I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Greetings from Cheyenne, Wyoming
N 41° 09.429’ W 104° 39.667’ Elev. 5979 ft.
I love Sapp Bros! Any company with enough class to dress up water towers — and storage tanks and light poles — into coffee pots has to be lovable.
The first Sapp Bros truck stop was founded by the four Sapp brothers in Omaha, Nebraska at the junction of I-80 and Highway 50 over 40 years ago. It now has 15 truck stops scattered mostly throughout the Midwest, with locations as far west as Salt Lake City and as far east as Clearfield, Pennsylvania. Needless to say, I’m attracted to it because of its funk … and the food. And the free WiFi is nice, too.
According to its website the Sapp Bros’ “iconic logo began as a simple water tower in 1971 to supply the needs of the businesses that were located to the west of the Omaha metropolitan area on Highway 50 and not accessible to the conveniences of city water and sewer. A few years later the coffee pot handle and pour spout were added to the refurbished water tower and the landmark became known to Omaha residents and I-80 travelers alike.” And it’s bitchen.
In years past Sapp Bros leased out its restaurant space, mainly to The Great American Restaurant. In recent years, however, the company has taken the spaces back, remodeling the restaurants and running them itself under the name Sapp Bros Cafe.
This is both good and bad. Good because they’ve introduced more consistency to its restaurants. But bad because with all the remodeling and such all the really funky stuff is gone, like the “ass-dentations” in the all-too well-worn booths, the separate “Drivers Only” room with a phone at each table (this was BC — before cell phones) where truck drivers still smoked cigarettes and used “spicy” language, and the regular folk just weren’t invited to hear the truck drivers — who, curiously, had plenty of time to hang out in truck stops — tell endless lies about how much money they made.
But the food, I think, has improved as a result. Or, rather, it’s a little safer to order with confidence and knowledge that you’ll get what you ordered, and expected, regardless of time of day; they serve the full menu when its open. Then again, they’re no longer 24-hour affairs, which kind of sucks.
I’ve eaten in three of the Sapp Bros Cafes but will focus on the last one I ate at, in Salt Lake City, where I ordered the Chicken Fried Steak. For $9.99 you get the Steak, one side, and the soup/salad bar.
This is classic Chicken Fried Steak. It’s nicely breaded, crispy outside and tender inside, and truly a generous portion. It comes smothered in homemade country gravy that is, easily, the best I’ve ever had on the road. Made from scratch, it’s got a lot of nice little bits of sausage in it, and the gravy’s consistency is perfect, not too thin or thick, and it actually has flavor.
As my side I chose mashed potatoes — they have real mashed potatoes! But damn: Again I forgot to ask if they had chicken gravy. I love chicken gravy, but it’s rarely found. The meal is rounded out with Texas toast that is really tasty, toasted on the griddle and mildly garlicky.
The soup/salad bar is always sort of funny. But the soups are usually great. This visit they had chili, which I thought could’ve been spicier, and a chicken-tomato soup that was awesome. Basically a chicken vegetable soup, it had big noodles in it. I’ve experienced similar noodles elsewhere and they were gummy, poorly made crapoids — usually billed as “dumplings” — but these were delicious. The broth was sort of a chicken stock with hints of tomato. God, I wish I had a sophisticated enough palate to describe it because that broth was awesome: light, tomato-ish, homey, refreshing … and it had a generous amount of chunks of white meat chicken in it.
The salad bars on the other hand are always kind of small and minimal at the Sapp Bros Cafes, but yet there are always surprises. On this visit I made up a fruit salad plate. When I got back to my table I discovered that the cantaloupe had fresh, ripe pineapple in it. Fresh, ripe pineapple! It’s one of those fruits that we forget how good it is until we have it.
For dessert I ordered a giant piece of Carrot Cake ($3.59) to go. It too was great. A nice touch, I thought, was that the honey-cream cheese frosting was decorated with slivers of shaved carrot. It took me awhile to figure it out. It was a nice crunchy touch.
Not all of the Sapp Bros Travel Centers (all the truck stops are “travel centers” these days to upgrade their image) have restaurants, but the ones that do are worth a visit if you’re traveling. They’re good folks and they’ll take good care of you.
And so we roll.
Sapp Bros. Truck Stops, 15 locations scattered between Salt Lake City, Utah and Clearfield, Pennsylvania
Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.