Small-town Utah is not known for its cuisine. However, there are a few outposts of good food scattered around the parklands of southern Utah, where good chefs have unpacked their knives and whisks, and where the best local produce and meats are featured. Be sure to stop by and support these fine locally owned restaurants.
Most likely, by the time you roll into the Bit & Spur, you’ll have been hiking all day, will be sunburned, hungry, and thirsty, and just about anything will taste good. But the food here really is the real deal: innovative Southwestern and Mexican food, where your poblano chile may be stuffed with shrimp and grits, your tamales with wild mushrooms, and your jalepeño peppers with cheese.
It’s a special surprise to wander across the Rocking V Café, in a storefront on Kanab’s main drag. As at most of southern Utah’s best restaurants, chef-owners Victor and Vicky use local ingredients whenever possible to make Southwestern-style food, and they cater to everybody from vegans to steak lovers.
The restaurant at the inviting Boulder Mountain Lodge, Hell’s Backbone Grill offers incongruously fine dining in the little crossroads town of Boulder. The regularly changing menu features regionally based cuisine: a blend of Western Range, Pueblo Indian, and Southwestern flavors, with local organically grown vegetables and herbs and locally raised, natural meats.
Inventive Southwestern cuisine is the specialty at Cafe Diablo (599 W. Main St., 435/425-3070) in Torrey. Chef-owner Gary Pankow, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, adds zest and finesse to locally grown organic meats and produce. In addition to freshly baked bread, desserts and ice cream are all homemade.
Moab’s top dining destination is Center Cafe, with exciting globally inspired cuisine in a stylish wood-beamed dining room. The café offers both small plates and a fine-dining menu—everything from foie gras to house-made pierogi. The chefs use fresh, locally grown, organic produce in season, dry aged beef, and fresh seafood flown in from both coasts and the Gulf.
Seventeen miles northeast of Moab on Highway 128, the River Grill at Sorrel River Ranch offers fine dining at a stunningly situated guest ranch and spa. Fresh seafood and steaks, plus a selection of Continental favorites, make this one of the top restaurants in southern Utah. Sunset dining on a deck overlooking the Colorado River and the back side of Arches National Park elevates dinner to a special occasion.
© W.C. McRae and Judy Jewell from Moon Utah, 9th Edition