OFF THE EATEN PATH
In a state as large as Utah, you sometimes have to put in some serious mileage to find the restaurant gems that make the Beehive State so unique. However, I’ve done some of the legwork for you. You’re welcome. Here are a few of my favorite, authentic Utah eateries that are worth a road trip. Just fill up the tank and get eatin’!
A little closer to Park City, in Heber, is another classic eating spot: Chick’s Cafe. The motto here is “Where people eat by choice, not by chance.” A mainstay on Main Street in Heber City for decades, Chick’s decor is as unpretentious as the food. But boy oh boy is it great, although not for the faint of heart. There’s nothing subtle going on here, culinary wise. However, the chicken fried steak is the stuff of legend, and where else can you find a rib eye with mashed potatoes, brown gravy, soup or salad and a scone for well under 20 bucks? Fresh Utah Rainbow Trout and calf’s liver with onions or bacon beckon those of us with old-timey tastes.
Known as “Utah’s Original Steakhouse,” Maddox Ranch House is truly a blast from the past. Located in Perry near the mouth of Sardine Canyon, the Ranch House has been feeding hungry Utah families from-scratch fare since 1949. While Maddox Ranch House is known for their famous steaks – served with Maddox well water, homemade rolls, and cornpones with their signature raspberry butter, veggies, spuds and stuff – other enticing menu options include chopped lamb with mint jelly from the local Selman Ranch; turkey steak with house tartar sauce; Maddox’s famous fried chicken; wild Pacific halibut; and house-made beverages such as Birch root beer, sarsaparilla, old-fashioned cream, and raspberry lemonade.
Not far from Maddox, in Brigham City, is the Idle Isle Cafe, which was established in May of 1921. Much of the 1920s decor, such as handmade wooden booths, a marble and onyx soda fountain, and the iconic grandfather clock, still remain. This is the classic kind of place where you can still get an old-fashioned grilled ham & cheese sandwich, French dip, or entrees like pot roast, country fried steak or Malibu chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy on the side along with hot homemade rolls. And hey, where else would you still find buttermilk on a beverage menu?
Further north – up at Bear Lake – is a delightful little spot to nosh called Crepes & Coffee. There are breakfast crepes, sweet crepes, and savory crepes on the menu, and folks with gluten issues will be pleased to know that Crepes and Coffee offers gluten-free buckwheat batter as an alternative to their standard crepes. In addition to a wide range of coffee drinks, Crepes & Coffee also has Italian sodas, smoothies, and even wine and beer. But an absolute must is the famous Bear Lake Raspberry Crepe – made of course with fresh Bear Lake raspberries.
Now let’s head south a bit – specifically to Salina, which was where Butch Cassidy was born and raised and is also home to Mom’s Cafe. This venerable road joint has been serving stick-to-the-ribs fare since 1929 and it’s not unusual to see big motorbikes – hogs – parked outside and their big, burley owners parked inside. The menu is chock full of classic comfort food and diner fare like liver and onions, chicken fried steak, biscuits & gravy, patty melts, fish & chips and such. But be sure not to miss the scrumptious scones and homemade pies.
One of my favorite places on the planet is Moab, in southern Utah. And one of my favorite places in Moab is Milt’s Stop n’ Eat, which also happens to be Moab’s oldest restaurant, opened by Milt Galbraith in 1954. Although, to call this walk-up burger joint a “restaurant” might be overdoing it. Whatever you call it, Milt’s serves up bodacious burgers featuring grass-fed, hormone-free beef and natural buffalo burgers, some of the best French fries you’ll ever taste, and the freshest handmade milkshakes you’ll ever come across.
If I were to pick a single restaurant in Utah to enjoy my final meal at, it would be Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder, Utah. Chef-Owners Jen Castle and Blake Spalding operate the restaurant following Buddhist principles, with a commitment to sustainability, environmental ethics, and social and community responsibility. More importantly perhaps, their food is simply sensational. And the vibe at Hell’s Backbone is as welcoming and inviting as the wonderful ambiance. Dishes feature ingredients from the owners’ own farm as well as from local ranchers and other purveyors. Every delicious dish at Hell’s Backbone Grill is created with love, but highlights include The Dinner Jenchilada; Spicy Cowgirl Chipotle Meatloaf; Three Sisters Posole, and Green Chile Meatballs. Don’t think about leaving without enjoying the heavenly Chocolate Chile Cream Pot.
Time to hit the road!
Culinary quote of the week: “A good restaurant is like a vacation; it transports you, and it becomes a lot more than just about the food.” – Phil Rosenthal
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THIS CONTENT IS FROM UTAH BITES NEWSLETTER.
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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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