Old time Rock Springs residents still remember some of the local restaurants from decades ago, and some still remember their favorite dishes from those restaurants, whether it be a main dish or a side dish.

Some of the dishes residents still talk about are the egg rolls or Singapore Chow Mein from the Sand’s (still available from Hungary Buddha); french fries with brown gravy from either the New Grand or Cummings; sodas, shakes and malts from Paul’s Variety; breaded veal from a number of restaurants including Jay’s Drive Inn; chicken or ham fried rice or Singapore Chow Mein from Lew’s, (which is still available); or a Shamrock including french fries from Grub’s Drive Inn (which is still available).

Two of the most talked about former Rock Springs restaurant meals included Chili Meat from the New Grand Café and the Blue Star Special from the 5 Star Drive In (sometimes known as the Star Drive In by locals).

Teri Nation shared the New Grand Café’s popular Chili Meat recipe, and Jill Barbuto, whose family owned the 5 Star Drive In, shared her family’s Blue Star Special hamburger recipe.

Chili Meat


2 pounds lean ground beef

Two large tomatoes

One large white or yellow onion

Two bell peppers (any color)

MSG (optional)

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

1 tablespoon of garlic powder

Five to 15 Mezzetta hot chili peppers (depending on your heat tolerance, five will provide slightly spicy and 10 to 15 will give you a very spicy dish. Omit the hot peppers completely for a mild dish)

Approximately 3 tablespoons corn starch mixed with water to create slurry

2 tablespoons of tomato ketchup

1 teaspoon of sugar

1 cup cold water

1 tablespoon soy sauce

— Mix the meat with salt, pepper and garlic powder before making the meatballs for a better taste and to keep the seasoning in the meat. If you prefer to cut back the salt content, skip the seasoning of the meatballs.

— Shape the meatballs. The best size would be ones that fit in the cup of your hand they should be medium to small sized and should fill the small cup of your palm. Make sure they are firmly put together.

— Slice the hot peppers to imitate jalapeno slices.

— Cut the onions in half then cut the halves into fourths and peel the layers away from each other to get a better crunch after they are cooked.

— Slice tomatoes into slices, but not too thin.

— Slice bell peppers fairly big about medium sized big enough to match the onions that way they cook evenly with the onions.

— Heat the pan. If you are using a wok, use a moderate amount of oil since woks are designed to cook with low amounts of oil. Make sure the oil has a slight amount of steam coming off it. If you are using a pan, make sure to get the highest heat possible before cooking so your meatballs do not fall apart.

(Note: if the pan is on a lower temperature, you will have to continuously drain the excess water and fat from the meatballs to brown them properly. To avoid crowding, cook meatballs in batches. You can put the meatballs back in together once they are all properly browned and drained.

— Once the meatballs are browned, add in the onions and peppers and let them cook until slightly translucent, stirring occasionally.

— Once the onions and peppers have cooked with the meat for a while, add the cup of water, and let that simmer for a bit.

— Add sugar, soy sauce, salt and pepper to your tastes, remembering that soy sauce and salt are both sodium.

— Once that has cooked, add the corn starch slurry and stir it in as you are pouring. Let sit for a while if the sauce is to thick add some water you want a consistency of light gravy but not to watery. If the sauce is too watery, add a bit more corn starch slurry, stirring occasionally.

— Add the tomato ketchup. You do not want the tomato ketchup to overwhelm the meat taste; it has to be just a small amount but enough to add flavor to the sauce.

— Once the food is done, add the tomatoes and mix well, turn off the heat and let the residual heat from the food and the sauce cook the tomatoes. Let stand until tomatoes are slightly cooked.

Serve with cooked white rice or noodles.

Blue Star Special hamburger

The Blue Star Special was a relatively simple hamburger recipe, but according to Barbuto, it was one of the best sellers at the 5 Star.


Hamburger formed into two patties per hamburger buns (80% lean is the best for hamburgers)


Tomato slices

Blue cheese dressing

Hamburger buns

— Form the hamburgers into desired patty size.

— Fry hamburgers on the grill (fry to medium for juicier hamburger).

— Toast hamburger buns on a grill.

— Wash and slice tomatoes and separate lettuce leaves.

— Build the Blue Star Special with the bottom bun topped with two of the fried hamburger patties, lettuce, tomato slices and blue cheese dressing. Top with the top bun.

“None of our burgers came with fries, you had to order them extra, but I’m sure everyone did, because they were delicious — made fresh everyday — even had a machine to cut potatoes into fries,” Barbuto said.

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