When we left Devils Tower, rather than retrace our route back to Sundance, we headed north on Highway 24 through Hulett with a stop in Aladdin, WY, before reaching home base.
Aladdin is home of the Aladdin General Store, the best preserved of Wyoming's five remaining 19th-century mercantiles.
As the Wyoming tourism web page reads: "When you need everything, including the kitchen sink, there's no better place to go than the Aladdin General Store. The Store, which has been amassing inventory since 1896, has antiques that probably weren't antique when they first came to the store. It also has everything from fishing supplies to clothing, groceries, art, beer and hardware.
"While the store's stock has probably changed a bit over the last 115 years, not much else has. The interior woodwork, cabinetry and windows are all original. The peeling wallpaper upstairs in 'Aladdin's Antique Attic' is original. The roll-top storage bins behind the counter are original... and old scribbled prices on them bear proof of inflation over the years"
Walking through the store is like walking through displays of flea markets over the past half century. However, to truly study the variety of items for sale, walking would not be the best approach. Gathering a mental inventory would require more standing than walking. Only with a more stationary stance can one spot the one-of-a-kind, have-to-have treasure.
In addition to the antiques, collectibles, household items, and special stuff for sale, patrons can buy groceries, gas, liquor, and locals can pick up their mail. We could imagine this Acme Premier wood-burning stove at the center of a gathering of local residents on a cold Saturday morning.
Had it not been for a recommendation from the Sundance, WY, campground owner, I would have passed right by this place. We have eaten in some dives during our travels, but this place takes “dive-ishness” to whole new levels. But we were told that Cindy B’s Café in Aladdin had great “made from scratch” food; we put reservations aside and ventured in.
The café was purchased by Cindy Bringle in 2001 and probably seats no more than fifty in two small dining areas—one with a small counter. As you can see from the photos, all expense was spared on the décor. I don’t know about you, but I don’t often dine while sharing a room with a refrigerator and chest freezer.
Table coverings were green plastic.
The colorful tile-topped table, which went with nothing else in the café, showed that the furniture was mix-and-match.
When we entered, only one table was occupied by an elderly gentleman, but over the course of our meal the café filled to three-fourths capacity with most of the customers knowing each other.
The menu was short and contained three salads (one being a Cobb), seven sandwiches, three burgers, and six dinners (eight-ounce sirloin, fried chicken, chicken fried steak, hamburger steak, fried shrimp, and fish and chips).
We knew something was unusual when a table tent announced that the day’s special beverages were chokecherry ice tea and chokecherry lemonade. We ordered one of each and knew then that this was no typical rural joint. Both beverages had a great, tart cherry flavor.
Chuck ordered the patty melt with cheddar cheese and sautéed onions and with a side of kettle chips. (Other side choices included fries or onion rings). The patty melt came on wonderful marbled rye and was grilled to a crunchy crispness. I thought that the eight-ounce beef patty was a little dry but, again, we forgot to specify medium and this is the result of that oversight. Chuck, on the other hand, disagreed with my assessment.
The accompanying kettle chips were amazing. We had been told that Cindy B makes as many as possible of the food items in-house, but we never expected homemade kettle chips. These weren’t as hard as commercially bagged kettle chips, but still had a nice almost brittle texture and were lightly flavored with some seasoning blend.
Later, when talking with the campground owner, we learned that she orders the patty melt with kettle chips; eats the chips; orders homemade pie; and takes the patty melt home to be reheated for a later meal.
Ordering beef in Wyoming isn’t taking much of a risk. I, on the other hand, violated one of my dining commandments--“Thou shalt not order fish or seafood when one is one hundred miles for a major body of water. I chose the tortilla crusted tilapia filet sandwich on a toasted buttered roll with a side of onion rings.
I don’t for one minute think that the tilapia came into the restaurant in a never-frozen state. This is Aladdin, Wyoming, with a population of fifteen in the middle of nothing. But this was still a very good fish sandwich. The crushed tortilla chips have great a texture contrast to the flakey and moist fish. And the accompanying tartar sauce, which contained minced onion and dill pickle and was lightly lemon flavored, was definitely made in-house. The beer battered onion rings were a bit thickly cut, but still had a light coating.
Too full and too calorie conscious (yes, us) for pie, we left Cindy B’s following a 4.0 Addie lunch. As the trite old saying goes—“never judge a book by its cover.” Or a café by its exterior.