It goes without saying that Utah is a state blessed with natural beauty that can be mind-bending at times. And there are a handful of dining destinations that allow guests to be surrounded by such unique nature-made ambiance and beauty. Places like Hell’s Backbone Grill, Log Haven, La Caille, The Lodge at Blue Sky’s Yuta restaurant, The Tree Room at Sundance, Tuscany, The Yurt at Solitude, Ruth’s Diner, Fireside Dining at Deer Valley Resort, and the Prairie Schooner in Ogden are a few that come to mind.
After a recent splendid visit for dinner, I would add to that list The Lakehouse Restaurant & Bar, which is perched on the shores of Deer Creek Reservoir at the Island area of Deer Creek State Park. It’s a beautiful restaurant situated in an equally beautiful natural setting.
But there is more than just natural beauty that sets The Lakehouse apart from most other dining destinations in Utah. The chef and her menu are among the most unique in our state. Chef Tamara Stanger was born and raised here in Utah, but lived and worked in Arizona before returning home to help create The Lakehouse with a menu that is built around foraged ingredients, and strongly influenced by indigenous cultures and foodways. The history of the native people and pioneers who lived along the Wasatch Front is boldly evident in dishes such as Rainbow Trout Rillettes, Nixtamalized Squash, Funeral Potatoes, Pioneer Dinner Pie, and others.
I recommend kicking off dinner at The Lakehouse with either the aforementioned Rainbow Trout Rillettes ($15), which come with “Pickled Things” and local sourdough bread from Midway’s Hawk and Sparrow bakery, or perhaps some oysters. Chef Stanger offers Lakehouse guests two oyster options: Oysters Rockefeller – baked with salami butter and heirloom red corn, or Fresh Oysters served with unique spruce tip mignonette.
An absolute must for the table to share is an order of Duckfat Frybread Scones ($12), which come with a side of whipped sumac honey butter. Are you kidding me???? Duckfat, frybread, and honey butter? What could be better? Order an extra helping to reheat later at home.
Another outstanding dish from the “Graze” portion of the menu is Chilaquiles ($18). If you’re not familiar with this wonderful culinary treat, chilaquiles are a traditional breakfast dish of Mexico in which corn tortillas are cut into strips or quarters, fried, and topped with crema, queso fresco, refried beans, sometimes chicken, salsa, and such. At The Lakehouse the chilaquiles are smothered in a tangy verde sauce and topped with local cheese, pickled onion, fermented chiles, pico de gallo, microgreens, and huun ga’i heirloom corn from Ramona Farms in Sacaton, Arizona. If you wish, you can customize your chilaquiles order by adding game sausage, steak, smoked salmon, chicken, or a sunny side-up egg. However you order them, the chilaquiles are killer, and the portion size could feed a small military squadron. We actually laughed when the dish came to our table, it was so colossal.
The Lakehouse sports a full bar and robust beer and wine lists. The latter is full of surprises, including nine choices of bubbles, orange wines, and an assortment of provocative wines from around the world, like Quinta Do Convento Vinho Branco from Portugal, Chene Bleu Rosé from France, Germany’s S.A. Prüm Solitär Riesling Trocken, Miguel Pons Cava Brut from New Mexico, Argentine Mythic Block Malbec, Tahon de Tobelos Reserva Tempranillo from Spain, and Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio from Italy, to name a few. There are also classic and craft cocktails available to enjoy in The Lakehouse’s warm and contemporary ambiance.
Even the Beef Burger ($19) at The Lakehouse is distinctive – this ain’t your poppa’s hamburger. Here, it’s made with local beef and local cheese, adorned with bacon, peanut butter mousse, sauteed jalapeños, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and served with fries. Add an egg for $3.
Steaks are a main draw at The Lakehouse and range from Cauliflower “Steak” ($22) and Western Wagyu Filet ($48), to Terra Ranch Wagyu Flatiron Steak ($50) and a Grass-Fed Cowboy Ribeye ($115). All steaks are served with frontier steak sauce and one side dish choice. Even the sides ($8/each) are special here, and include Funeral Potatoes, Bone Marrow Mashed Potatoes, Juniper Caesar Salad, Frites, Whipped Sweet Potatoes, and scrumptious Roasted Seasonal Vegetables.
For guests in the mood for fish there is Pan-Seared Scottish Salmon ($40) with preserved lemon beurre blanc, chopped cavolo nero (a type of kale popular in Tuscany), and fresh herbs atop a bed of angel hair pasta. I was surprised to find that the perfect al dente pasta was made in-house. It’s not an easy task to cook thin pasta like that without making it mushy, but this pasta was spot-on.
Other distinctive dishes at The Lakehouse include Rabbit Bolognese Lasagna ($32) and Pioneer Dinner Pie ($32) with hand-made butter crust and a savory filling that changes daily. I opted for the generously portioned Openface Bison Meatloaf ($36) – a hearty serving of meatloaf with Sawmill corn gravy and bone marrow mashed potatoes on a thick, rustic slice of house-made country bread. There was enough on the plate for me to enjoy for lunch as leftovers the next two days.
Situated as it is on the shores of Deer Creek Reservoir, you might think that The Lakehouse is a strictly summertime dining destination. But in fact, it is open all year-round and is a gorgeous spot to dine in winter with a dusting of snow on the ground. If you’re tired of the same old, same old, Chef Stanger’s menu is uniquely tempting for the adventurous eater and The Lakehouse is one of the most appealing restaurants in our state.
Photos by Ted Scheffler and courtesy of Blake Peterson & Panic Button Media
Culinary quote of the week: “Food sovereignty is an affirmation of who we are as indigenous peoples and a way, one of the most surefooted ways, to restore our relationship with the world around us.” – Winona LaDuke
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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.