If living history is your thing, then dinner at the Irma Hotel will be a night to remember. It isn’t just the food, but the combination of food, entertainment and history lesson that makes a visit to the Irma Hotel special.
“Buffalo Bill” Cody built the hotel in 1902 and named it for his youngest daughter Irma. A western pioneer and entrepreneur, Cody created Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in 1883 to share the stories of the wild west across the United States and Europe. The large cherry wood bar in the dining room was a gift to Buffalo Bill from Queen Victoria, after the Wild West Show performed in England.
The Irma is listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service because of its significance in the establishment and development of the west. It is possible to spend the night at The Irma, and many people do on their way to and from Yellowstone National Park. But, if you can’t get a reservation, then just dinner is the next best option. Pre and post-dinner entertainment add to the fun. If your schedule does not allow for dinner, try the lunch buffet or just a drink at the bar for a peek at Queen Victoria’s generous gift.
Most nights during the tourist season (late Spring to early Fall), the evening begins at 6 pm with the Cody Gunfighter’s show. The show takes place on the porch of the Irma and in the street out front. The night I visited, Buffalo Bill and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid returned to the streets of Cody to educate and entertain us about their escapades in the late 1800s. Visitors can sit on the porch and order a drink or watch from the street for free. For a small cash donation to help support the production of the show, there are chairs available in the audience.
After the show, it is time to head into the dining room for dinner. After dinner, entertainment includes live musicians in the Silver Saddle Saloon, the hotel bar. A live band is often also on the front porch of the hotel. A third option is to head next door to Dan Miller’s Cowboy Music Revue, where local musicians serenade the audience with the same old American favorites the cowboys sang at night around the campfire. We are reminded this is not country music but cowboy music, and while there might be a bit of overlap, they are not the same.
Location: 1192 Sheridan Avenue, Cody, Wyoming
Menu: As a hotel restaurant, The Irma is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Prime Rib is the featured special, and they do this well. Prime Rib can be ordered in a 10-ounce, 12-ounce or 16-ounce cut. Portions of more than 16 ounces can be ordered for an additional $1 per ounce. In traditional American fashion, the beef comes with a side of potatoes, a vegetable and garlic toast. The price also includes a soup or salad. Garden Salad or Caesar. Nothing exotic or unpredictable.
Sirloins, Ribeye, New York Strip and Filet Mignon round out the steak offerings, all cooked to order.
Seafood offerings are somewhat regional, with a grilled Pacific salmon, Rocky Mountain rainbow trout and jumbo shrimp from the Blue-Ribbon streams of the Rockies, and a simple 8-ounce grilled halibut in a lime vinaigrette dressing.
Other favorites include a chicken pot pie, chicken fried steak and baby back ribs offered as a full or half rack. There is a limited sandwich and burger menu for those looking for a more casual experience at a lower price point.
But, the real feature, and the reason most people visit the Irma is for the prime rib buffet, which not only features the world-famous slow-roasted prime rib, but also includes ham, fish, BBQ Buffalo, pork ribs, pasta, Oysters Rockefeller, coconut shrimp, and baked cod as well as potatoes, gravy, vegetables, soup and salad. For the price point and the variety, it is the best value, and the quickest way to be served.
This is definitely a menu for big eaters, so be sure to arrive hungry, as if you just arrived into town after a long day on the stagecoach, or perhaps just finished rustling the cattle from the range into their pen.
Thoughts: More people probably find their way to the Irma for history and entertainment than the food, although the food is good. Wyoming is a great place to order beef, and the Irma knows how to prepare Prime Rib. The hotel is set up to serve many guests in a somewhat intimate setting quickly, and it does this well.
Take the time to read the history of the hotel before your server takes the menu. Ask lots of questions, as the staff is quite versed in the history and legends of the building. This is a gathering place that maintains many of the charms of yesteryear and sets the mood for the visitor’s exploring the Wild West and making their way to America’s first National Park.
Touristy? Perhaps. Nostalgic? Most definitely. This type of ambiance is all part of the fun of exploring someplace new. Look around and you will find many things that will pique your curiosity and engage you in the local ambiance.
Reservations are suggested, especially if you are trying to dine in between the pre and post-dinner entertainment.
Price Range: Breakfast Buffet $12, Lunch Buffet $13-18, Dinner Buffet $28, Burgers and Sandwiches $10-15, Steak & Seafood $22-31.
Disclosure: The author was a guest of the Park County Travel Council during her visit to Cody.
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