BLACKFOOT — Due in part to popular demand, Blackfoot is getting a new dining experience at 1217 Parkway Drive, in the new Teton House restaurant, and it opened for business Tuesday.

Up to now, the restaurant — which got its start in Menan on March 17, 2017, and has had a growing reputation since then — has had a bit of a soft opening, going through testing, tuning things up, getting servers through a training mode.

Today, according to co-owner Leo Hancock who runs Teton House with his partner Danielle Dexter, it’s the “real deal.”

Up to now, Hancock has invited in construction workers, the Bingham County Sheriff’s Office, the Blackfoot Police Department, city planning and zoning, and the Blackfoot mayor to do a test on the kitchen and some of the food.

The official start is at 11 a.m., open until 9 p.m. with extended hours possible. The plan is to have the restaurant closed for now on Sunday and Monday, then the following Monday they will be open for regular hours with a Sunday opening for business coming once the breakfast menu and service is smoothed out.

Hancock is taking things steps at a time to perfect the overall experience, he said.

Once Sunday service starts in a couple of weeks, they’ll open at 8 a.m. until about 4 p.m.

The restaurant seats a little over 100 diners, Hancock said.

Hancock and Dexter came to the Rigby area from the Seattle area. He said they were going to come here to retire, but they decided they were going to get bored doing that.

“We found this little place in Menan, which used to be a bar, and I was going to convert it to a sports bar,” Hancock said.

He said he was working for a billiard company, which put him in different bars and restaurants for 30 years, where he learned how to set up furniture and position things in a more effective way in order to run a restaurant.

“What I knew about the restaurant business, you could put at the end of a bobby pin — and not the big, round end, the smaller end,” he said.

Dexter, on the other hand, has been working in the restaurant industry since she was 16 years old, starting as a server.

“It’s always been kind of a little dream of hers to open up a restaurant,” Hancock said.

So they opened up Teton House in Menan, and it was the start of something big.

“It took a little convincing that we actually had a menu and it was more about customer service than it was beer and wine with town leaders there in Menan, but we gambled on that and they accepted us in the community,” Hancock said.

“We do a lot of things with non-profit groups,” he added. “We’ve done Thanksgiving dinners the last couple of years for free for the entire community. We’ve supported the city with fireworks donations, Easter eggs, any community event.”

Hancock said he would like to continue that in Blackfoot, saying he doesn’t see any reason for not giving back to the community.

“We’ve got some staff now who are very experienced, and we’ve let them loose coming up with specials,” he said. “If there’s something that’s phenomenal, we’ll run it as a special.”

Lobster chowder

Lobster chowder is a big-selling item at Teton House.

Among Teton House’s signature meals are a Tomahawk steak dinner for two, halibut that’s brought in fresh, and lobster chowder is a key feature.

A Prime Rib Teton Dip is one of their signature sandwiches. The restaurant’s burgers are never frozen, with patties from a third of a pound to a half-pound, and meals come with a mountain of fries on the plate, and if that’s not enough they have endless fries.

When fully open, Hancock expects to employ 25-30 people with a young staff.

“They’re easier to train with good habits,” he added. “I want people to be taken care of like they’re family.”

His attention to detail and general excellence even goes into how the restrooms are set up.

“You can judge a place by their restrooms,” Hancock said. “Our restrooms have a warm, clean feeling, nice décor. You’re going to know you’re not in your typical restaurant. And everything on that menu will be above what you’ve ever had, I don’t care what it is. I like entertaining people and I like to make other people happy, that’s one of the things that makes me happy. You’ve got a thousand different choices on what to eat, and when you want to go someplace special, where do you go? You can come in here in work clothes or you can come in here in a tux. It’s got a sports feel with all the TVs, but it’s the kind of place you’d be proud to take your mom on Mother’s Day.”

Teton House in Menan was becoming so popular that people were going to the town from far away just to experience the restaurant, Hancock said.

“We’ve had so many customers driving from Blackfoot that I’m hoping it takes a bit of pressure off the Menan restaurant, and it’s not too far of a drive here if you’re in Pocatello or Chubbuck,” he said. “We’ve had people coming from Salt Lake City, Boise, Jackson all the time. We picked Blackfoot because the location is right off the freeway. Big chains haven’t come here because it’s too close to their other locations. For me, I wanted to try it.”

To back up his comments, while being interviewed Monday around lunch time, a customer from Blackfoot came over and told Hancock he was happy to have Teton House coming in, saying he’d been to the Menan location three or four times.

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