Hidden Gems, Wyoming’s Best Eats: More Than Just Great Pizza — Big Horn Restaurant a True Community Partner

Big Horn Merc Pizza sells between 150 and 200 pizzas per day during the summer. The restaurant, located in Big Horn, is open year-round. (Courtesy photo from Angela Atherton)

By Bob Wooley

Special to the Wyoming Truth

BIG HORN, Wyo.—As you drive up to Big Horn Merc Pizza, just down the way from Sheridan, or along the winding road from the polo fields, the Old West vibes are hard to ignore. A cast-iron, horse head hitching post stands guard outside the front door. And the Big Horn Mercantile Co. sign, perched above the tin awning, gives little away. But a delicious Italian experience awaits you inside.

The aroma of bubbling mozzarella cheese, basil, garlic and savory meats surrounded me as I stood transfixed, watching flames dance inside the brick oven behind the counter before I placed my order. That’s where the magic happens.

The atmosphere is inviting in a comfy, rural way, befitting the locale. Well-trod hardwood floors mix with high-top tables, while school sports memorabilia keeps things local on the walls above.

A pie cooks at 667 degrees in Big Horn Merc Pizza’s brick oven. (Courtesy photo from Angela Atherton)

That local spirit isn’t just lip service. According to manager Angela Atherton, owners Frank and Kirstin Maestri love supporting Big Horn schools.

“We do a lot of business with the school for sporting events and team dinners,” she said. “And then when the school sports teams go to events like state tournaments, we throw the team a free pizza party. It’s a really good community here that keeps us going.”

Atherton has worked at the Merc for over seven of the eight years it’s been open. You can find her most mornings picking the freshest organic produce from a local grocery vendor to put on top of the pies each day. It’s the kind of dedication you can taste in every bite.

I had a medium Margherita pizza ($17.75) and a small order of Cheesy Bread ($10.95). Neither disappointed. The pizza, loaded with plump tomato slices, rich, fresh mozzarella and a finishing drizzle of olive oil, was perfectly balanced. Fragrant basil leaves topped it all off with herbaceous notes to please both nose and palate.

To be clear, when I visited, the toppings were tasty. But the real star was the crust. Chewy, with just the right ratio of crispy edges to soft inside — it was the perfect counterpoint to the cheesy, tomato-y goodness it propped up.

And speaking of cheesy goodness — the Cheesy Bread — with olive oil, garlic, basil, Asiago and mozzarella, made for a savory bite with a slight hint of salt that kept me going back for more.

Manager Angela Atherton slices a piping hot pizza for a customer at Big Horn Merc Pizza. (Courtesy photo from Angela Atherton) 

It goes without saying — but I’ll say it just in case — that classic pizzas like Meat Lovers, Supreme and Pepperoni are popular everywhere and Big Horn is no exception. You can find them on the menu alongside other staples like Hawaiian and Classic Cheese. There also are 10 artisan brick oven pizzas on the menu, ranging in price from about $18-$25. Or if you’re feeling saucy, you can create your own masterpiece.

Atherton listed the Savory Safari with its marinara, garlic, Legerski sausage, Peppadew peppers, parmesan, mozzarella, hot honey and fresh basil, as a customer favorite. The Italian Brickhouse is another big seller, she said.

Those favorites make up a big chunk of the total number of pizzas Big Horn Merc sells every day. It’s a number that’s surprisingly big for a town that had just 382 people in 2020.

“In the summertime, we average between 150 and 200 pizzas per day,” Atherton said. “We get a lot of repeat local business. And in the summer, the rodeo brings in a bunch of customers. We get a lot of tourists and people from all over Wyoming.”

When things are hopping on warm summer nights, they make pizzas as long as the demand is there — often staying open late to fill every order. Winter business can be brisk too because The Merc is open year-round.

If you’re not a fan of pizza (is that really a thing?) Big Horn Merc has a salad bar and also serves calzones, sandwiches and desserts. And if you like a cold beer or glass of wine with your pizza, they’ve got you covered.

Big Horn Merc Pizza, 210 Johnson Street, Big Horn, Wyoming; 307-672-5534. Dine in or take out. Open Monday and Tuesday, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. and Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Closed on Sunday.

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