The Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway starts in Boise. It follows Idaho 21 north to the historic mining town of Idaho City, where you can still pan for gold in a nearby stream bed. You will proceed to Banner Summit, one of Idaho’s highest at 7,056 feet and then begin a descent into the town of Stanley. As the roadway grooves through the steep foothills and thick forest, you can catch glimpses of the Sawtooth Mountains ahead; finally, they come into full, magnificent view.
Pulling into Idaho City, “you will see the forest as it should be; silent, without the hustle bustle” exclaims Skip Myers of Donna’s Place. You will indeed find that the mountain air is clean and fresh, with a fragrant hint that something yummy is being dished up at this mountain city restaurant.
As Skip and Chef Patrick meet, Skip firmly informs him: “Now Donna my wife is the owner. I’m just the worker!”
Q: It appears that both Idaho City and Donna’s Place behold a real piece of local history.
A: Donna and I started this place in 1993 with a dream to take care of the residents of Idaho City as if they were our own family. We both have ties to Idaho City. Donna’s grandfather Sam Ross was part owner of the Shannan Heggerty Saloon; he was killed in a gun fight in 1936 by Dub Reeves. My grandfather George Myers drove a team with gold ore in 1904 in Idaho City and then went to Thunder Mountain in 1905 hauling ore. As a kid I used to take branches from the trees and make pencils out of them, selling for $1.00! I’ve written a bit of history of Idaho City both in a published book called “Boise River Gold Country” and a brochure that is given out through local businesses. And we’ve had our share of battles through the years. In 2004 a fire took away Donna’s Place and left us with nothing but smoke and a memory. The fire, as it was discovered, started in an old soda pop machine. Then in 2010, we were once again left with charred wood and ashes to another fire. But we keep rebuilding to serve the locals the best way we know how.
Q: So you are really here for the community? Yes, we believe in taking care of the local people first, giving them good food at reasonable prices. Plus the café is part of a general store, and we have another smaller store in Placerville. We let the tourists come through and enjoy what the locals like. We serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner so we are here to supply any hungry traveler on the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway. This year we put in a taco bar that has taken off quite well, but I’d have to say our signature dish is our big 1.5 lb. burger. It’s a doozy! And in the summer who can resist a hand scooped ice cream cone?
The end of the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway is one of the most beloved scenic views in Idaho. The mountains, meadows, and streams converge together with breathtaking beauty. But this really isn’t the end of your journey until you have experienced a good Idaho “Meat and Potatoes” meal at Bridge Street Grill.
Chef Patrick is in awe of the beauty driving into Stanley. And with just a little jaunt into Lower Stanley, Chef finds himself with Brett Woolley, the owner of Bridge Street Grill.
Q: So rumor has it that this is the place for a real Idaho “Meat and Potato” meal!
A: That’s right! I am a traditional Idaho cowboy, so that’s basically what I serve. The menu is me! My favorite is a big Ribeye steak (which we hand cut) and a huge Idaho potato. But my motto over the years has been “Feed the monster”. What I mean by that is to constantly make adjustments to what the people need and what the employees need. That balance has evolved into a nice menu and remodeling projects every year. The view is our stage and adding on good food and service has put us on the map. Our signature items now are our Idaho Ruby Red Trout with lemon butter and grilled capers, Prime Rib, and our Burgers with hand-cut Idaho potato French fries. We don’t offer any specials, just the main menu so we can focus on what we do well.
Q: What’s next for Bridge Street Grill as you “Feed the monster”?
A: Well, our position on the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway brings people from all over the world. So staying true to our Idaho Cowboy menu is part of the charm for them while visiting our state. However, there are trends that need to be incorporated. Shooting for this Memorial Day, we want to add Sushi and a bit of fresh seafood including maybe a scallop shish kabob. We will probably roll out this program on the upper deck where the view is most spectacular.
Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway
Several camping and fishing opportunities dot the route of the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway, particularly between Idaho City and Lowman and along the Payette River.
At the cutoff road to Grandjean, the roadway leaves the Payette River and squeezes between two of Idaho’s wilderness areas. On the right, the Sawtooth Wilderness and its 217,000 pristine acres of coniferous forest lands and wilderness lakes. To the left, the Salmon-Challis National Forest, entryway to the 2.3-million-acre Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, with more contiguous acres of road-less wilderness than anywhere in the lower 48 states.
Location: From Boise on Idaho 21, northeast to the junction of Idaho 75 at Stanley.
Length: 130.9 miles. Allow 3 hours.
Special attractions: Lucky Peak State Park; Idaho City; The Springs; Granite Creek Interpretive Trail; Kirkham Hot Springs; Stanley Lake