Gillette, Wyoming
Chapters  1 2 3 4

A Taste of Campbell County

College friends reunite in Gillette, Wyoming, for a weekend of outstanding food and company

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A woman in a red shirt looks at Devils Tower National Monument near Campbell County, Wyoming

It had been 22 months and 11 days since we had all been together—not that I was counting or anything. Back in college, my best friends and I never went more than 24 hours without hanging out. I missed the gang, so I proposed a trip to Campbell County, Wyoming.

A woman in a red shirt looks at Devils Tower National Monument near Campbell County, Wyoming

I chose Campbell County—specifically Gillette—because of its somewhat central location to our new homes. It was an easy two-hour drive from Rapid City for Britney, about three and a half hours from Billings for Cole and five and a half hours from Denver for Sydney and me. Everyone jumped at the chance to take a break and reconnect. Well, almost everyone.

Culinary tourism at its best

A pint glass filled with beer from the Gillette Brewing Company in Gillette, Wyoming

“I’ve heard the area is beautiful, but how’s the food?” asked Sydney with a hint of skepticism in her voice when I first suggested Campbell County.

“Hear me out,” I said, as I began my appeal to her, an elite Yelper. If there was one thing Sydney hated about city living, it was the abundance of chain restaurants. She loved finding hole-in-the-wall restaurants and reviewing them online. As soon as I started telling her about the hand-tossed pizza crust cooked in an authentic wood-fire oven at Pizza Carrello, and how she could drink mead out of a steer horn at Big Lost Meadery, she was sold.

A pint glass filled with beer from the Gillette Brewing Company in Gillette, Wyoming

On our first night in Campbell County, we met up at Gillette Brewing Company. Cole and Britney were already shooting pool when Sydney and I arrived. After a round of hugs, we ordered a round of smooth Locomotive Browns—except for Britney, who needed something gluten-free and opted for the aptly named Silly Yak instead. Our initial catch-up conversations almost immediately returned to the playful banter and quick-witted comebacks we all missed so much, and I felt like I’d traveled back in time a few years. The live music and friendly atmosphere in this brewery housed in an old post office reminded me of our favorite pub near campus.

Over the next few days, we ate and drank our way around town. Between meals we visited the Rockpile Museum, where we saw fossils and other artifacts on display, shopped for antiques at Frontier Relics—part of the newly expanded and renovated Frontier Auto Museum—and toured the Durham Buffalo Ranch, where we got a glimpse of the bison source for many local restaurants. Although I initially didn’t want to eat bison after seeing the majestic creatures up close, I still wanted to give it a try since the tender meat received such rave reviews. It was so delicious, I even considered writing my own review.

Prime pick

Classic cars and a gas pump at the Frontier Auto Museum in Gillette, WY

The extensive wine selection and gourmet food at The Prime Rib Restaurant & Wine Cellar were nothing short of spectacular. Britney started with the potato soup, while Cole, Sydney and I had salads with the signature honey almond vinaigrette. We all teased Sydney as she snapped pictures that would undoubtedly accompany her online review, yet we took her culinary critiques very seriously.

Classic cars and a gas pump at the Frontier Auto Museum in Gillette, WY

“Mmmmm,” she quietly mumbled. “This dressing! Sweet, yet savory. Simple, yet sophisticated. It adds snap to an otherwise traditional salad.” With Sydney’s rave review, Britney was suddenly contemplating ordering her own salad, even though she already raved about how delicious the soup was.

Our main courses tasted just as delectable as the appetizers. The sirloin, prime rib and other dishes were cooked perfectly according to our individual likings and expertly seasoned to bring out the natural flavors. My only complaint was that I didn’t have any room left for dessert.

Old drinks, new adventures

A street sign for Gillette Avenue South in Campbell County, WY

On our last night in Gillette, we walked along the city’s main street, South Gillette Avenue, toward Big Lost Meadery to try the unique namesake beverage that most of us had never even heard of—let alone drank—before. The building had as much history and character as the mead itself. The assorted tables and reclaimed wood meshed together just as the sweet flavor of the fermented honey and fruit extracts teamed up with the yeast and water to create a palette-pleasing drink.

As I listened to Cole, a high school teacher and history buff, go on about how archeological evidence suggested that mead had been produced by humans since 7000 B.C., I let out a barely audible sigh. Britney turned to me and asked what was wrong. She could always tell when something was bothering me. Anyone else would simply think that boredom was behind that sigh, but not Brit—she knew me all too well.  

A street sign for Gillette Avenue South in Campbell County, WY

“I think I made the wrong career choice,” I confided. “I’m not passionate about accounting the way Syd is about reviewing restaurants or Cole is about teaching history. Did you see him when we were visiting the Wright Centennial Museum this afternoon? I thought the aeronautical artwork and western memorabilia were interesting. But Cole? He was like a kid in a candy store. I thought he was going to cry when he was looking at that antique book.” Brit sympathetically rubbed my back as I went on. “I work long days in a job I don’t really like, and for what? So I can make partner in a few years and work even harder?”

“But there is something you are passionate about,” Brit pointed out. “I saw your eyes light up when you were snapping photos of that racy, red roadster in the Frontier Auto Museum and the adorable bison at the Durham Buffalo Ranch. You have an amazing photo to show for everything we did here. Why not make photography your career?”

She was right. My accounting degree required general business courses, too, so I could use some of what I learned in college to be a freelance photographer. It was definitely something to think about—something I never would have considered if it weren’t for this trip to Campbell County. And with that, I ordered another round of drinks and raised my glass.

“To new adventures,” I toasted.

Focus on Campbell County, Wyoming, for your next adventure.