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 Hayden, Idaho.
Greetings from Hayden, Idaho
N 47.7601609 W 116.79176 Elev. 2294 ft.
I hadn’t been to Rustlers Roost for quite awhile. But I was keenly aware of how great its food is: I’ve been eating there off and on for nearly 30 years and, now, at its fourth (and final?) location. Thankfully, it hasn’t changed a bit, even after all these years.
The first thing that hits you when you enter Rustlers Roost is the sweet, pungent aroma of Marketspice cinnamon-orange tea. So distinctive (and comforting) is the smell that I could be led into Rustlers Roost blindfolded and I’d immediately know exactly where I was. I’d also know exactly what I was likely to order. But in all the years I’ve eaten at the Roost I’ve never seen anyone actually order that tea. I guess perhaps just the smell is enough.
I’ve long had a love affair with the Roost’s breakfasts ever since it was in its original location, a 35-seat hole-in-the-wall in downtown Coeur d’Alene. Over the years I’ve easily had well over a dozen different things off the breakfast menu. But I’ve established a real preference for just a few things, mostly because they’ve become go-to comfort foods for me.
In no particular order, they are Rustler Special: Three eggs, Chicken Fried Steak, Home Fries, and Biscuit & Gravy ($9.75); Boots and Saddle: Three eggs, Two Pork Chops, Home Fries, and Biscuit & Gravy ($10.75); and Lightweight: Two eggs, Two Sausage Links or Bacon, and Biscuit & Gravy ($8.00).
On this visit I had the Rustler Special. As always the eggs were perfectly cooked, the hash browns (my substitution) crispy, and the lightly-breaded Chicken Fried Steak fork-tender. But it’s the gravy that’s killer. I don’t know if they make it from scratch or it’s from a mix, but it has such a distinctive, somewhat chicken-y flavor. Add one of their signature biscuits and, voilà, you’ve got The Taste of the Roost.
Many people have commented on the size of the Roost’s pancakes. They say they’re large. The menu bills one as a 10” Solo Cake. (Both claims are moot, I think. I’m convinced that the size of the pancake is solely based on the size of the plate. Anyone can plainly see (see photo) that if the hotcake were any larger the server wouldn’t be able to grab the plate without squishing the flapjack. Duh!!! Nobody wants their flapjack squished. It’s just common sense.) They are large, though, about 10 inches across. I didn’t remember them doing it before but they served both “regular” and Smucker’s Blueberry Syrup with the pancake. Nice treat.
But all comfort food aside, easily the biggest treat of all was seeing owner Woody McEvers again. I’ve known Woody for nearly 30 years, which makes him old; coincidentally, Rustlers Roost is celebrating its 30th year in business this month. I hadn’t seen him for well-over five or 6 years. I suspect that, to him, I’m akin to a sea serpent of sorts; you never know when I’m going to pop up. Still, it’s always a thrill to see people you’ve known forever in great health and spirits, even (especially?) when they’re Woody’s advanced age.
There really is nothing unusual about the greaseless greasy spoon that is Rustlers Roost. Unless, of course, you want a great meal at a great price and don’t mind being treated like family in the process.
And so we roll.
Rustlers Roost, 9757 N. Rustlers Trail, Hayden, Idaho
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.