About two weeks ago, we visited Capser, Wyoming. It’s about four hours from Denver, but only around three from where we live in Northern Colorado. Art, history and kayaking were on the agenda, highlighted by a beer festival, and browsing a rather happening downtown.
I’ve already written about the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center and Independence Rock, and kayaking the Fremont Canyon. Today, I want to give you the rest of our Casper story.
Where to Eat in Casper, Wyoming
We hit up HQ BBQ for lunch the day we got to town. It’s actually a bit south of town, in Evansville, Wyoming. In business for a decade, it gets positive reviews among Casperites and those just day trippin’ through. Even on Twitter I was tweeted by a follower who always hits up HQ BBQ when traveling through Casper.
A bit dreary outside—the west was getting some much needed rain—I was in the mood for comfort food. I had come to the right place. They have a variety of mac’n’cheese bowls and I ordered the chili brisket mac’n’cheese. Ryan got a brisket platter with potato salad and mac’n’cheese sides.
The brisket is delicious and moist, but I have to tell you that despite everyone raving about the HQ BBQ’s mac’n’cheese, the potato salad stole the show. I kept sneaking bites off of Ryan’s plate, which was okay, he had enough food on his plate to feed two. Even Ryan couldn’t finish which was a real surprise (he never needs a to-go box).
Located in an old gas station, HQ BBQ is a solid barbecue joint along Interstate 25. And as a bonus, they have super nice wait staff.
Keeping with the meat theme, that evening we dined at Firerock Steakhouse. Honestly, I wouldn’t have found this place if I was just driving around Casper, but they were hosting me. It is popular and you will need a reservation on the weekend.
By the way, and importantly, this restaurant has amazing wine prices. Maybe it’s because we’re from the pricey land we call Colorado, but we were seriously impressed. We arrived early for our reservation and grabbed a drink at the bar.
When we sat, we started with crab stuffed mushrooms. As we perused the menu we realized that their food prices are a little lower than our neck of the woods too, especially for a steakhouse, but that did not affect the taste.
The steaks here are so good and cooked perfectly. Plus, the side salad I ordered was entree size. Believe me when I say, no one goes hungry at Firerock. I’ve already been recommending it to people because steak prices in my neighborhood have gotten a bit steep.
We ate lunch at Alcova Resort, 45 minute out of Casper. I wrote about our adventure and lunch here at Kayaking Fremont Canyon.
For dinner we went to Racca’s Pizzeria Napoletana located in what looks like a new, trendy area of downtown, the Old Yellowstone District.
The restaurant was packed so we skipped the wait and sidled up to the bar. I think that’s one of the benefits of being just two adults, no kids. By the way, bartenders are a great source of information about a place, although our two didn’t have time to chat because they were running to keep up with demand.
We split the OG Pizzeria Salad and a pizza called The Butcher, I assume because it features all the meat. I sipped on a Gypsy Tea made with Backwards Distillery Contortionist Gin, Crazy Women Mead, and Earl Gray and Lavender Honey Syrup. This is probably my favorite drink of the moment and since I bought some of the Contortionist Gin from Backwards, I’ll just have to find the rest of the ingredients.
Racca’s does not skimp on anything and we would definitely order our meal again. It has a bright and comfy ambiance on the inside with lots of light streaming in. Again, I suggest a reservation on a weekend evening as the place is popular. And yes, you can order straight up Italian classic here like chicken Parmesan.
Breakfast on the first day was a quick breakfast sandwich from Starbucks as we were on our way to Alcova Resort. On our last day, however, we waited at Eggington’s. We’d heard it’s worth the wait. It is. My one suggestion is to order green chile on the side, no matter what. Wyoming’s green chile game is on point. Also, their baked items like muffins are scrumptious.
Where to See Art in Casper, Wyoming
A contemporary art museum in Casper is unexpected to say the least. You’d expect to see a museum full of cowboy art or wildlife sculpture, but The Nicolaysen Art Museum (The NIC) is alive and well and in its fifth decade as a Casper staple.
I absolutely love the Serena Bocchino exhibit that’s on display now at The NIC. Bocchino creations include paintings, sculptures, silks and more. Her current work combines art and the written word to convey the stories of influential women. As a writer, this was, without a doubt, the most interesting to me. Bocchino’s work will be at The NIC through August 15.
The NIC hosts around 25 shows a year. Right now they are showing works by Cheyenne, Wyoming, artist Bria Hammock, David Von Metz of Rock Springs, Wyoming, and Mimi Fenton of Laramie. Fenton is exhibiting work that she created and was inspired during COVID-19.
Admission to The NIC is just $5 for adults and $3 for kids, making it an affordable way to spend an afternoon. And don’t miss the gift shop. Art museums have the best gift shops.
Fun Fact: This museum houses a house collection of doll houses. Occasionally they go on display.
Where to Shop in Downtown Casper, Wyoming
I’m not much of a shopper, and my tastes usually tend towards finding a local art gallery or brewery. However, it is pleasantly surprising to see all the little boutiques in downtown Casper.
In fact, it would be an excellent place to shop for a gift like the one we found at the Wyo Shirt & Gift for my mother-in-law. It’s a jackalope penny bank (she collects rabbits, so we felt she should have a jackalope from Wyoming among the collection). I also bought myself a Wyoming hoodie because it was cute and only $16. This place has nearly everything Wyoming made or branded including the most ball caps I’ve ever seen at one place, not counting Lids at the mall.
This town of nearly 60,000 also has a bookstore and a record store. Both of these are dying breeds elsewhere. Of course, Ryan always tries to track down record stores, he’s like a hound dog when it comes to the smell of vinyl.
Where to Get a Drink in Casper, Wyoming
If you enjoy craft beer, Casper has five craft breweries. We stopped in at Gruner Brothers Brewing because it was right behind our hotel and down the street from the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center. The perfect location if you are staying at Hilton Garden Inn.
They have a lovely patio shared with Ludovico Farm to Wood Flame Italian restaurant. We took in the expansive view of Casper along with pints of Gruner Brothers’ award winning Salt Creek Citra.
We also enjoyed pints at Frontier Brewing Company & Taproom. It’s a self pour brew pub but with a pandemic on they currently have brewtenders who will pour for you. Because a beer festival was happening down the street at David Street Station, there were few of their own beers on tap.
It has that old warehouse feel, with high ceilings and a dark interior. A second story allows for extra seating which steadily filled when we were there. Everyone was attempting to flee the rain storm falling on the beer festival.
Around the corner we from Frontier ran into Backwards Distilling Company’s downtown bar and went inside. It has a Night Circus feel—if you’ve read that book—if you haven’t, let me describe it as a Victorian circus with bright lights, bright colors and drinks with names like LuLu the Tattooed Lady.
I had the Behemoth of Holy Writ, a gin drink for lovers of martinis with a twist. Their Contortionist Gin mixed with the Ringleader Vodka, bitters and white grape juice will have you believing you’re a conveyor of biblical truth and knowledge after you drink it. Funny story. I went to Christian schools for much of my life so I could wax poetically about this stuff.
I kept it to one drink lest I started to proselytize to the masses. Ryan had a rum drink that tasted like it should have an umbrella in it. A truly delightful beverage.
Backwards Distilling seems to care a lot about how they make their drinks, right down to the kind of ice they serve. If you are into cocktails served right, belly up to the bar. This is where the magic happens.
This was my first visit to Casper, so I am no expert on the subject. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the friendliness we experienced there. Therefore, if you’d rather have a different type of food than I recommend, ask a local. I bet they will be more than happy to help with anything.
Feel free to leave a comment telling me you favorite spots on Casper. We know we’ve barely scratched the surface of what the city has to offer. We’d definitely explore there again.
Other shops downtown:
-Lou Taubert Ranch Outfitters | 125 E. 2nd St.
-Mustard Seed | 120 W. 1st St.
-Donell’s Candies | 201 E. 2nd St.
-WyoMade Apparel & Craft Goods | 225 S. David St.
-Floral Rhino |139 S. Center St.
-Cadillac Cowgirl |147 S. Center St.
Thank you to Visit Casper for hosting this memorable weekend.