The Hangtown Fry - the Official Dish of the County of El Dorado and of the City of Placerville
Like with many other events that occurred during the early days of California, there are different stories relating to the origin of Hangtown Fry, the now world- famous mixture of eggs, oysters, and bacon that originated in Placerville, which was then known as “Hangtown.”
Among them have been several tales of “last meal” before hanging and one of a mistake made by a tired miner trying to cook dinner in the dark. However, the version most widely accepted and credited with its origin is generally as follows:
In 1849, just a short time after Old Dry Diggins had been renamed Hangtown in honor of the recent hanging of three desperadoes from the large oak tree on Main Street, a prospector rushed into the saloon of the El Dorado Hotel announcing that right there in town , along the banks of Hangtown Creek, he had “struck it rich” and had every reason to celebrate.
Untying his leather poke from his belt, he tossed it on the bar where it landed heavily, spilling its shining contents of gold dust and nuggets. Turning to the bartender he loudly demanded, “I want you to cook me up the finest and most expensive meal in the house. I’m a rich man and I’m going to celebrate my good luck.”
The Bartender called to the cook and relayed the prospector’s order.
The cook stopped what he was doing and came out of the kitchen. Looking the prospector in the eye he said, “The most expensive things on the menu are eggs, bacon and oysters. The eggs have to be carefully packed to travel the rough road from over the coast; the bacon comes by ship round the horn from back east; and the fresh oysters we have to bring up each day on ice from the cold waters of San Francisco Bay. Take your choice. I can cook you anything you want, but it will cost you more than just a pinch of that gold dust you have there.”
“Scramble me up a whole mess of eggs and oysters, throw in some bacon and serve ‘em up,” said the prospector.
“I’m starving. I’ve lived on nothing much more than canned beans since I got to California, and at last I can afford a real meal.”
The cook did just that, cooking up a whole mess of eggs, bacon and oysters for the hungry prospector. Out of that prospector’s wish, and with a little artistry from the long forgotten cook, the original Hangtown Fry was created.
Over the years since, Hangtown Fry has continued to have been served at many of the local restaurants in Placerville. One of the more famous places was the ...