An Old Haunt Revived

In the early 1970’s when I was was a teenager my parents would drive from Casper Wyoming to  Laramie Wyoming for the University of Wyoming football games. Many time after the game we would go to a steakhouse that sat at the edge of Laramie on the road to Fort Collins,Colorado. In front of the steakhouse was about an acre of yellow prairie grass and an abandoned stage coach.

The steakhouse was called the Cavalryman. The building sat out in the open prairie and was a plain white house looking more like an old farm-house then a high-end restaurant. Back in the 1970’s in Wyoming steak was king and when my family went to Laramie for a football game we considered it a rare treat to drive out the Cavalryman for dinner. In the mid 1980 I came to Laramie to go to College and the Cavalryman was our go to restaurant for birthdays, graduations and important family get-together. Since leaving college I have returned to the Cavalryman on numerous occasions and always found the steaks to be consistently excellent.

This last week Charlene and I chose to drive the old mountain road that connects Laramie to Fort Collins and as we neared Laramie we saw the old stage coach and that historic lonely white house sitting out in the middle of the yellow grassed prairie. The Cavalryman was open and it was a no brainer we stopped to check out one of my old haunts and see if it still had one of the best steaks in the country.

The dining experience  was a blast from the past from the moment we walked in the door and were surrounded by the atmosphere of the old west that had been the atmosphere back in the 70’s when my parents had loved to go to the Cavalryman. It was a friday night and when we walked into the warm and historical atmosphere the hostess apologized and said the wait would be about 30 minutes. After about a second of consideration we opted to sit at the bar and eat there. It turned out that moving to bar was fortuitous because at the bar we met the new manager of the Cavalryman Brien Sonzogni. Brian was sitting at the bar with his mother and wife and it only took a few minutes to strike up a conversation about the Cavalryman and Brien’s plans.

We were surprised by the very broad spectrum of wines offered by the glass. When I commented on the great wine list Brien beamed and then explained that they were in the process of putting in a 90 bottle inert gas dispenser which would give the Cavalryman the largest selection of wine by the glass in the State of Wyoming. He explained the wine dispensary should be in place in a month and also some enlargements to the bar area. When I asked, “are you going to change the atmosphere?” Brien was stern and said, “no way were just going to make the bar a little bigger.” It was clear from his mother that was sitting with him and his wife that they all loved the old historical atmosphere and just wanted to take the dining experience up a notch with some new menus items and and extensive wine and alcohol selection. One of the additions to the liquor selection was an aged cherry bourbon that Brien poured from a cask.

Brien’s mother had a shot of the bourbon on the rocks with a single dark red cherry and claimed it to be the best Manhattan on earth. I’m not a bourbon drinker but Charlene agreed that Cavalryman’s innovative Manhattan was a treat. As our conversation progressed into different food we were served their wedge salad with blue cheese dressing. The salad was delicious but I couldn’t resist going out into the car to get a sample of the Blue Cheese we had purchased at the Veldhuizen Cheese Shoppe in Dublin Texas a few days before. Brien took down all the information on the Cheese factory and seemed interesting in seeing if their handcrafted cheese could fit into their menu.

Our conversation of wine and the planned renovation of the Cavalryman was interrupted when our beautiful perfectly prepared 16 oz rib eye steak arrived.  Charlene and I split the 16 oz rib eye steak and walked out with left overs.

Our trip to the Cavalryman was a like a return to the past for me. After having the chance to visit with Brian and his family and hearing the great ideas on how they planned to take the Cavalryman to the next level as a dining experience but also to keep it’s historic atmosphere I was inspired.

One of the goals of our road trip was to see how small business people are prospering and at the Cavalryman I got one more strong indication that small business in America is alive and prospering. Brien’s vision of a broader more dynamaic menu that still had great steaks as a centerpiece and a diverse selection of 90 wines offered by the glass will insure that my old haunt will be sitting out on the Wyoming prairie and grilling some of the best steaks in America for a long, long time.