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Savoring Sun Valley: 5 Iconic Dishes You Can’t Miss

The word “iconic” is often used when describing various aspects of the resort town of Sun Valley, Idaho. The home of the nation’s first chairlift, the ski resort has drawn icons ranging from Marilyn Monroe (her movie Bus Stop was filmed here) to Ernest Hemingway to Jamie Lee Curtis. And just as the beautiful mountains and the small-town pace of life are a draw to those icons, so too are some of the favorite dishes served up only in Sun Valley. 

The Most Iconic Bites in Sun Valley: A Culinary Adventure

Schooner from Grumpy’s

Visiting Sun Valley and not getting a schooner from Grumpy’s is considered somewhat sacrilege, so do yourself a favor and order up this burger joint’s famous 32-ounce goblet known as the schooner. Fill it with your choice of beer for only $7 and enjoy it either outside on the patio in the sun or inside, where you can let your eyes wander over the various ski- and beer-related paraphernalia lining the walls. 

Grumpy’s in Sun Valley, Idaho. Photos by Hayden Seder.

If you’re not a beer fan, you can also get a mimosa schooner for $11; be forewarned, the mimosa schooner is almost a whole bottle of Cook’s champagne, so you’ll be feeling it for sure. Get it “Grumpy’s style,” with a floater of orange soda.

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Baked Potato at Pioneer Saloon

Located on Main Street in Ketchum (Ketchum is synonymous with Sun Valley) is the Pioneer Saloon, a favorite establishment since it opened up shop in 1972 (though the space was home to several casinos prior). Meals at the “Pio,” as it’s referred to locally, are quintessential Western fare of steak and potatoes. 

iconic bites in sun valley, idaho
Outside of the Pioneer Saloon. Photo by Hayden Seder.

Eating a baked potato in the Potato State is a must, but the potatoes at the Pio are in a league all their own. A football-sized baked potato (most potatoes at the Pio are around 20 ounces) with all the fixings will only set you back $5.95 a la carte, or $3.95 to include with your dinner. Go for the local favorite, a Jim Spud, a baked potato topped with teriyaki prime rib, grilled onions, and cheese. 

Fondue at the Roundhouse

While this dish isn’t available year-round, it’s certainly worth trying if you find yourself in Sun Valley in the winter. Located halfway up Bald Mountain, the Roundhouse serves lunch and dinner throughout the winter in Austrian ski chalet–inspired digs. It’s the perfect spot to stop in the middle of the ski day with friends and get the restaurant’s most iconic dish: fondue. 

Fondue for two starts at $44 and comes with artisan bread, grapes, fuji apples, and gherkins for dipping. It’s $20 for each additional person, and for an additional charge, you can add beef tenderloin, pork belly, boar salami, or winter vegetables to your fondue. 

Morel Sauce from Michel’s Christiania

Another famed, long-standing restaurant in Sun Valley’s history, Michel’s is said to be where Hemingway ate his last meal. The French restaurant, run by the eponymous Michel Rudigoz, features classic French dishes with an Idaho twist, the most famous of which is the restaurant’s morel cream sauce. Available on either chicken breast or filet mignon (if you’re feeling decadent), the morel sauce is on the menu year-round, featuring locally sourced morels. 

Hammtini from Casino

While this “dish” isn’t a meal, it’s certainly a good stop on your tour of Sun Valley icons. The Casino is the area’s local dive bar a la Cheers—it’s where everyone knows your name. Hemingway and Hunter S. Thompson are just a few who have bellied up to this bar where cash is still preferred, birthday celebrators are made to chug Smirnoff Ices on a knee, and the lack of windows keeps the sun from reminding you of what time it is. 

The signature drink of the Casino is known as the “Hammtini,” which makes it sound fancier than it is: a Hamm’s beer with a chunk of lime on top that’ll only set you back $2.

Popovers from Grill at Knob Hill

When I was a kid growing up in Sun Valley, I absolutely lived for going to the Warm Springs Ranch, for one reason and one reason only: their scones. These delicious pastries were served in a basket for free to start any meal at the establishment, along with their homemade honey butter. 

iconic bites in sun valley idaho
Popovers, photo courtesy of Grill at Knob Hill

While the Warm Springs restaurant has been closed now for many years, the scones live on in their new incarnation as popovers at the Grill at Knob Hill. Located in the Knob Hill Inn, the Grill is run by former Warm Springs Ranch managers Bob and Jolie Dunn, who brought over the famous recipe and now serve them as popovers, along with the classic honey butter, alongside entrees. The Grill serves up innovative American northwest cuisine with a menu that rotates seasonally, but no matter the changes, there are always popovers.

Eating Your Way Through Sun Valley: A Foodie’s Guide

Sun Valley, Idaho, is not just a haven for winter sports enthusiasts, but also a culinary destination with iconic dishes that have been drawing famous names for decades. From the famous schooner at Grumpy’s to the Pio’s giant potato, the food in Sun Valley reflects the town’s Western roots while also incorporating unique Idaho twists. 

The Pioneer Saloon’s baked potatoes and the Grill at Knob Hill’s popovers pay homage to the area’s rich culinary history, while the fondue at the Roundhouse offers a taste of Austrian-inspired cuisine in the heart of the ski resort. And, of course, the Hammtini at the Casino is a must-try for those looking to experience a piece of Sun Valley’s quirky dive bar culture. With such an array of culinary delights to choose from, it’s no wonder Sun Valley continues to draw visitors from far and wide.

Hayden Seder

Hayden Seder is a freelance writer based in her hometown of Ketchum, Idaho. In the 10+ years she’s been a writer, her work has been published in publications including Backpacker, Climbing, Sun Valley Magazine, Boise Weekly, Idaho Press, and more. When not putting pen to paper, Hayden loves rock climbing, mountain biking, reading, and camping with her rescue pitbull Otis.


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