HIDDEN GEMS, WYOMING’S BEST EATS: A Taste of the East in the Heart of the West

From appetizers and cocktails to hearty main dishes, Teton Thai’s offerings are packed with fresh ingredients and bold Asian flavors. (Wyoming Truth photo by Melissa Thomasma)

Special to the Wyoming Truth

By Melissa Thomasma

JACKSON, Wyo.—Jackson Hole is home to plenty of restaurants dishing out Western fare. But tucked at the base of the valley’s world-class ski resort in Teton Village, there’s cuisine that’s less expected: James Beard Award-nominated Thai. 

As a longtime fan of Teton Thai, I’ve enjoyed the restaurant’s authentic noodle dishes and curries. On a recent sun-drenched fall day, I slid into a table beneath red umbrellas on the patio of Teton Thai and began the staggering task of deciding what to order. 

Sam and Suchada Johnson own and operate Teton Thai in Teton Village. A James Beard Award-nominated chef, Suchada’s culinary inspiration is her childhood in Bangkok, Thailand. (Courtesy photo from Sam Johnson)

Teton Thai opened its doors in an unassuming alleyway near the Town Square of Jackson Hole in 2001. Owners Sam Johnson and his wife Sucahda, assisted by his mother-in-law Boonlua, wanted to bring a taste of Thailand to the mountain town. Suchada emigrated from Thailand to California at the age of 20, and soon after relocated to Jackson Hole. 

“Suchada is really the reason we have a Thai restaurant,” Johnson said.

After a decade at their original location, downtown redevelopment forced the couple to relocate to Teton Village. It seemed a bit of a gamble: the restaurant space wasn’t snugged up in the densest part of Teton Village, and the owners wondered whether local customers would follow them to the other side of the valley. 

Many dishes, like the salad rolls, are vegetarian (or vegan), which means Teton Thai offers plenty of options for diners with all tastes. (Wyoming Truth photo by Melissa Thomasma)

But fidelity to the tantalizing Asian flavors won out.

“Ultimately, it was an opportunity to build exactly what we needed,” Johnson said.  “Though it’s small, it’s tailored to our operation.”

The interior of the restaurant, steeped in Thai-inspired decor infused with a subtle mountain charm, has a handful of tables that are typically bustling with enthusiastic diners. The vibe is laidback, and you’re likely to see visitors and locals in ski, hiking or biking gear depending on the season. 

Delicious plates and craft cocktails draw plenty of after-adventure customers year-round, as they drew me for a midday break and culinary escape to Thailand. I started off with the salad rolls ($12) — rice paper stuffed with mixed greens, basil, green onions, cilantro, cucumber, carrots and tofu, served with a savory peanut sauce. Though I was sorely tempted to dive into one of the hearty bowls of curry — offered in the full rainbow of green, yellow and red ($19-$25 depending on protein choice) — some days find me unable to resist noodles. I opted for Pad Kee Mao with tofu ($19): a heap of umami-sweet noodles mixed with fresh cilantro, bean sprouts, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions and Thai basil. 

Noodle dishes, rice dishes, and curries are all served with a variety of protein choices, as well as the option to kick up the spice as much as you like. (Wyoming Truth photo by Melissa Thomasma)

Every order comes with the same question from the server: How many “stars” of heat can you handle? These stars are not for the faint of heart. Zero stars carries no added spice, with five as the maximum. “3 is spicy…” the menu admonishes diners. “Choose wisely…” (I stick to a “2” on most days.)

Johnson admitted that while his go-to dish tends to evolve, his current favorite is the Pad Kar Pow with crispy duck breast ($25), a stir-fried rice with basil, bamboo shoots, bell peppers, mushrooms, onions and garlic chili sauce.

“We certainly don’t consider ourselves the ‘best Thai in the world,’” he said, “but what we’re presenting are classics that Suchada and her family grew up eating.”

This year, Suchada received a James Beard Award nomination for “Best Chef in the West.”

If you’re in Teton Village, whether you’ve just wrapped a day on the slopes or you’re just looking for superb Thai cuisine and cocktails (Teton Thai Spicy Margarita with chili infused tequila is recommended), look no further than Teton Thai.

And if you find yourself in Teton Valley, Idaho, Teton Thai’s other location (run by Suchada’s sister and brother-in-law) offers similarly authentic Thai fare.

Go ahead, use the cooling temperatures as an excuse if you need to. Nothing will warm you up faster than some spice from the heart of Thailand.

Teton Thai, 7342 Granite Loop Road, Teton Village, WY; (307) 733-0022. Open Monday through Saturday, noon through 9 p.m. Closed Sunday.

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