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Apr 6, 2008 10:41 PM

Small town Idaho

I planning a trip in the mountains of central Idaho. It may include small towns like Riggins, McCall, Stanley, and Salmon. Since I'm camping I mostly interested in lunch options, and grocery shopping for the evening meal in camp. I know from experience that finding things like this is hit-and-miss, with a lot of disappointing small town general stores, and the occasional choice find (like my first flat iron steak in Halfway OR, or smoked meats in Twisp, WA.).

Any gems that I should keep an eye out for, and maybe go out of my way to find? I wouldn't rule out passing through Boise or Ketchum for more options, but I'd rather not. Sometimes I've sought out farming towns in hope of finding a taco truck.


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  1. paul, how'd it go? I was going to rec stopping in at some guide shops and ask the guides where they eat and shop.

    3 Replies
    1. re: toodie jane

      Summer was late in coming to many parts of Idaho this year. Places like McCall were still emerging from the winter's snow. We also had a fair amount of rain. So camping was a bit on the wet and cold side, but over all it was pleasant trip. It was also one of the better trips in terms of food shopping. Small town groceries had a good selection of inexpensive beef. This time I had a folding grill and small pressure cooker, giving me some added options for cooking meats. We didn't eat out much - just 3 or 4 lunches.

      First stop in Idaho was Lewiston, where we bought deli chicken and ate lunch on the grass by the car. Then south to Grangeville, and east to Elk City and Red River Hot Springs. Considering its remoteness and small size, Elk City had a good grocery, where I bought some 1/2 price stew meat and 'backcountry sausage'. That night I prepared a quick beef stew in the PC, using a few small potatoes, carrot and cabbage that I'd brought from home.

      Then it was back to Grangeville, and south along the Salmon. In New Meadows I picked up some cube steak and eggs (better prices than in Seattle). I grilled the steak, and served it with fried eggs. At Paul's Grocery in McCall I got some 'mock tenders chuck'. They even had New Jersey Taylor hams (though I didn't buy any).

      Stanley felt like it was still emerging from a winter's sleep; the grocery I tried there seemed over priced and oriented to vacationers more than locals. In Challis we bought a Subway sandwich from a grocery and ate it in the town park. We camped near Salmon, but didn't shop in town.

      We crossed into Montana on US93, with snow flurries on the pass. Just over the pass we stopped for a swim at Lost Trail Hot Springs, and had pancakes for lunch. Seems they get most of their business from skiers in the winter, and special-events groups in the summer.

      I only got gas in Missoula, and then took 200 into Idaho. It was raining when we passed through Clark Fork, ID, so we chose to eat lunch at a local cafe (good beef soup, grilled cheese, ok chicken fried steak sandwich).

      We looked around Sandpoint, but didn't stop to shop or eat. We camped near Priest River, and made a side trip to Priest Lake. At the Harvest Grocery in Priest River I got two flat iron steaks and some ground buffalo. I grilled one steak, and served the other Shabu-shabu style

      We returned to western Washington via WA20. In Twisp I stopped at Hank's grocery, remembering that they smoked their own hams. They are now a Harvest grocery, and had just expanded, adding a bakery and deli, which were proving quite popular with the locals. They also had a cheese selection comparable to a upper end Seattle shop. Their smoked meats are still good.

      1. re: paulj

        Did you get to fly fish at all in Idaho..McCall, I hear is a lovely town..good eats for lunch/dinner?
        I so want to shred that mountain!
        Thanks paulj for your report!