Throw open the heavy wooden doors of the Pioneer Saloon, and you may well feel like you’ve taken a step back in time. From the lovingly scuffed barstools to the buffalo and deer mounts lining the bar, the name seems incredibly apt: one part Pioneer, one part Saloon.

Sit down, though, and you’ll find there’s much more going on at this Ketchum institution. Since 1971, it has found its right purpose: as a steakhouse—and as much a part of the town’s Western lore as the memorabilia it displays proudly on its walls.

“We’ve never tried to be anything other than a restaurant in Ketchum, Idaho,” says owner Duffy Witmer, who has spent 45 years making sure that the vision of founders Ed Redman and Larry Stone holds true.

    If the menu hasn’t changed since the early days, it’s by design. Patrons of the Pio know what they’re getting, and they know it’ll be darn good—whether they pick prime rib, Idaho rainbow trout or baked potatoes the size of footballs.

    (Just how serious are these potatoes? In 2014, then-Secretary of State John Kerry presented a pair of Pio bakers as gifts to Russia’s foreign minister. The dignitary’s response: “Impressive.”)

    “If Larry left a legacy, it’s the food,” says General Manager Gerard Kelly. “It’s about quality ingredients, simply prepared. There are plenty of restaurants around here that do fancy very well. We leave the complicated recipes to them.”

    Kelly should know—he’s been there 40 years himself, and still comes in to eat off the menu. Witmer, too, as well as most of the other employees.

    “Part of our success comes from our committed employees,” Witmer says. “The people who work at the Pio are a family, and family eats together.”

    For Witmer, family is the fire that warms the place. When he thinks of the Pio, he thinks of a backyard cookout. Dad’s sizzling steaks on the grill. Mom’s throwing together a simple salad. Somewhere, someone’s mixing up a good stiff drink to wash it all down.

    “It’s got to be a place where grandma feels comfortable coming for a meal,” Witmer says. A place for special occasions and everyday celebration alike. Sound a bit old fashioned? Well, maybe that’s the point.

    “What we have in Ketchum is really special,” Witmer said. “I do believe there’s magic between the walls of the Pioneer.”

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