East meets Wild West at cowboy restaurant

Cowboy Check-In restaurant could double as the set of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western
Cowboy Check-In restaurant could double as the set of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western. Eli Meixler

East meets Wild West at cowboy restaurant

Plenty of novelty in the decor at new Street 51 eatery, but the food sticks to Khmer classics

In the 2000 action movie Shanghai Noon, Jackie Chan plays a Chinese imperial guard who finds himself in 1881 Nevada teaming up with a train robber to save a kidnapped concubine. Part Western and part kung fu flick, the film takes on a East-meets-West theme not unlike Phnom Penh’s newest rootin’ tootin’ eatery.

Cowboy Check-In restaurant, on Street 51, combines the aesthetics of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western with the fare of a Cambodian beer garden. It’s a place as enjoyable as it is perplexing.

“We’ve seen this cowboy concept in many countries, and we thought, in Cambodia we don’t have this,” said manager Prum Den, adding she had visited similar Old West-style restaurants in the US, Thailand and Singapore.

The restaurant is decked out in over-the-top John Wayne-chic, from the swinging front entrance doors that resemble a Wild West saloon’s to the fake Winchester rifles that hang on the walls, along with cow skulls, Native American rugs and dreamcatchers.

On the stage, next to a couple of acoustic guitars used by the Filipino and Cambodian cover bands that play nightly, are cutouts of the Lone Ranger and his faithful sidekick Tonto. Of course, the staff all wear cowboy hats and plaid shirts too.

Despite all the Americana, the menu is purely Cambodian. Well-done pepper beef steaks ($7.50), sweet and sour fish ($8), and stir-fried egg noodle ($4) are the staples here. You can get diced, stir-fried cow tongue, seasoned with lemon grass ($5.50), but the most American dish available is the steak, which comes rather succulent by Cambodian standards.

Traditional lok lak with beef, rice and a fried egg
Traditional lok lak with beef, rice and a fried egg. Eli Meixler

The classic Old West dishes, like chili con carne or buffalo steaks, are absent. But Den said their new American-style dishes, such as ribeye steak and hamburgers, would be available by the end of the month.

A bit of a bordello theme lurks in the drink menu – order a “cowboy lap dance” of fresh passion fruit juice with white wine ($4), or the two-litre pitcher known as the “passion horny” ($22). No nudity involved, but they provide a sweet tipple that packs more wine than juice. Beer towers, of course, are also available.

Cowboy Check-In is worth it for the sheer novelty value. While it’s a wait-and-see on how well they tackle the Old West classics, the Khmer menu is cheap and tasty.

Think of it is as a beer garden with a surreal twist; come for the amusing décor, stay for the juicy beef steak, tell your friends you had a cowboy lap dance.

Cowboy Check-In is located north of the corner of Streets 51 and 242. Opening hours are 11am until 3pm and 5pm until midnight.


  • Reuters: US Embassy fired 32 staff members for sharing pornography

    The United States Embassy in Phnom Penh has fired 32 non-diplomatic staff members who were allegedly caught exchanging pornographic images and video, including of minors, according to the news agency Reuters. Four sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the content was shared in

  • Our 2018 guide to spending Khmer New Year in Phnom Penh

    Khmer New Year festivities are upon us. For the next few days, travellers will be making their way to their home provinces to eat, celebrate, play traditional games and visit a pagoda with offerings. If you will be staying put in Phnom Penh for the

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the