A Cafe Like No Other

Are the valley’s best sandwiches and espresso hiding in Kelly?

BY Rebecca Huntington

The Kelly on the Gros Ventre store in the small hamlet of Kelly in Grand Teton National Park offers lunch with a view of the Teton Range towering over Antelope Flats.

The Kelly on the Gros Ventre store in the small hamlet of Kelly in Grand Teton National Park offers lunch with a view of the Teton Range towering over Antelope Flats. Photograph by Bradly J. Boner

WHEN SUMMER CAMPERS step inside the Kelly on the Gros Ventre (KGV) store, a mile up the road from the Gros Ventre Campground in Grand Teton National Park (GTNP), they’re greeted by a blizzard of decorations. A model of a red tram hovers above the deli counter. Chalk drawings of skiers dot menu boards, and a shrine to Jackson ski legend Doug Coombs takes up one wall. The latter features a highly coveted poster of Coombs, who died skiing in La Grave, France, in 2006, from the movie Aspen Extreme, in which he was a stunt double.

But the atmosphere is anything but chilly. Forty-something owners Al and Heather Hunter are always ready to catch up on the finer points of football or the talk of the town. KGV is in GTNP, but it’s also in Kelly, an enclave of private property within the national park with a year-round population of about 140. Chat up Al and Heather over a “Yurtian,” a regular coffee amped up with an espresso shot. Yurtian (it rhymes with Martian) honors Kelly’s community of yurts—round tents adapted from Mongolian gers. Kelly resident Mark Newcomb, though not a yurt dweller, frequently stops in KGV for Americanos, which he says beat any served in Jackson, thirteen miles away and a comparative metropolis next to Kelly.

It only takes tourists one visit to feel like they’re part of the club, says Heather, who has extra affection for customers coming from the Gros Ventre Campground. Forty-two years ago her parents honeymooned there. Many years later during a return visit, they saw the KGV property for sale and bought it. In addition to the store, it came with a home and the land the post office leases. Heather’s parents got the adjacent home, but left store ops to Al and Heather, who also live in Kelly. The two have been running it since 2010.

HERE, FIREWOOD IS sold “by the hug,” with payment accepted on the honor system, explains Al, demonstrating with an air hug that reveals his tattoos of skiers and snowflakes. The couple keep the store open seven days a week in summer, but they close most days in the winter so they can ski. One of their favorite shop signs gives a running countdown of how many days until ski season starts. They love the startled looks from first-timers digesting KGV’s wintry decor on a hot summer day.

They also like to catch customers off guard with the quality of their coffee and sandwiches. A friend owns Denver’s Kaladi Coffee and fresh-roasts beans for KGV. The espresso machine, custom built in Florence, Italy, produces a “naked extraction,” which allows all of the oils from the beans to land in the cup.
Sandwiches are build-your-own, with just the right mix of ingredients—three or four breads, meats, and cheeses—to offer variety without overwhelming you with choices. You can get a veggie sandwich with sprouts, tomato, avocado, and cheese, or a bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado sammie served on whole-grain ciabatta. Al and Heather take pride in layering meat, veggies, and cheese for maximum “flavor profile” and “crunch.”

Although their roast beef, turkey, and veggie sandwiches have inspired rave reviews on mobile apps like Yelp, the Hunters pride themselves on remaining digitally disconnected. In fact, they do not have laminated menu cards so that customers must have a human interaction to get a sandwich. Reminding visitors that they’re in a national park is a sign warning of a very different type of interaction: “Caution! Stay inside store if bison in parking area.”

In summer, KGV is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. 307/732-9837

| Posted in JH Living
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