I really enjoy eating at out-of-the-way places. On road trips our clan has a policy of seeking out independent restaurants unique to the area. Rather than rely on the predictable quality of McDonald's burgers we would rather risk the uncertainty of quality, cost and quaintness. While Danskin Station may not be on most people's path of a long road trip, it certainly should be a planned stop on a camping trip into Idaho's interior. While we tried to plan a camping night around the dining experience, prior obligations made this a bounce trip. Drive up, eat, then drive back. The journey takes a little over an hour from Boise, but the drive through some of the prettiest country the state has to offer is worth it. Ten miles past Garden Valley on the way to Lowman the Danksin Station building sits all alone.
Once upon a time there was a hog farmer named Peter Danskin. There's a creek named after him just down the road from the restaurant. We overheard an employee tell another table the building used to be a Pony Express stop and stagecoach station. Back then horses pulled wagons up and down the canyon. Today boaters float the Payette River a stone's throw from the back of the restaurant and the wagon trail between Garden Valley and Lowmanis now paved. Other than that, not much has changed.
Since 1980, except for a temporary closure for a couple years after New Year's Eve 1999, Danskin Station has been serving food to customers either with the foresight to make reservations or lucky enough to be on the receiving end of a cancellation. (The restaurant only seats about 30 diners.) Inside a quaint, quirky building, we enjoyed a small but diverse menu. A palate cleanser of fresh veggies and dipping sauce greeted us. A bottle of wine and appetizers of green-lipped mussels from New Zealand, followed by lightly battered calamari prepared us for our delicious entrées.
As we ate, a stretch Suburban limo, white with dark windows, pulled into the parking lot and a crew of young men scrambled out. In a small restaurant it's easy to listen to other people's conversations when you're not having your own. We learned that one of their mother's had provided the limo ride and dinner as a graduation gift. Only problem was they didn't bring cash or a check and plastic is not accepted at Danskin Station. Arrangements were made to send a check and the boys continued their fine meal.
Our entrées arrived and I enjoyed the fresh catfish Vera Cruz while my dining partner enjoyed her filet mignon. I can't say we've had better or worse, nor could I say we could or could not get a similar meal in Boise for the quality or price, but the overall experience of the drive, the conversation (or overheard conversations) and the beauty of the canyon is worth the trip. A friend of ours was proposed to last year at the corner table. It's that kind of place.
As we ate, we watched a deer wonder across the highway, waiting, pacing and looking at us inside enjoying a fine meal. Was she wishing she were human so she too could taste the rosemary potatoes?
--Bingo Barnes plays rummy cube with ice.