Hip Times in One-Horse Towns

Born and raised in Wyoming, I have a good feel for small towns with wide spaces.

Occasionally I return home, welcoming the blank vistas with the wan appreciation of someone who acknowledges, yes, this is home, but I’m glad to just be visiting. I have gotten too used to the soaring emerald Rocky Mountains perpetually on the edge of my vision. The sage green waves of Wyoming hills make me feel too exposed to the sunlight, the wind and the watchful eyes of the hawks that soar by.

I recently spent my weekend with my back to the mountains, visiting family in the wide open plains of Cheyenne. It was a lovely visit, full of family and food and laughter.

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However, since beginning work at a third wave coffee shop, I have become a coffee snob. I found myself ridiculed by my family for doctoring my Seattle’s Best dark roast with enough cream to flood a small village.

I couldn’t spend a single weekend without catering to my caffeine addiction, so I found myself stopping in Laramie, Wyoming on my way home to the mountains in search of a good coffee shop.

“Come check us out sometime!” I recall a chirpy pair of girls saying as we served them lattes in our shop back home. “We’re in Laramie!”

And there it was, at the end of Grand Avenue, right next to the train tracks: Coal Creek Coffee.

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We sipped our respective drinks, critiqued their latte art and reveled in the warm, brick-wall hipness of a college hangout. We left re-caffeinated and almost ready to continue the drive.

Wandering around in the sunshine up and down the lower half of Laramie, the wind blew as though the town were abandoned. Every shop was closed for Sundays, leaving nothing but hot pavement and the ever-present Wyoming wind.

“Hey,” my co-wanderer said, stopping me short. “Check this out.”

A chalkboard for a pizza place stood in front of us, under a striped awning.

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“I’ve just got a good sense for this place. I’m not even hungry, but let’s go in there.”

Foodie senses alight, we entered the joint. Immediately a good omen greeted us: a giant painting of Bill Murray’s character in the Wes Anderson film The Life Aquatic.

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(We’re particularly big fans of Wes Anderson.)

Sitting down at a bar table in view of the open kitchen, we were able to watch and converse and observe about all we saw. The kitchen was staffed by three sauntering employees, turning out good food at their own pace, grinning and joking behind the line. Our waitress, heavily lipsticked and beaming, took her sweet time taking our order, but we didn’t mind… there was no rush, no need to turn tables here. Everything just was what it was when it wanted to be.

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Our pizza, when it finally arrived, was delicious. A Greek pizza labeled ‘The Billhook,’ featured crumbled lamb, roasted and blistering tomatoes, feta and tzatziki. Something about the warm lamb, the cooling tzatziki and the crispy thin crust just hit the spot.

“I love these kinds of places,” we kept exclaiming. “Holes in the wall in the middle of nowhere.”

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So if you find yourself wandering Laramie, alone in the middle of Wyoming, waiting for a killer slice of pizza or a cup of coffee, now you know where to go. Sometimes the best places exist off the grid.

Check out Coal Creek Coffee and Crowbar and Grill!

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