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Food with an edge: Paris West and its ‘cowboy cuisine’ to bring unique tastes and flair to downtown

Paris West chef Kent Cottle stands in front of a neon sign within the restaurant at 1719 Central Ave. in downtown Cheyenne. Kicking off life in the former Central Plaza Hotel with a limited menu for Cheyenne Frontier Days, Paris West when fully open will feature unique cuisine with an entertaining edge. (Briar Napier/Cap City News)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The total transformation of the former Central Plaza Hotel on 1719 Central Ave. is going to come in spurts, but the project is about to reach a major milestone.

And when the Paris West restaurant on the bottom floor of the building finally gets up and running with all of its bells and whistles, those involved aren’t just gunning for local praise. They’re looking for national and international acclaim.

Ambitious? Maybe. But it’s safe to say the eatery won’t be like anything Cheyenne has ever seen before.

As one part of local real estate developer Corey Loghry’s massive plan to transform the rundown, blighted property into a thriving highlight of the city known as The Downtowner, Paris West — which will open to the public with an adjusted menu for Cheyenne Frontier Days before fully opening in August — will bring a modern vision to an over 60-year-old space through an innovative and flamboyant style that blends cooking and entertainment.

The restaurant will be headed by a pair of chefs, Audrey Nguyen and Kent Cottle, who will team together for all-day fare from Nguyen’s savory pastries to Cottle’s vision to debut what he calls “cowboy cuisine,” or a fusion of Wyoming food staples (such as meat and potatoes) with French dishes.

With construction crews having recently installed a one-of-a-kind neon gold sign that’s plainly visible from the windows — even when driving southbound on Central Avenue — the aim is clear: extravagance and an experience unavailable anywhere else in Wyoming’s capital city.

“We want a vibe that draws people downtown and draws people to the space,” Loghry said. “We really just were not finding anybody that was coming in making an offer that met that vibe. … We stumbled upon Chef Kent and Chef Vy, great visionaries, so we ended up keeping the space and building it out to customize for them, basically. And now they’re going to run it.”

The bar area of the Paris West restaurant on 1719 Central Ave. in downtown Cheyenne. (Briar Napier/Cap City News)

The restaurant’s name comes from Cheyenne being called the “Paris of the West” by railroaders in its early days due to its fancy (for the time) architecture and overall quality. But there’s nothing ancient about the ambiance inside the place.

Some of the finishing touches were still being completed Tuesday prior to the first phase of the opening process Friday, but between plenty of open space, stylish light fixtures and a sleek look throughout the entire establishment, there’s a lot inside that catches the eye. One end of the long granite countertop near the main entrance will be a hub for coffee and some baked goods (among other fare); the other will be a full-service bar that’ll eventually serve unique cocktails and even hand-crafted sodas.

Cottle’s plan for the food, however, will be where things really step up a notch. A decorated chef who has had stops both across America and internationally in Mexico and Japan, he said that the Frontier Days menu will be “geared for speed” with appetizers and quick drinks. Once the “Daddy of ’em All” subsides, then he’ll break out dishes like the “cowboy sushi roll” — a dish with meats such as lamb, chicken, steak and pork wrapped around potatoes and vegetables.

A seating area of the Paris West restaurant on 1719 Central Ave. in downtown Cheyenne. (Briar Napier/Cap City News)

“I think Cheyenne is really proud about their history, and they should be,” Cottle remarked. “We’re celebrating that as well. There’s a lot of different ethnic fusion here, and we’re combining that with some of the historical traditions. I think it’s a lot of fun for me just to share [that] with friends. That’s what it’s about.”

Cottle hinted that there are plenty of surprises to come with the meals as well, with Loghry calling the chef a “showman” in the most positive of ways. He didn’t reveal all of what’s to come, but Cottle did hint that fire was going to be a part of some dishes, and when he gave out a tour of the restaurant, he opened up a closet door to reveal a giant tank of liquid nitrogen.

What that could be for is known to few outside of the kitchen, but because Cottle has a boatload of bright ideas that he wants to bring to the table, it’s sure to be for something dazzling.

And for the Central Plaza Hotel’s grand conversion from downtown blemish to downtown blossom, it’s awfully fitting, too.

“Food should be entertaining,” Cottle said. “This building now is no longer an eyesore. It’s going to be a great landmark down here.”