As a visitor to Teton Valley, you will never know all of its secrets. You will never know how a cattle drive can impact traffic when the cowboys are taking the doggies to higher elevations. As a visitor, you also could not fully understand our incredibly short growing season, or the impact that snowfall has on our economy. If you’re just blowin’ through, you don’t know anything about the last local election, or the history behind the politics here. And that is okay – you’re just visiting. Some of this stuff, you don’t need to know. But once in a while, a secret should be shared, especially with those that aren’t in the know. And especially if the secret itself is a mouthwatering, tasty one.
In Victor, an eye catching awning with the words, “Best Burger” provides shade over the Brakeman Grill’s front windows. These words are true. I have always been partial to the burger at the Brakeman more than anywhere else in the valley. The meat they serve is ground fresh daily. And there is a formula that owner Joe Reed has perfected over the grill that dominates his narrow kitchen.
A while back, my husband informed me that Joe had something new on the menu. Not to be left out of anything Joe might experiment with, I bit on the proposal that we give it a shot. “Well we better go now, then,” Tim insisted, and I found myself leaving the house at 8am on a Saturday for a restaurant that only serves lunch and dinner. When we got to the Brakeman Grill, the OPEN sign was turned off, but the door was unlocked and the lights from the kitchen glowed.
“It’s the Reins,” Joe called out in his native and nasal driven Tennessee drawl. “How you two doin’?” Behind the open window that looks into his kitchen from the cash register, he starts to prepare something without our asking. “It’s a breakfast sandwich”, Tim informs me. “He uses 460 bread. Look.” I watched as long as I could without allowing my appetite to take over and invade Joe’s kitchen, in search of my first bite. Both Tim and I made ourselves at home at one of the Brakeman tables, waiting in anticipation.
What was served to us, and what we have continued to eat since that time, was a breakfast sandwich like no other in the valley. Yes, 460 baguette bread is used, yes to cheese, yes to meat, yes to jalapenos (not too much, just enough), and yes to eggs. Wrapped in foil paper, Joe made sure we understood that this sandwich is designed for commuting over the pass. You don’t have to unwrap the whole thing to enjoy it, and it is contained for your dining/driving pleasure.
Last time I went in for this unadvertised treat, I came to discover that Joe had added other things to the breakfast repertoire. Now you can get Huevos Rancheros and a stack of pancakes. There is still no menu. You have to know what to ask for. Joe has started turning the “Open” sign on in the mornings, so that is a good indicator of whether or not breakfast is being served. Sometimes you have to bring exact change because Joe doesn’t know how to run the register when his wife Patty isn’t there. Just make sure you have five dollar bills on ya.
I saw Joe recently at a non-profit fundraiser. He was looking relaxed and happy, and informed me that he had quit his job. My face betrayed my confusion. “Oh no, Jenn, we didn’t close the restaurant. I just hired another cook so I could start spending time with my family. And look, I’m out on a weeknight with my wife.” It was nice to see Joe without a grill in front of him, unencumbered by his commitment to slinging hash. I worried, though, that the unannounced, underground breakfast would suffer. Patty soothed my concerns by promising that the employees manning the grill at the Brakeman understood the value of consistency.
And it’s a damn good thing, too, now that I am addicted to the Huevos Rancheros that is being served sometime between 6AM and 9AM in the morning on most days. Of course, I can only assume it is available since breakfast itself is not advertised (how can they say they are not serving it anymore, since officially – they never were?). And that is okay by me – I just love a local secret.