Coffee at the Counter
Canyon Steak and Waffle House in Moab is decorated with nostalgic, black-and-white photos of simpler times, and each booth is named after a Beatles song. In 2020, when owner Shawn Welch visited the then-vacant building to consider re-opening it as a restaurant, she thought, “It just needs love,” which conjured the Beatles hit, “All You Need is Love”, and inspired the Beatles theme. She opened the revamped restaurant at the end of 2020. It was a difficult time to open, in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, but she said it went well.
“I think it falls in the miracle category,” she said.
Before purchasing the Canyon Steak and Waffle House business, Welch owned the Moab Grill business, another long standing Moab restaurant down the road. Both restaurants have a long history as old-style coffee, waffle and steak houses: places workers would visit on their coffee breaks to meet friends at the long counter and chat over a cup of joe, or where families would celebrate special occasions with a steak dinner at the booths.
For about 50 years, what is now the Moab Grill was Smitty’s Golden Steak Restaurant, which offered breakfast, lunch and dinner year-round, as well as reliable coffee that patrons could enjoy at the sociable counter. Welch started working there in her early 20s after coming to Moab from California to be with her boyfriend, whose family had a river-running company in town.
Welch has fond memories of those days. There were six or seven old fashioned coffee shops in business at that time, she said. Every motel had one, and the same regulars would come in at the same times each day.
“You could just about set your watch by it,” Welch said.
By now those old-style breakfast and steak houses have mostly been replaced by high-end dinner restaurants or “bistro” style coffee shops, according to Welch. Fryer recently sold the Moab Grill, along with two longstanding lodging businesses, to a large company called Moab Hotel Partners LLC. A new set of managers have recently taken over the restaurant. Welch is sure they’ll do a great job. The family has worked at other local restaurants and has a wealth of experience, but it won’t be the same kind of coffee-counter, breakfast-and-steaks kind of place. In fact, the counter itself has been removed.
“This is probably the last one,” Welch said of Canyon Steak and Waffle House. Her restaurant location also has a long history — it used to be the Pancake Haus, another counter-style dining establishment. “It’s nice to still have the magic of a coffee shop in town,” Welch said. “People don’t really see that anymore.”
Welch worked for many years outside the restaurant industry. She managed the community pool for a long time and it felt like coming full circle when she returned to the restaurant she’d worked at decades ago. She remembered one evening when she still worked at the Moab Grill, closing up for the night and turning the lights off, and having a flashback of faces that had frequented the counter over the last 40 years, many of whom have passed away.
The Canyon Steak and Waffle House is making the circle even more complete, she said, as it’s the building where she met the father of her two sons. Now, Welch is ready to retire — either this year or the next, she said — and she’s glad that one of her employees, Thayne Waters, is poised to take over and carry on the spirit of the place.
“He wants to keep it just the same,” she said, “so that makes me happy. Every town needs a coffee shop.”
Find Canyon Steak & Waffle House at 196 S Main Street, Moab, (435) 355-0119.
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