Utah Stories

The Secret of Utah’s Top 3 Old-School Restaurants

Older restaurants seem to have a certain appeal, and Millennials continue to visit these timeless businesses again and again.



Older restaurants seem to have a certain appeal, and Millennials continue to visit these timeless businesses again and again. After asking individuals from this generation what attracts them to these establishments, I received the same responses: These places provide a unique atmosphere and quality menu items that make them stand out from their competitors. Top that all off with some rich history and great service, and you have a restaurant worth returning to.

Customers love the homemade feel of these restaurants because their recipes are tried and true, passed down from generation to generation. This quote from Ally, a local foodie, says it all: “They offer authenticity because they have been around for such a long time and their recipes are still amazing, no matter how many years have passed. New restaurants don’t have the same weight.”

Childhood Memories at Dairy Keen

With Utah locals, a big draw to these establishments is a family connection. Dairy Keen, in Heber City, is one of these spots. Customers have shared that their parents and even grandparents would take them to dine here when they were young. They now bring their own children to create new memories in this fun, one-of-a-kind atmosphere.

Considered by many to be a local landmark, Dairy Keen has been in business since 1946. Their burgers alone are reason enough to stop by, but their most notable menu items are their thick, rich, award-winning milkshakes, available in just about any flavor you could want. This spot is popular for its train theme, making it perfect for families, while mixing in that retro car-hop feel we all love. Customers especially enjoy the friendly service they receive here as well as connecting with the regulars.

Patio dining at Ruth’s Diner. Photo by Dung Hoang.

Unique Experiences at Ruth’s Diner

Millennials love to find places that are memorable; something that many older restaurants offer in abundance. Customers are intrigued by the history that could be behind a multi-generation establishment, a family recipe, or some quirky décor. These places instill memories while going against the typical restaurant model. Ruth’s Diner in Salt Lake City is the perfect example of one of these unique dining experiences. 

 Founded in 1930, Ruth’s offers the rare opportunity to eat in an old trolley car, making for a vintage ambiance you can’t find just anywhere. Ruth herself was known to be quite the character and a great storyteller.  Her own story is still shared as an important part of the restaurant’s history. 

Speaking of history, this can be found within the food itself. At Ruth’s, you will be served diner-style comfort food made from scratch. Most notable would be the mile-high biscuits that many patrons love, not only for their appearance (the name is a fitting description for these towering delights), but for their fluffy texture and full flavor. Many have called them the best biscuits in the state!

Tried and True Recipes at Maddox

Maddox Ranch House in Perry is just the place for that homemade experience. Established in 1949, this country-style restaurant has been a family business from the start. They’ve been making their famous skinless fried chicken since the 60s, and their turkey steak recipe can be traced back to the 50s.

At Maddox, they never take beloved items off the menu, so you can rest assured that your favorites, and your grandparent’s favorites, are guaranteed to be available every time you visit. They even cater to large groups, so you can easily bring the whole family along. Their personal and engaging staff, combined with a basket of fresh homemade rolls and raspberry butter, will make you feel welcome from the moment you are seated.

Just Like Home

Not only does the food at these classic eateries often taste as if grandma herself prepared it, but that welcoming sense of hospitality is right there too.

“It’s personable, and the people who work there and own it tend to genuinely care about their patrons more,” says Alisha from Salt Lake City. I know I have received that same warm welcome at many of these timeless locations!

Simply stated, these well-established restaurants offer that mom-and-pop feel. Their staple recipes are delicious enough to bring these customers back over and over again. When it comes down to it, we all still love good home cooking, finding connection in a welcoming establishment, and making the types of memories that can be found in a unique spot that’s all its own. 

If you too are looking for a sense of comfort and kinship, I encourage you to check out these Utah businesses, as well as others in your area, that have been welcoming people through their doors for generations.


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