Teton House making Menan a must-stop restaurant destination

The Teton House in Menan is seen on Tuesday. Originally opened in 1910 as a bank, the location has also served as a bar and barbershop. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

Macadamia nut-crusted halibut served with rice and garlic bread is seen alongside a cod sandwich and fries at the Teton House in Menan on Tuesday. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

Patrons order at the Teton House in Menan on Tuesday. “I don’t want anything coming out that I wouldn’t serve to my granddaughter,” Hancock said. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

Owner Leo Hancock pours a Manny’s pale ale at the Teton House in Menan on Tuesday. Teton House features 16 beers on tap. Hancock, from Seattle, wanted to bring a touch of the city when he came to Menan.  John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

A Tomahawk bone-in rib-eye is grilled at the Teton House in Menan on Tuesday. The steak weighs in at 3 pounds.  John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

Danielle Dexter and Leo Hancock stand for a photo at the Teton House in Menan on Tuesday.  John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

What do you get when you combine the food prowess of a big city restaurateur with an old barber shop/bar in a town of less than 800 residents?

According to some, the region’s best restaurant experience.

Migrating from Seattle to Rigby several years ago for retirement, Leo Hancock and his partner Danielle Dexter initially believed their retirement days would be spent exploring the mountains, hunting, fishing, and just enjoying life after 30 years of work in the billiards and services industry.

“After a little while, I kind of got bored with that,” Hancock said.

So with free time on their hands, and the drive in their hearts to open a premier dining location in a quaint eastern Idaho town, Hancock and Dexter set out to find a location for their dream project.

And sitting in the middle of Menan, at 3563 Menan Lorenzo Highway, they found what would become Teton House.

“This little building out here, it kind of grew on me,” Hancock said. “The inside of this restaurant is really a lot about the heart of Menan.”

Restaurants and bars have been attempted in that location over the years, but failed time and again, according to Menan resident Dennis Dole. But something is different with this operation.

“(Leo and Danielle) are very professional and know what they’re doing,” Dole said. “There were three different attempts (before Teton House) in four years to get a grill or bar in there, and it failed miserably. The longest one lasted four months.”

After gaining support for the project from the city council and community, Hancock put his dream project into motion in the winter of 2016.

“When I decided to do this restaurant over here, I always wanted to do one,” he said. “I kind of anticipated it would turn into a little sports bar or so, but honestly, a lot of food that I ate (in restaurants) around here, I fed it to my dogs. So I just had a different standard, being from the coast.”

That standard ignited Hancock’s passion for providing customers with only the highest quality products. Featuring a vast menu, Teton House can be best described as a premium dining experience, and customers should expect the best, in Hancock’s mind.

“When you go to dinner, or experience, you’re having a birthday party or engagements, anniversaries, and it’s a treat,” he said. “I think a lot of people realize that. If you want and you’re hungry, you can grab a bite to eat at a gas station or a quick bite to eat somewhere through a drive-thru. You don’t go to a sit-down restaurant to get quick, cheap food.”

Teton House offers menu options featuring several different cuts of steak, chicken and a variety of sandwiches and burgers. The meat is never frozen, to help bring out the best quality in the product.

Hancock also offers halibut, although his source for the fish might come as a surprise to some due to the season.

“The seafood, I fly in fresh,” he said. “Halibut right now is out of season, except in Norway. From Norway, I’m getting fresh halibut in.”

These options and high standards for the food he provides might lead some to believe a restaurant such as this would not work in a small town like Menan. But to the contrary, the community has embraced Hancock and his concept, and Hancock has embraced Menan.

“When I opened the doors, the community showed up and would say ‘hey, this is a restaurant. This isn’t a nasty, smoking dive bar,’” he said. “And it grew.

“There have been nothing but compliments. It touched me pretty deep.”

And community members such as Dole have embraced the efforts of Hancock and Dexter to give back to the community and help show that something different can succeed in the small town.

“The biggest thing is that they were involved in the community right away,” he said. “And the quality of food is unmatched. People have been driving in from all over the area.”

Dole notes that Teton House has given back to many charitable organizations in the area, and most recently participated in the lighting of the town Christmas tree.

“They’re just so personable and fun to be around,” he said. “It’s been a plus to have them here.”

Hancock says every facet of the community, from church groups to bikers, have made the restaurant part of their normal routine. And to give back for this kindness, Teton House has become a centerpiece for giving back to Menan.

“I did Thanksgiving out here for free for the entire community, or anyone that could make it to here,” he said. “And I could not believe the support that we really gained from that. I couldn’t stop people from bringing in food. The donations were unbelievable.”

The Thanksgiving meal saw Hancock open the doors of his restaurant until 9 p.m. on the holiday, with not only donations, but volunteers from the community coming out to help.

“This restaurant is almost like a community center,” Hancock said. “I don’t even need to be here, and I’ll have customers help my staff out. It’s a little bit different here, it really is.”

Teton House is open seven days a week, with varying hours each day. For information, go to teton houserestaurant.com or call 208-227-8597.

Reporter Marc Basham can be reached at 208-542-6763.

Reporter Marc Basham can be reached at 208-542-6763.