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FEED ME! Handle Bar’s outdoor triumph
JACKSON HOLE, WYO – I love Chef Michael Mina. Michael’s The Handle Bar opened in Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole in December. I call him Michael because I’ve stalked, err, met him several times. Sadly, however, I’ve yet to get any closer than a table at one of his restaurants.
In 2006, Mina’s eponymous San Francisco restaurant received two Michelin stars. Even if it’s since been demoted to one Michelin star, his restaurant group coming to Jackson Hole is huge.
However, loving Mina as much as I do, and as orgasmic as the meals I’ve had at his SF restaurant and his American Fish restaurant in Vegas have been, his first restaurant here came fairly close to horrifying me.
Not even Mina giving me a bear hug in front of THB’s fireplace could make its plaid wallpaper and blonde wood palatable. I swear I’ve seen that wallpaper in a Smitty’s Pancake House somewhere. And then there was the food, which wasn’t bad, but neither was it what I had come to expect from Mina. I can’t condone Cheez Whiz, even if house made, on nachos.
But with the late May opening of THB’s deck, which comes with its own seafood and barbecue menu, the food is finally what I expect of Mina. And being out on the deck, I don’t have to look at the wallpaper the restaurant stole from Smitty’s.
The concept of the new deck/patio is that it is just like what Mina does when entertaining at his home. Present at the opening, I heard this directly from Mina: “This is the stuff I make when we have friends over.”
I cracked open a lobster claw, chased it with a grilled oyster and spooned a hefty helping of charred corn with lime butter and cilantro onto my plate. Have you ever had a grilled oyster? Prepare to be blown away. Seriously. The Barbecue Oyster platter is only $16, but I’d pay my firstborn for that sweet, smoky and sublime concoction.
And then came THB’s Shrimp and Shellfish Boil ($29, $49 with a Maine lobster). This is simple food with peel-and-eat shrimp, clams, mussels and Andouille sausage, but is easy to mess up. The Handle Bar isn’t messing it up.
And THB has perfected grilled corn with its charred corn with lime butter and cilantro. This corn, along with three other sides that include the summer tomato salad with balsamic vinaigrette, bacon roasted fingerling potatoes and warm wilted kale with dried fruits, come with every entrée on the menu. I’ve long loved the idea of grilled corn, but the reality is that it’s a hot mess with more melted butter dripping down my chin and staining my clothes than making it into my mouth. Here at THB, it arrives off the cob and in a bowl.
Yes, we are in the mountains and not at the end of a pier or on a boardwalk where the air tastes of salt water and sea gulls loop overhead. Still, summer is summer and The Handle Bar’s new seafood and barbecue menu captures the taste of the season. And, for families, the new deck overlooks a large lawn where kids can run around and play games.