SHOSHONE — Grilled onions smothered in melted Swiss cheese, a generous portion of sliced ham, lettuce, tomato and a pickle — all served on a grilled hoagie.
This mouth -watering mishmash of ingredients comprises the Manhattan Melt at Shoshone’s Manhattan Café.
So how did this now-popular sandwich come to be?
Back in the ‘90s, one local customer requested the special order, cook Ron Wyant recalled.
“He’d always order it whenever he came in,” Wyant said.
Other customers grew interested in the sandwich and began requesting it, too. Eventually, it caught on, and the Manhattan Melt became an official part of Manhattan Café’s menu. It costs $8.99 — plus extra for fries.
That’s all Wyant could tell me about it June 7 as he took a quick break between making meals. He’s been a cook at the restaurant for 37 years, but the café’s roots go back to 1890.
Manhattan Café sits alongside the railroad tracks, which once offered passenger train service. Ernest Hemingway and other famous people stopped in at the café regularly before taking their car or bus connection to Sun Valley.
“There used to be passenger trains, and it used to be 24-hour,” Wyant said.
The Manhattan Café now serves food 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. As one of the few eateries in Shoshone, locals and visitors alike come through its doors for breakfast, lunch, dinner and desserts. The café has specials Monday through Thursday, and a buffet on Friday.
While the restaurant has been remodeled several times, it still displays mementos of its historical charm. Train-themed décor along its walls, a brief history of the train station and even a small gift shop were still conspicuously placed around the cafe.
But behind-the-scenes, another employee was participating in a Manhattan Café tradition. Gladys Carpenter, 76, carefully measured and weighed rounds of dough for that evening’s dinner rolls. She’d been doing this for 17 years, and said the café makes its own dinner and cinnamon rolls and biscuits — as the restaurant couldn’t find a supplier and a recipe it liked to order these in.
Carpenter said she needed to keep working because she didn’t earn enough income from Social Security; but she was doing what she enjoyed.
“Even from a child, I’d bug my mother to let me do what she was doing,” she recalled of her memories in the kitchen.
The restaurant also boasts of its own hand-breaded chicken fries.
In the dining area, customers waited at tables and at the bar for their food as a waitress busily assisted them. Wyant was back in the kitchen, busily preparing orders.
I paid for my sandwich and, taking one last look around at this quintessential piece of Shoshone, headed out to my car parked near the quiet train tracks.