Small American towns are not generally known for their food. Southern Utah is not generally known for their food. That makes the North Creek Grill in Escalante, Utah, twice remarkable, because Escalante is a very small town in southern Utah. Owners Adam and Kristen Rex, who opened this mom and pop restaurant not long ago, serve fine beef from their own cattle, specialty sourdough-crust pizzas, fresh salads and a bit more. Actually, they will really be mom and pop later this year, when their first baby comes into the world. Right now, their attention is focused on their seasonal rstaurant located in the family-owned Slot Canyons Inn. Go around the side of the inn entrance to find the restaurant.
The tiered outdoor dining patios that Adam himself constructed are beguiling on a summer evening when southern Utah’s searing summer heat finally cools off, and evenings are pleasant. Some tables provide excellent views of the pastures and rock cliffs. Cattle graze in the distance, and with luck, some wild animals will wander by. Other patios are half-hidden or secluded between stone walls.
The menu is limited to a choice of three starters, a couple of salads, a selection of 12-inch pizzas baked in their outdoor pizza oven, variations on the theme of beef and a couple of desserts. Nothing is fancy, but everything is very good — something of a miracle when they must make a weekly excursion to St. George, a drive of several hours, to buy provisions. With a population of only about 850, Escalante is the largest community within a 70-mile radius — and I’ll bet the North Creek Grill serves the best dinners in a significantly wider radius than that. (Click below to see food photos.)
Adam and Kristen Rex prepare the North Creek Inn’s fresh, house-made dishes from scratch, very feature welcome in this beautiful but non-foodie part of the world — and as as I wrote, not an easy accomplishment given the remoteness of the town. Just the fact that the restaurant exists is a good sign for Escalante’s foodie future. When one good restaurant opens in a small time, a couple of others generally follow, so the North Fork Grill not only serves Escalante’s best dinners, but it is a pioneer as well. They are hoping to persuade an area farmer to put in some vegetables to provide them with fresh, locally grown products too.
Price check: Salads and starters, $3-$9; pizzas, $12-$15; entrees, $18-$26 plus ribeye are market price; 1/3-pound burgers, $10-$12. The restaurant does not get have a liquor license, but meanwhile, guests may bring their own. Other beverages, $2.