Delicious Incongruity: fine dining in a mini mart

Mini marts and fine dining don’t typically coexist in the same building. They do in Pocatello, Idaho.

My typical mini mart meal consists of Cheetos and Diet Coke. Don’t tell anyone, but for road food they aren’t bad choices. I would never have dreamed there could be more.

Tonight, in Pocatello for a few days for work and by myself, I took a short trip across Clark Street from the Holiday Inn Express in search of “a real dinner”. Who knew I’d find one behind a bank of gas pumps?

I had thought to go to Jakers – always a good choice – but saw a sign for an Italian Restaurant, Cafe Tuscano. I could smell garlic from inside the truck with my windows closed. There weren’t many cars (I saw the Please Park in the Back sign on my way out), but I was feeling lucky so I kept going past the gas pumps in front. To tell the truth, I didn’t even notice them.

When I walked in, I saw cash registers, refrigerated coolers, and rows of processed food. It was a real mini mart, alright.

But over to the side there was a door to a dark room. Inside the room was Cafe Tuscano, an equally real kitchen, nice dining areas, and on the other side of a glass window, a bubbling fountain. And pretty darn good food to boot.

I ordered a great house salad, Steak Fettucini, and a nice Chilean Pinot. It was excellent. I would have liked to try other things too, but I was too full. Maybe I’ll go back tomorrow night.

When I returned to the hotel I started to tell the clerk, but he stopped me in mid-sentence.

“Oh my gosh! The crawfish bisque is amazing,” he enthused. I’ll just bet it is.

So, if you’re ever in Pocatello – maybe on your way to Yellowstone – take the Clark Exit. Go east from the freeway and it’s on the right. You can fill up your rig at the Chevron station and have a very good meal, all in the same place.

Fine dining in a mini mart. Who knew?


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