FEED ME: Handle Bar’s summer menu soars
Jackson Hole, Wyo. – Of course a bowl of gazpacho should have a mound of minced watermelon in its center. Nothing says summer like chilled tomato soup, except chilled tomato soup served with a helping of relish made from the most summery of melons.
The Handle Bar, the Michael Mina restaurant in Four Seasons Jackson Hole in Teton Village that formerly had a rather forlorn menu, has fully hit its stride. The watermelon gazpacho ($13) is only the tip of the iceberg.
From there, if you’re on the gorge-yourself-silly program that I was, I recommend going for the asparagus salad ($16). This salad has the most interestingly named dressing I’ve ever seen: lemon pie vinaigrette. Really.
I don’t know where The Handle Bar lead chef Jeffrey Hileman or sous chef Ryan Schelling – both of whom are instrumental in creating menu items and presentations based on Mina’s signature touches and aesthetic – get the “pie” from in this dressing. Not that I tasted any hint of lemon pie, which was fine by me. I’m generally of the school that it’s best to separate my vegetables and dessert. The name made me smile though. (Could there be chocolate chip cookie dough vinaigrette?)
While the gazpacho is only a meal in and of itself for those with the tiniest of appetites, the asparagus salad could be a meal for someone with an average appetite. Warning: you will dream of the salad’s melted burrata for days afterward.
However, I recommend splitting the salad with someone so you have room for a sandwich or entrée. For the former, the chicken shawarma ($18) is tops. My favorite entrée is the fish and chips ($22). Reaching into the metal bucket the fish and chips are served in, it’s impossible to pull a whole strip of the fish out without it breaking off. The fish—phyllo-crusted cod—is that flaky and tender.
I believe that fried fish often is merely a vehicle for tartar sauce, especially when that tartar sauce is house-made, like it is at The Handle Bar. I ate two entire cod strips without any tartar sauce on them at all. This was not because I was out of tartar sauce.
The chicken shawarma is one of the best sandwiches on any menu in the valley now. Hunks of chicken are nestled into a thick spread of roasted garlic hummus and topped with a lemon yogurt dressing that would make mud palatable. I can attest that it’s great the next day too, just in case you have to take half home with you.
While all of the above make for one of the best lunches in the valley, even without factoring in points for The Handle Bar’s expansive patio at the base of the JHMR bike park, the desserts are the stars of the menu.
They’re pricey ($11 each), but one bite of the Southern Comfort peach pie and its accompanying ginger ice cream will make you forget what money even is. I like to think myself a bit of a pie connoisseur but have never before encountered such a hearty-yet-delicate crust. This crust – the pie comes not as a slice, but as a round – has serious structural integrity, but not so much so I couldn’t chomp through most all of it.
Also, kefir lime panna cotta with a summer berry consommé. What more needs to be written?