sat in my hotel room pondering what to grub on for dinner. A small advertisement caught my eye from the corner of the room. It wove a tale of a T-bone steak dinner deal that I could not pass up. As quickly as I could grab my company credit card, I was out the door and en route. The wonderful promise of a steak meal was made by the Cactus Jack’s restaurant, in Rawlins WY. With unlimited time and a limitless credit account, who was I to question this fate?

I arrived at a large parking lot with ample room to board my trusty steed. Throwing my entire body weight at the truck door in hopes of retaliating against the wind, I inched it open and slipped out. With wind at my back, I was almost tossed into the waiting embrace of this eatery. Arriving at the door however, I was a little perplexed. One half of the building seemed to be called Cactus Jack’s while the other half was called The Peppermill. Investigating the phenomenon, I found both establishments sharing one open building and being served by a single kitchen. I was also informed that both places had a similar if not identical menu. For the life of me, I could not wrap my head around this way of doing business and I doubt I ever do.

I was sat at a table and given a menu to peruse. The menu was large and lucky for me; I had plenty of time to peruse it. With the dining room not overly full, I was shocked as waitress after waitress walked by and refused to acknowledge my existence. I was beginning to think was invisible and began to have grandiose visions of battling crime and saving damsels in distress with my new found superpower. My dreams were dashed as I looked around and noticed a similar theme happening at other tables. No super critic power for me.

After some time an employee met with me and took my order. She was polite and apologized for the wait as apparently my face showed the look of being abandoned and starving. I was left with my favorite beverage and able to relax a bit. Of course, this was time for the usual snooping and looking.

The interior appeared clean, but worn and dated. With a sparse western theme, I found the building warm and comfortable but nothing to write home about. It seemed to handle the voracious wind with ease and looked to be a local hangout for both local and traveler alike. A truly Wyoming building at it’s core. It hosted a dance floor in the middle of the expanse that almost seemed a throwback to a rowdier time in a past heyday.

After a seemingly excessive wait, the dinner arrived with little fanfare. A decent sized T-bone presented itself in front of me, acting as the focal point for several sides. The steak was very nicely cooked to my specifications and had a nice appearance. It was not extremely tender, but it was something I would categorize as good. My sides were a garlic mashed potatoes and French fries. The potatoes were clearly dished up with an ice cream scoop and sort of plopped onto the plate. As somebody who is a visual eater, I find this gives a mechanical assembly line feel instead of home cooking. I expect to see a rough, oblong pile of potatoes that only a large spoon can make. I also found the potatoes very dry and try as I might, I could find no gravy. Who serves mashed tatters without gravy?

My meal ended just as it began. With me searching for staff to refill my drink and acknowledge my presence. The check did eventually arrive and I was pleasantly surprised. A full T-bone and accompaniment of sides (lackluster as they were), cost me only $12. Had it been more, I would have perhaps protested, but at that price how could I?

With the bill paid and tummy full, I made ready for battle. Exiting the building and experiencing the full onslaught of the wind, I was still perplexed by the idea of two restaurants under the same roof and kitchen. I worried that maybe others wondered as well since the establishment was only partially full at prime dining time. Sadly, I don’t predict that this eater will return if any other options present themselves.

Because of a lengthy wait time as well as mediocre food, I rate Cactus Jack’s at 5.5/10 dry mounds of mashed potatoes. I will give them praise for having polite staff and being able to cook a steak correctly. Honorable mention goes for having a clean establishment as well as very decent prices.

The Casper Food Critic is an independent author and is not employed by K2 Radio or Townsquare Media, LLC. The views expressed by the Casper Food Critic do not reflect those of K2 Radio or Townsquare Media, LLC.

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