Sometimes it is nice to take a drive out into the country and even better if that results in a great meal at the destination. The Mann Creek Country Store and Cafe in Weiser is such a destination, a trip worth it both for the scenery along the way, the beautiful view while you’re there and the excellent food and drink to enjoy. The drive is simple and nice, taking less that an hour and 15 minutes from Downtown Boise. Cattle and horse ranching and green produce fields line the route. The cows sometimes stare at you as you drive by, while the horses are just plain disinterested.
As you pass through Weiser on US-95, the Mountain Man (formerly the Eclipse Man) at the Riverview Metal Art and Magic Shop greets you along the way and let’s you know you’ve only got another ten minutes. As you pull into the parking lot for the Mann Creek Cafe and Store, you know this is a special place. As owner Brenda Tanner explained, “The actual Mann Creek Cafe is probably about 100 years old. Recently modeled in 2011, it was closed down for three years and then we bought it a year ago, so we’ve been open a year on September 8th. Its been wonderful! This place is definitely a historical spot in the Valley so we’re thrilled to have it”.
Photo gallery follows
The key to the Mann Creek Cafe is FRESH. George Folkman, Brenda’s partner, explained, “None of our meat is frozen like our prime rib, our fish is hand-cut and battered cod, everything here is fresh. No frozen food at all”. Indeed, the freshness of everything is noticeable at the Mann Creek Cafe. Brenda added, “We worked for a long time before we opened with chefs to get the menu we wanted because we wanted to have really good, fresh food. Our finger steaks are all hand-cut New York Strip steak. We hand-cut them; we don’t bread them until you order them. We hand-tenderize them so they’re really fresh and wonderful.
We do our chicken strips the same way, we hand-cut all of our chicken, it’s all breast meat; and we bread it when you order it. Our shrimp is breaded when you order it. Everything is fresh, our hamburger is all fresh ground meat but we make the patties here on-site. None of our meat is frozen”.
It took a few trips to try several of the tasty items, but it was worth it. The Tri Tip Burger is a nice patty covered with the sliced tri tip, a flavorful cut of beef that is smoked to a nice flavor and tenderness. It is topped with cheese, BBQ sauce, lettuce and tomato. This was my first exposure to the Mann Creek Cafe, having been sent there after getting a ‘best food around’ suggestion from someone in Weiser when I visited a few days before the eclipse. The burger was cooked to a perfect medium rare and juicy, with the flavorful tri tip adding texture and a beefy punch. I was astounded—-this was the best burger I had enjoyed in a long time. The fries were crispy on the outside and nice and soft on the inside. I knew I’d have to come back and try some other items on the menu.
A return trip with some friends yielded plenty to taste. I had to try the Finger Steak Plate. Having had many places’ versions, many touted as the ‘best in Idaho’, I was anxious to try the Mann Creek Cafe’s version. And the verdict was—these might be the best ones in Idaho. The New York Strip finger steaks were tender, juicy and flavorful, while the breading was crunchy and perfectly cooked. The dipping sauce, the traditional cocktail sauce, added a nice zing to the finger steaks. Cutting them with just a regular knife was easy, a testament to the quality of the beef. It was so much nicer though to grab one, dunk it and bite it. No knife and fork necessary! The tater tots that came with it were nicely seasoned and fried too.
A straight Tri Tip Sandwich was really nice. The thick slices of smoked tri tip, served on a hoagie with cheddar and BBQ sauce, were smoked nicely and very tender. Overall, it was a delicious beefy sandwich and a great way to see what the relatively unknown tri tip cut is all about. The tri tip is smoked every day, seven days a week. On Friday and Saturday nights, they also smoke Prime Rib. It is available until it runs out. Often times a 40 pound order of Prime Rib vanishes within a few hours since people come from far away. Many claim it is the best Prime Rib in the Treasure Valley and Southwestern Idaho.
The signature burger at the Mann Creek Country Store and Cafe is of course the Mann Creek Burger. As Brenda described it, “The Mann Creek Burger is two patties, double cheese, double bacon; it’s wonderful. The patties are 1/3 pound patties and you can have your choice of cheese, pepper jack, Swiss, cheddar and American. It’s definitely a favorite, people like to add tri tip to it also. Then you have the double beef, double tri tip, double bacon, double cheese; that thing’s huge…….you’d be amazed how many people can actually finish one of those!”. George added, “People who order it, order it every time. Every time!”. When the burger was brought to the table, it was indeed huge. The cornmeal-dusted bun held up well to the big burger. The patties were juicy and the burger itself very tasty.
The Mann Creek Cafe has plenty of beverages to keep everyone happy. Besides fountain drinks, there are some good beers. One of the favorites were the Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy out of Wisconsin. Locally, the Wooly Bugger Wheat Beer, from Sockeye Brewing in Boise was really delicious. Brenda said, “We try to pull a lot of craft beers out of our local area. We support Sockeye, Payette Brewery, we support Ten Barrel, they’re all local breweries. We have ten beers on tap and a million different bottles of beer! We do beer, wine and then some pre-mixed hard drinks”. That is another reason to go to the Mann Creek Cafe for a drink. There is an outside bar on the deck and live music on it on Friday nights.
Sitting on the deck on a sunny afternoon, enjoying the view of the nearby hillsides while enjoying a cool drink, it is easy to spend a few hours relaxing before heading back to Boise. If you want to spend over a few hours, there is even RV parking with full hookups. There is plenty of parking for cars, a bonus when they host Christmas parties, wedding and anniversary parties and other special events.
One thing that everyone saved room for was dessert. Brenda is very proud of the desserts she sells. A Cherry Cobbler was ordered and it was delicious, freshly made and served with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. Brenda came by the table to tell us, “We make peach, cherry or blackberry cobbler and we have brownie sundaes. We top them both with ice cream and it’s delicious! We do a Cheesecake Chimichanga also. It’s a chimichanga but inside it’s cheesecake. The filling we home make here and we put raspberries or strawberries on top of it, cream and then graham cracker crumbles. It’s rolled in a large tortilla. It’s really good!”.
It was finally time to return to Boise. The drive was easy and the memories of the afternoon at the Mann Creek Cafe good. It’ll be a regular drive in the future, for great views and delicious food and relaxing times.
Mann Creek Country Store and Cafe
1498 Highway 95
Weiser, ID 83672
Phone: (208) 549-2169
Open seven days a week
Photo Gallery follows. all photos by Ed Simon for The Boise Beat.