Don’t judge a book by its cover. Those immortal words spoken by every mother in the world reverberated through my brain as I drove toward my next assignment. On an almost forgotten patch of land, on the edge of mainstream Casper, sits a small place called Plows Diner. 

Arriving at the rundown shack, I immediately encountered parking problems. An undefined network of open gravel spaces and possible alleyways surround the “restaurant”. I found what appeared to be possible parking, but it was hard to tell with all of the private property signs around. As I left my poor vehicle, I wondered if the next time I saw it would be through the gate of an impound yard.

Approaching the building, diners are met with two doors. Both for humans and both unlocked. Scouring the outside of the building for clues, I was completely shocked to find absolutely no indication as to which one takes me where I want to go. I just guessed. As if I were on some horrible 70s TV game show, I picked door two. Opening it and expecting to walk into somebody’s apartment, I found myself in the kitchen. The “Chef” looked completely un-phased as this unwashed source of contamination traipsed into the preparation area. I quickly turned around and left, but not before wondering why they don’t just lock the door or put up a sign.

With one remaining door, I gave it a tug and went inside. I was instantly met by a dense cloud of smoke. No, the building was not on fire. It was inhabited by a seemingly endless supply of chain smoking patrons. I gagged and coughed as my eyes began to sting. Once adjusted to the toxic environment, I had hoped they would spy a non smoking area. To my dismay, the building is only large enough to house several tables and a small lunch counter. With duty in my heart, and clothing that was already tainted by the acrid air, I sat at the cleanest table and hoped for the best. Growing up in Wyoming and driving countless miles on her highways, I have come to appreciate the greasy little diner. Some of the best food available comes from these little dives . . . . . . . and this place was certainly a dive.

I squinted at the hand written menu on the wall and noticed the special, chicken fried steak with soup. Loving a good warm meal on a snowy Rocky Mountain day, I shot for broke. The waitress quickly ladled out a cup of noodles and added her own exhaled seasoning of tar and ammonia. My jaw was agape as I had actually witnessed wait staff exhaling carcinogenic smoke on plates of food. Looking around the “restaurant”, I witnessed this happening over and over.
To the “chef’s” credit, the soup wasn’t bad. It wasn’t good, but if the review were based solely on this single menu item, Plow’s would have stopped its downward spiral at a rating of 4. Sadly, this eatery is worse than the sum of its parts.

Between soup and entrée, I casually looked around as much as my eyes could stand. Yellow stained walls with flecks of unidentifiable masses stuck to them. Wait staff with the same yellow staining residing on their fingers. I watched as children ran around behind the counter and played with whatever they could reach with their grubby fingers. I saw ashtray after ashtray full of burning but unused cigarettes emitting smog as if in eulogy to all of the deceased taste buds. On two occasions I also witnessed as customers would find used cleaning cloths and innocently toss them over the counter onto the food prep area.

After what felt like an eternity, my steak arrived. The presentation was good and gave me a final flash of hope. The first bite told a completely different story that smashed my hope like a wrecking ball. Bland mashed potatoes with a distinct lack of lumpiness, covered in even blander gravy. The steak had a dark brown hue that normally comes from frying in extremely old grease. Again, my suspicions were spot on. The breading brought with it the taste of old french-fries and onion rings that had been gradually burnt. I also experienced breading divorcing itself from the meat as if trying to escape. Improper preparation coupled with what I suspect was frying oil that had gone well past 3,000 miles.

Before my meal was even fully chewed, I was out of my seat and fighting my way to the register. Like an explorer hacking his way through a dense jungle, I found my journey through the smoke extremely taxing and harrowing. At the register, my escape was delayed for the lighting of a cigarette by my waitress. Each flick of the lighter brought me closer and closer to insanity.

As I walked out the door, I realized that I was passing a line of customers. Except, something was wrong, they were facing the wrong way. Could it be that this many people were pining for this food? All of them smoking just like the patrons already inside, it began to lend itself to my belief that smoking kills taste buds. Because I could see no other reason these folks would be fighting to enter. So, with one final glance, I inhaled the fresh air near the door and took solace in knowing that I never needed to enter this “restaurant” again. This time, the book was just as bad as the cover.

Because of a complete lack of anything resembling decent cuisine or sanitation, I give Plow’s Diner an abysmal 1.5/10 stinky ashtrays. I am truthfully shocked that this eatery has passed our city’s health regulations.
The only thing that kept this from a zero (0) rating was that the staff was polite and the chicken noodle soup didn’t make me recoil in horror.

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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