I've held a bunch of jobs at the Star-Tribune: cops reporter, health writer, features coordinator, assistant content director and now editor. But for a glorious 18 or so months, I held perhaps my least deserving but most enjoyable title: food critic.
Yes, I wrote a food column, and yes, it was a play on my last name. Hungry Like the Wolf debuted in December of 2013 and ran until the summer of 2015. That itself is a minor miracle, given that I'm not at all qualified to judge food, as I don't like fish, pork or exotic vegetables like cucumbers. Also, because my editor allowed me to write about existentialism and science fiction.
Since I put down my fork and knife, a ton of new restaurants have opened in Casper. Some of those restaurants make food that's really tasty, and occasionally I'll get sad that I don't write about tasty food anymore. So I'm going to give it a shot and get the band back together for one final gig. Here are my favorite restaurants to debut in Casper post-Hungry Like the Wolf.
Himalayan Indian Cuisine
I love my wife and children. I love my parents and siblings. I even love my dog, despite his shedding and constant need for attention. After that, there's a three-way tie for my affection: indie rock, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Indian food.
You're probably saying, "Josh, that's very nice, but a lot of people like Indian food. That doesn't set you apart or make you special." And technically, you'd be right in that that none of us is exceptional, at least when considering the absolute size and age of the universe and the likely possibility that our universe is but one in a larger multi-verse. But you'd be wrong about my love of Indian food. Think about the depth of the Mariana Trench or the splendor of the Grand Canyon. Now multiply is by a 1,000 suns and you arrive at Josh's love of Indian food.
For a long time, that love was of the bitter, star-crossed variety. That's because there was no Indian restaurant in Casper. No longer. We are now home to an Indian restaurant. (That's quite possibly the most joyful sentence of my career.) It's called Himalayan Indian Cuisine and you can find it in downtown Casper.
It's got a swell lunch buffet that always leave me uncomfortably full. You'll find all the standards like chicken tikka masala, plus a few Himalayan options like the chicken chili. But the restaurant hits another gear with its dinner menu. The spices get bolder, the flavors more rich. I'd particularly recommend the korma and the rogan josh. (Not because of my name, silly.) The samosas are killer and the nan is complimentary at lunch. Stop reading and go try it. I'll wait.
Racca's Pizzeria Napoletana
When I first moved to Casper, pizza options were ... limited. There were the delivery places and not much else. I'm not going to call what happened next a pizza revolution, but we have good, locally made options now. That's both good and bad in that pizza makes me fat but also makes me happy.
The best of the bunch is Racca's, which offers fantastic food, great drinks and a cool downtown atmosphere. The crust is the real hero here: chewy and full of flavor. So are the fresh ingredients that make the toppings so tasty. I'd recommend the Lirguria, a basil pesto pizza topped with chicken, red onions, mozzarella, Romano and pine nuts. For cocktails, try the Backwards Wild Man, which has locally made rum and mead. And make sure you try the desserts, particularly the pannacota, which is so blissfully creamy that I'm tearing up thinking about it. But really, I've enjoyed everything on the menu, so try whatever you want because you'll like it.
Miss Sara's Gourmet Grilled Cheese
Technically, this is not a restaurant, in that it's a food truck and lacks things like a permanent building with classy decor and a toothpick dispenser. I don't care. It's great so I'm putting it on my list. Humanity took a great leap forward when some genius decided to class up the grilled cheese sandwich. No longer did we have to apologize for loving carbs, butter and cheese. We were foodies, sampling the richness of life via our stomachs.
I'd recommend the Berry Cheesy, which has mozzarella, a blueberry balsamic reduction sauce and spinach, which makes it incredibly healthy so don't worry about a thing. Or if you're like me, and you don't believe in half measures or restraint, try the mac and cheese sandwich. Then nap away the afternoon, content in your own good decision making.
Speaking of places where you'll want to nap afterward: Meet the Arepa Barn in north Casper. The food is very good, but also very rich. I mean that in the best way possible. It serves mostly arepas and empanadas, so prepare for a lot of grilled dough on the outside and meat on the inside. They give you a bunch of sauces to try and there's one with avocado and garlic and I won't talk about it in more depth because I try not to get emotional at work.
Here's another thing you should know about the Arepa Barn: The people who run it are about as friendly as you'll find at a restaurant. One of the owners comes by and shakes hands with every customer. It's an inviting environment, so if you're not sure about trying something new, don't worry, they will treat you right.