PLACERVILLE, Calif. -- The signature dish at the Buttercup Pantry comes with a disclaimer on the menu.
EAT THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK IF YOU DON'T LIKE YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED, SOME DO AND SOME DON'T.
Feeling hungry? Or, more likely, curious and masochistic? Order the $15.99 Hangtown Fry, the roughly 170-year-old omelet, of sorts, that shares a moniker with this old Gold Rush hamlet where it was conjured up.
The Hangtown Fry is a glop of shiny brown oysters, bacon and scrambled eggs. At the Buttercup Pantry -- the only joint in town where it's regularly served -- you can smell it before you see it. Fishy, with a hint of cheese.
"Oh, it's disgusting," said Robert Huston, the restaurant's owner. "When it comes out of the cooks' window over there, it smells."
His staff thinks it's gross. One waitress calls it the Booger Surprise.
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But Placerville is known as Old Hangtown, and this is its namesake dish. Its origin story is proudly displayed on the city's official website. So somebody's got to keep it on the menu, Huston said.
An old yellow car parked in front of Huston's restaurant bears the words "Buttercup Pantry Restaurant: Home of the Hangtown Fry." About the only people who order it, Huston said, are tourists and folks with hangovers coming back from Lake Tahoe.
The legend of the Hangtown Fry, which is served in places all along the Pacific Coast, goes something like this: In 1849, or thereabouts, a prospector staggered into the El Dorado Saloon in Old Hangtown's Cary House Hotel, saying he'd struck it rich, said Joyce Thompson, a longtime volunteer researcher at the El Dorado County Historical Museum.
He flung his gold onto the bar and demanded the "finest and most expensive" dinner in the house. The cook told him the priciest items on the menu were eggs, bacon and oysters.