Food & Drink June 30, 2024

Fine Dining Throughout the Years

Celebrating Sun Valley’s longest standing restaurants

Sun Valley, America’s first destination ski resort, opened in 1936, offering scenic slopes and exceptional culinary attractions.  Here are five notable eateries offering memorable menus in the Wood River Valley for over half a century.

Sun Valley’s original restaurant, the rustic-yet-elegant Ram, has been wowing guests since 1937, including Bing Crosby and Marilyn Monroe. The Ram’s delectable offerings range from Hagerman Trout (potato leek hash, artichoke, spinach, crispy shallot, beurre blanc) to King Salmon ala Oscar (hickory, Dungeness crab cake, asparagus, whipped potato, bearnaise) to SRF Wagyu NY Strip (sherried mushroom, honey carrot, black garlic, potato pave). Travel back in time with the heritage menu and savor classic dishes such as Pork Tenderloin Schnitzel (1982–braised red cabbage, warm potato salad, lemon, lingonberry jam) on Wednesday or Stuffed Sole (1967–pacific sole, snow crab, tarragon beurre blanc, haricots verts, basmati pilaf) on Friday, while being entertained by Pianist Larry Harshbarger on the baby grand piano.

Boasting a venue that is truly above it all, The Roundhouse has served memorable meals since 1939. With 46 windows to take advantage of its 7,700-foot elevation on Bald Mountain, the octagonal restaurant offers an unforgettable view to match its menu. Try the Fondue for Two with artisan bread, grapes, granny smith apple, gherkin or Braised Lamb Shank—caramelized shallot polenta, honey roasted carrot, braising jus, and gremolata. The six-course prix fixe menu on Friday or Saturday night inspired by the resort’s European heritage includes Elk Tartar, Filet Minot, Pancetta-Wrapped Pheasant, and Zucchini e Zucca Pomodoro prepared by Chef Dustin White and even includes a gondola ride.

Sun Valley Roundhouse

The Roundhouse built an homage to Sun Valley Resort founder and Union Pacific Railroad chairman Averell Harriman.

A local favorite since opening in 1974, the Kneadery is housed in a quirky, charming old log cabin. Whether you crave cinnamon rolls or fresh Atlantic salmon with grilled watermelon, or the Cowboy Benny, which features a flat iron steak, jalapenos, poached eggs and house-made hollandaise, the Kneadery is sure to become your favorite. Under the watchful eyes of a moose and other game trophies adorning its walls, customers can grab a seat next to a roaring fireplace, nurse a hot chocolate or Kneadery smoothie and indulge in chicken-apple sausage or homemade blueberry bread.

Actor Gary Cooper became a regular customer at Christiania, which opened in 1959.  The restaurant quickly became a place to see and be seen.  Author and longtime local Ernest Hemingway had his own table and would read his mail at the bar. Photos and mementos from owner Michel Rudigoz’s time as the U.S. Women’s Olympic Ski Team Coach decorate the walls of the Olympic Bar, including skis signed by Picabo Street and Alberto Tomba. In honor of the sheep that have been so important to the Wood River area for decades, Christy’s has served lamb shank since its opening. Try the popular jarret d’agneau–lamb shank braised with red wine, or another local favorite–filet de truite meuniere–sautéed filet of Idaho Ruby Trout with parsley, lemon and finished with a touch of butter.

Also built in 1937, The Sawtooth Club was another Hemingway favorite and a local hangout of legendary actor and motorcycle and race car enthusiast Steve McQueen, who used to hop behind the bar to pour drinks and tell stories. Although McQueen favored a can of Old Milwaukee, The Sawtooth Club has a wide selection of signature cocktails made with craft regional liquors to choose from.

Specialties include Idaho Lemonade, made with Idaho Blue-Ice huckleberry vodka, Sprite and lemonade, or the Western Old Fashioned, which is a mixture of small-batch Yellowstone Select Bourbon Whiskey, bitters, fresh orange, and a splash of Grand Marnier with a cinnamon-sugar rim. Or warm up with Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate–Hot Chocolate, Stoli Vanilla Vodka, Tuaca, Caramel and Whipped Cream or a Baldy Bomber–Brandy, Peppermint Schnapps, Hot Chocolate and Whipped Cream. For dinner, indulge in the award-winning Rack of Lamb, marinated in olive oil, rosemary, garlic, soy and merlot, seared on the mesquite fire, then oven-roasted, served with house-made mint sauce, red wine demi-glace.  Or savor the Mesquite-Grilled Filet Mignon, the tenderest cut of all, specially-aged, northwest-grown, grass-fed beef, hand-cut at 8 ounces and grilled over a mesquite fire, finished with a rich red wine demi-glace.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe dined at Sun Valley Resort’s The Ram when she was filming “Bus Stop” in 1956.

Housed in a building over a century old, the Pioneer Saloon opened in 1945. It underwent a transformation in 1972–hence the phrase “Where were you in 72?” the theme of their annual Pio Days celebration held each November. Now owned by Duffy and Sheila Witmer, this Ketchum landmark, known as “the Pio” by locals, is a perennial favorite not just for its Western charm–check out the tin ceiling, pioneer artifacts (including bullet boards and a 1953 Winchester Model 21 twelve-gauge shotgun used by Hemingway for bird hunting), and trophy animal heads that line the walls. The grub also has timeless appeal, like Prime Rib – Midwest Certified Angus Beef aged in-house, the Pioneer beef kabob, or Jim Spud (Baked Potato with Teriyaki Beef, Potato Toppings and Cheese). Some say if you haven’t been to the Pioneer Saloon, you haven’t been to Ketchum.

Whatever your taste or preference, you are sure to enjoy the fine culinary traditions of these time-honored establishments.



Less than 30 years after silver was discovered near the headwaters of the Big Wood River, a mining town called Leadville was firmly established with a population of 2,000. Home to four restaurants, numerous “female boarding houses,” and 13 saloons, the town applied for official recognition but was informed there were too many towns named “Leadville.” It was decided to name the community after David Ketchum, a colorful local. It takes plenty of hard-drinking miners to keep more than a dozen bars open in such a small town. From the start, Ketchum has been a place to party.

Ketchum now has a population of about 3,600, and many of its watering holes have been around for decades. Here is a sampling of those with a long history of welcoming imbibers.

Whiskey Jacques’ was destroyed by fire in 2008, but owner Karin Martin rebuilt the live music venue and sports bar with higher ceilings and a much roomier feel but still managed to keep the dark-wood, mountain-town feel of the old Whiskey’s. Started in 1938 as the Alpine Club, it occasionally hosted games of chance and was a favorite of Ernest Hemingway. Renamed Whiskey Jacques in 1977, it’s a premiere venue for live music. Find a spot on the dance floor or drink in the views of Bald Mountain.

Pioneer Saloon

Pioneer Saloon

Hemingway discovered the Duchin Lounge (sometimes called the “Duchin Room” by locals) in the 1930s. Named after Marjorie Duchin, who decorated the room in the lobby of the Sun Valley Lodge, the Duchin Room offers signature cocktails like the Jamaican-Me-Crazy (Appleton estate rum, Averna amaro liqueur, lime, orgeat, topped with nutmeg) or Huckleberry Collins (belvedere organics lemon & basil vodka, St. Germaine elderflower liqueur, huckleberry syrup, lemon, club soda, mint sprig). Ask for the “Hemingway Special Daiquiri,” made with fresh lime and grapefruit juices.

Built in 1926 of logs harvested from Baldy, the Casino was once a working casino, café and hotel until gambling was outlawed in the 1950s. One of Ernest Hemingway’s regular haunts, the Casino is a favorite late-night spot. Though you can no longer play craps, blackjack or roulette, don’t miss your cue to play billiards with a local celebrity. This favorite watering hole is known by numerous nicknames like “the Cash Bar,” “the Casbah,” or “the Can’t Say No.

Almost 50 years old, Grumpy’s started around Cinco de Mayo in 1978. Indulge in one of the schooners they serve, which is about the size of a kiddie pool, and it’s unlikely you’ll stay grumpy if you come in that way. Serving both burgers and beers to locals, skiers, and celebrities like Bruce Springsteen or Tom Hanks, the ceiling is festooned with a kaleidoscope of beer cans.

In an Old West town like Ketchum, plenty of saloons offer a spirited time.

This article appears in the Summer 2024 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.