Laramie restaurants featured on Food Network |
LARAMIE — Foodies can’t seem to get enough of Laramie as Food Network megastar Guy Fieri dug into two other local gems for an episode of his hit series “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” airing on Sunday. March 18.
Featured are Sweet Melissa Café, a vegetarian restaurant that Fieri calls “a just vegetarian place,” and Born in a Barn, a local joint that kicks the wings and burgers up a notch.
For Clayton Scholl, co-owner of Born in a Barn, earning this national recognition was the result of years of hard work, hopefully. The show aired the day after Saint Patrick’s Day, which was also the nine-year anniversary of the restaurant’s opening.
“It’s the top of the mountain (for) any restaurant owner,” Scholl said, adding that his love of performing, also known to fans as “Triple D,” inspired him to open a restaurant. in the first place.
Prior to joining the restaurant, Scholl worked at Cathedral Home for Children, a local youth and family resource center. This would be the place where he met his wife, Stacey, and his business partner, Jessie Reece.
Reece’s culinary background helped the couple get started, but the first two years were rocky as they explored how to run a functioning restaurant.
“It was a nightmare,” Scholl said. “It’s been a difference day and night (now) since we opened.”
Before the smell of juicy burgers and wings wafted out of the kitchen, the air at Born in a Barn was thick with smoke and grease from a faulty hood ventilation system.
Scholl cashed in his retirement savings and used his van as collateral for loans to open the restaurant. The duo worked every day, from opening to closing, for two years without making a profit.
“Our regulars basically paid our utility bills,” Scholl said. “If it wasn’t for these guys, we wouldn’t be open.”
One such client is Trent Brome, who loved the concept so much he wanted to be part of Born in a Barn. Brome bought the restaurant and used his experience to help with the business side of the restaurant.
Today, Born in a Barn’s creative menu and incorporation of fresh ingredients into every dish – in addition to updated equipment – are key to its success.
For Scholl, the best part of the job was the people he met through the bar and behind it.
“This isn’t just because of me,” Scholl said, adding, “90 percent of the credit goes to the employees. I want these guys to understand it’s because of them.
Employees and friends gathered at the restaurant to celebrate their episode premiere. The bar was buzzing with laughter and conversation, but when Fieri arrived the crowd fell silent except for frequent applause.
“It was hectic and exciting,” employee Taylor Ojeda said of the filming process. “It felt like we had succeeded.”
Just down the street, the Sweet Melissa Café crowd gathered around its own screen.
Customers cheered as the restaurant opened. Many were featured as the show’s patrons watched on March 18 — even those who didn’t make the final cut.
“When we got the call, we thought it was some kind of scam or something,” said Melissa Murphy, owner of the restaurant which opened in 1999. “It has been a really fun thing for all of Laramie.”
Saying he’s getting more and more calls from viewers to feature vegetarian restaurants, Fieri said Sweet Melissa brings legit flavor. He stood next to Murphy as she prepared two of her most popular dishes – lentil bread and a vegetarian banh mi stuffed with marinated seitan, a meat substitute.
“The seitan is delicious and it takes on the flavor (from the banh mi sauce) really well,” Fieri said.
But it was the side dish of coconut rice and black beans that blew him away.
“Where has it been all my life?” he asked rhetorically. “This is delicious.”
He also gave Murphy props for lentil bread, which he called a good substitute for meatloaf.
“I go crazy for lentils,” he joked, then likened the dish to “the most tender, chewy meatloaf you can find. I love the little crust you put on it (with the flattop).
At Born in a Barn, Reece has cooked up a pair of joint mainstays – the popper burger and the barnchos.
The double patty burger built with the flavors of a premium jalapeno popper drew a “Well done, my friend” from the host, while one customer called it “one of the things I I want”.
It was the barnchos that made Fieri and the restaurant crowd smile and crack. The homemade potato chip base (which takes more than a day to perfect) caught Fieri’s eye.
“These are some of the crispiest chips I’ve ever eaten in my life,” he said, adding that the unique nachos “are legit. Close the front door, the back door, close the barn door.
Being featured on “Diners, Drive-in and Dives” came with a warning for Laramie restaurant owners: prepare to be busy.
The staff of J’s Prairie Rose, which was featured last week, are already noticing an increase in popularity.
“It’s always surreal,” owner Jason Eickbush said of the national exhibit. “It’s something you don’t think will happen. Laramie is a small town, and it’s a really unique experience for us to have that here.
Although it’s too early to tell if the extra crowds are due to the show or not, Eickbush is happy with the experience.
“A lot of people are really proud of it, and so are we,” he said.