The Hangtown Fry (An Ode to Placerville “Hangtown, Ca”)

Hangtown fry is a type of omelette made famous during the California Gold Rush in the 1850s. The most common version includes bacon and oysters combined with eggs, and fried together.[1] The dish was invented in Placerville, California, then known as Hangtown.

According to most accounts, the dish was invented when a gold prospector struck it rich, headed to the Cary House Hotel, and demanded the most expensive dish that the kitchen could provide. The most expensive ingredients available were eggs, which were delicate and had to be carefully brought to the mining town; bacon, which was shipped from the East Coast, and oysters, which had to be brought on ice from San Francisco, over 100 miles away.[1][2]

Another creation myth is the one told by the waiters at Sam’s Grill in San Francisco. At the county jail in Placerville, a condemned man was asked what he would like to eat for his last meal. He thought quickly and ordered an oyster omelet, knowing that the oysters would have to be brought from the water, over a hundred miles away by steamship and over rough roads, delaying his execution for a day.

The dish was popularized by Tadich Grill in San Francisco, where it has apparently been on the menu for 160 years.[3] Later variations on the dish include the addition of onions, bell peppers, or various spices, and deep-frying the oysters before adding them to the omelette.

According to the El Dorado County Museum, “No dish epitomizes California and its Gold Rush more than Hangtown Fry. It was created at a location central to the Gold Rush at the same time the great state was being born. And, like the miners who worked the river banks and hillsides, and the population that followed, it is a unique blend of many things, both those produced locally and those that have arrived from elsewhere.”[1]

Food writer and chef Mark Bittman created his own version of Hangtown Fry in one of his Minimalist cooking videos for The New York Times.

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Since my original post of the Hangtown Fry in Spring 2012, here we have a revisited version, as adapted from the haunted historic Cary House Hotel

PHOTO SOURCE: The Cary House Hotel
PHOTO SOURCE: The Cary House Hotel

Incidentally, check out Anthony Bourdain’s take of the hangtown fry during his visit to the Tadich Grill in San Francisco.

And how’s about this Recipe of the Day article from Saveur Magazine!

Saveur Magazine Recipe of the Day


  • 5-6 large farm-raised shucked oysters
  • 3 T all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t kosher /or sea salt
  • 1/2 t fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 T butter or margarine
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/3 c milk
  • Kosher / or sea salt
  • 3-4 cooked bacon chopped into bits
  • Fresh Julienne-cut spring red onions/ or scallions, for garnish


  1. Pat oysters dry with paper towel. Combine flour, salt and the pepper, dip oysters into the beaten egg; then into flour mixture.
  2. Melt the butter or margarine in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Cook oysters in butter till edges curl, about 2 minutes on each side.  Place the chopped bacon bits with the oysters.
  3. Beat the 6 eggs with the milk and salt. Pour into skillet with oysters and chopped bacon. As egg mixture begins to set on bottom and sides, left and fold over. Continue cooking and folding for 4 to 5 minutes or until the eggs are cooked throughout. Remove from heat. Makes 3 or 4 servings.

Hangtown Fry prep

The Cooking Apprentice© Hangtown Fry
The Cooking Apprentice© Hangtown Fry