Utah chefs tap into locally grown and raised ingredients to elevate culinary scene
When people think of Utah, the food association is often stereotypical: a year’s worth of canned (often home-canned) foods in every Mormon home’s cellar, and such church supper specialties as tater tots and Jello salads leading the hit parade. But times have changed, and contemporary food is on the ascendancy in Utah — not yet at the peak, to be sure, but rising. In addition to local foods, and again contrary to long-held stereotypes, local distilleries and craft breweries are producing fine adult beverages in a state where purchasing alcohol was, in many places, so inconvenient that it was considered almost dry.
If you’re traveling to Utah to visit any or all of the state’s five magnificent national parks and other public lands and wish to ignore the over-abundant chain restaurants and fast fooderies that infest Utah cities, take the time to try some of the Beehive State’s freshest and “bestest.” Here are some restaurants suggested by the Utah Office of Tourism. Additionally, an initiative called Utah’s Own is devoted to the state’s artisanal foods, farmers’ markets and other local food resources. For more details about these restaurants, including addresses, phone contacts, hours and more, click on the desired restaurant name in boldface at the beginning of each paragraph.
Forage, Salt Lake City. This restaurant is known for bountiful fresh ingredients found and foraged in the region. Menu items change seasonally and include goods foraged in the wild foraged and sources from small farms and ranches.
Pago, Salt Lake City. Pago partners with local artisans and farms through a Restaurant Support Agriculture (RSA) agreement to obtain the freshest native meats and vegetables. The restaurant offers brunch, lunch and dinner in a setting of contemporary and Old World design aesthetics.
The Sky Lodge, Park City. This upscale resort has recently opened two new restaurants: Table One for fine dining and The Tavern as a more casual option. Both use locally sourced products including a family-owned cattle ranch that raises Angus cattle for renowned Niman Ranch, local artisanal cheeses, charcuterie, fresh-caught trout and Silver Bean Coffee.
Communal Restaurant, Provo. Provo is often called the Garden City because of its extensive fruit orchards and gardens. Communal Restaurant was founded as part of the Heirloom Restaurant Group, which focuses on buying local. It provides as many locally sourced, sustainable products as feasible, presented along a communal table that is reminiscent of an Old West bunkhouse or farmhand table. Hearty menu items include roasted winter squash with house-made sausage, crispy pork belly with pickled red onions and pan-seared Utah trout in slab bacon vinaigrette.
Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm, Boulder. Hell’s Backbone serves regional cuisine in the majestic setting of the Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument. Menu items change weekly to reflect seasonal availability, while continually encompassing Western Range, Pueblo Indian and Southwestern flavors, showcasing fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, many of which are grown on its own on its six-acre organic farm. Preserves, jams, butter and chutney are produced and sold throughout the year.
The Rocking V Café, Kanab. Often called “Little Hollywood” for the many Westerns filmed there, Kanab has sensational scenery and a go-to eatery. The Rocking V Café serves “real American slow food” with a Southwest flair. Chef Dan Potter uses ghost chilies, tomatoes, corn, peppers and melons from the cafe’s own garden, plus fruit from its own peach and cherry trees.
Sorrel River Ranch Resort & Spa, Moab. With its petrified sandstone dunes, Moab is a picturesque Western town located on the eastern banks of the Colorado River. Last year, the resort’s River Grill Restaurant initiated a dedicated farm-to-plate program with 80 percent of all food purchases sourced from within 500 miles of the ranch. Fruits and vegetables come from the resort’s own gardens or are foraged from the 160-acre ranch. The restaurant also collaborates with Utah Artisan Foods for seasonal cheeses, baked goods and Utah honey. The creative locavore menu features items such as Utah buffalo short ribs, wild arugula and foraged dandelion salad, and artisan cheeses served with Utah’s best honey, apple butter and sundried cherries.
One place they missed is the North Creek Restaurant in Escalante’s Slot Canyon Inn. I wrote a blog post after dining there last year. The patios overlook pastures where cattle are graze on grass, ultimately producing the restaurant’s excellent steaks.