Back in 1971 I was playing in a couple of garage bands with names like The Devil’s Advocate and Phunn. Some of the hits we were covering from that year included Lee Michaels’ Do You Know What I Mean, Color My World by Chicago, and Sweet City Woman by The Stampeders. The Exorcist and Love Story were best selling books in 1971 and at the cinemas, Fiddler on the Roof, The French Connection and A Clockwork Orange were showing on the big screens. Oh, and Snowbird Resort opened. Fast forward to 2020 and we appear to be going back in time. That’s the case, anyway, with Snowbird’s newest “old” restaurant: the retro eatery at the Cliff Lodge that replaced what was formerly The Keyhole and El Chanate: SeventyOne – named, of course, for the year that the lifts first began running at Snowbird.
One thing is certain: An eye popping restaurant like SeventyOne sure didn’t exist at the ‘Bird back in ‘71. The kitchen and breakfast buffet stations are state of the art, and the design and decor of the sprawling eatery is sort of The Jetsons meet Laugh-In at Horn & Hardart or Howard Johnson’s. And I mean that in the nicest way. This retro restaurant is having fun at its own expense, which is something I don’t see in the culinary world very much. It’s high-quality comfort food with a sense of humor. To wit, just take a look at the urinals in the men’s room, outfitted with old school televisions above them.
The major makeover that resulted in SeventyOne left nary a trace of El Chanate. Indeed, the new patio extends well beyond the former El Chanate border, and necessitated drilling deep into bedrock that the construction folks unexpectedly encountered. It set back the completion of the new restaurant considerably, but SeventyOne is sure worth the wait.
One of the appeals of SeventyOne is its hours. The restaurant opens at 7:00 a.m. for breakfast and is open for lunch and dinner, plus offers a late night menu until 11 p.m. At breakfast, the buffet (Adults/$22; Kids 7-12/$14) includes pastries, made-to-order omelets, local bagels, eggs Benedict (traditional and vegetarian), French toast, pancakes, cereals, granola, and much more.
Longtime Snowbird chef George Lackey heads up the SeventyOne kitchen and is proud of his new digs, showing me the high-tech convection counters that help keep food on the breakfast buffet warm and the open exhibition kitchen. Chef Lackey and his talented team put out an array of comfort foods with a retro vibe that ranges from Old World Chicken Soup ($7.95) and Classic Mac ‘n’ Cheese ($11.95) to postmodern fare such as Avocado Toast ($10.95), Vegan Meatloaf ($26.95) made with Impossible “Meat,” and Ahi Tuna Nachos ($12.95) with Asian greens, crispy wonton chips, cilantro, avocado, black sesame seeds and wasabi cream. There is truly something for everybody.
And that’s the idea behind SeventyOne: It’s a restaurant that guests will want to return to for more than just one meal during a Snowbird stay. A dish like Gnocchi Fritti ($9.95) – deep-fried gnocchi served with a creamy parmesan sauce and herb gremolata – will appeal to youngsters just as much as it did to an old fart like me. I ate more than my share of those addictive gnocchi during an enjoyable lunch at SeventyOne.
Along with the vibrant color scheme that sets SeventyOne apart, the restaurant is festooned with posters and prints from the early days at Snowbird, with cool dudes and chics decked out in their finest Jean-Claude Killy ski attire. And the deck dining, with its outrageous mountain views, is second to none.
Appetizers at SeventyOne include Chilled Gulf Shrimp ($14.95) with cocktail sauce, wasabi and lime; Wedge Cut Fries ($7.95), and scrumptious Soft Pretzel Sticks ($8.95) with IPA white cheddar fondue. Those soft pretzels really hit the spot at lunchtime, or anytime.
Just as appealing are Chef Lackey’s House-Smoked Chicken Wings ($11.95), which are smoked to perfection, then served with smokey blue cheese, BBQ dipping sauce, and a crudités assortment. These are wildly tasty wings.
And who doesn’t love bacon? OK, not exactly a dish aimed at vegans, but the Bacon in a Jar ($11.95) is a comfort food classic – rustic peppered bacon served, yes, in a jar with soft breadsticks and Bourbon BBQ sauce.
But wait! There’s more. Like really excellent burgers made with a blend of brisket, chuck and beef short ribs. The Peruvian Burger ($19,95) with thick-sliced bacon, crispy onions and white cheddar cheese is a can’t-miss – a seriously bodacious burger.
But the macaroni and cheese game at SeventyOne is spot-on, as well. There are three versions of the comfort food classic: a traditional one with white cheddar sauce and toasted breadcrumbs ($11.95); a bacon and tomato mac ‘n’ cheese with crisp onions ($13.95); and then there is my favorite – one of the best macaroni and cheese dishes I’ve ever enjoyed – creamy white cheddar mac ‘n’ cheese with cremini mushrooms and tender, tasty, shredded brisket. It is simply magnificent mac ‘n’ cheese.
In addition to a sprawling menu with lots of appeal, SeventyOne also has a ripping beverage selection with a terrific list of beers, wine, cocktails, mocktails, spirits, hot & cold beverages, and more. The Bourbon Shake ($10.95), for example, is a mindblowing melange of vanilla ice cream, house-made bourbon syrup, whipped cream and toffee crumble. It’s sooooo good.
Definitely don’t overlook dessert. There’s a delightful dessert collection that runs the gamut from old school faves like the S’More Sundae; Chocolate Malt; Hot Fudge Sundae and Warm Apple Brown Betty, to a vegan and gluten-free fruit shake made with raspberry, mango and banana blended with coconut and almond milk.
For me, however, there is one and only one go-to dessert. My favorite all-time dessert is the retro classic Banana Split. And I’ve tasted none better than at SeventyOne, where it’s made with fresh bananas, vanilla ice cream, raspberry sauce, hot fudge, whipped cream, chopped nuts, malted milk balls and maraschino cherry. That sensational banana split took me back to circa 1971 and our local shake shack, before there ever was a Shake Shack. Thank you, Snowbird and SeventyOne, for sending me back to a treasured time – even if only for a meal or two.
Culinary quote of the week:
Life is too short for self-hatred and celery sticks. — Marilyn Wann
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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