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eating our way across the southwest

Chronicling our adventures across Utah and Arizona, we have inadvertently avoided one of the highlights of traveling through the American southwest — the food. When planning a trip, deciding where to eat and sleep is just as important as researching what to see and do. With that in mind, here are our culinary recommendations for anyone embarking on a tour of Utah’s national parks.

fried green tomatoes

Moab – There are a lot of good food options in Southern Utah’s adventure capital. Although we pitched a tent during the four nights we spent in Moab, we did not bring any cooking supplies and wound up eating out at different restaurants each night. One eatery, however, proved so good that we returned there every morning before setting off on our day-long hikes in Arches and Canyonlands. Not only did the Love Muffin Cafe offer a delicious variety of breakfast dishes, but they also made top-notch sandwiches, which we brought for lunch on our hikes.

Capitol Reef – Torrey’s Cafe Diablo takes the honors for best restaurant of our two-and-a-half-week long trip. The menu is overflowing with creative, exotic, and delicious dining options. Rattlesnake cakes? We ordered them for the novelty, but they proved surprisingly tasty. Salads to die for, and a dessert menu that is so rich it actually might be life-threatening. Plus a great cocktail bar that stocks a wider variety of tequila than one can reasonably sample during the course of just one dinner.

Grand Staircase/Escalante – Escalante itself doesn’t have anything great on offer, but nearby Boulder — a mere dot on the map between Torrey and Escalante — has not one but two fantastic restaurants. The Hell’s Backbone Grill is a bit more upscale, but has a menu whose selection and creativity comes close to rivaling Cafe Diablo.

The Burr Trail Grill, which literally sits right next door, is mostly famous for its burgers and home-made pies. The latter are simply heavenly, but the savory options on the Burr Trail menu are also fantastic. Just take a look at the fried green tomatoes pictured above.

A few minutes up the Hogback Road from Escalante is the scenically situated Kiva Koffehouse. We don’t drink coffee, so can’t comment on Kiva’s raison d’etre, but the breakfast plates were quite tasty. Everything is prepared from scratch, so it took a while for our orders to be brought from the kitchen, but we didn’t mind the wait too much as drinking in the stunning views is one of the pleasures of dining at Kiva.

southwestern burger

Bryce Canyon – We discovered much to our chagrin that Bryce’s proximity to the highway has destroyed the quality of its food and services industry. Nearby Tropic is obscenely overpriced while skimping on quality. The dinner we had at the highly-rated Stone Hearth Grille was the most disappointing of our entire trip. We don’t mind paying for quality, but the food at the Stone Hearth was both bland and overpriced.

The Bryce Canyon Pines might be the best bet for a decent meal near Bryce Canyon. It’s nothing special, but the food is both hearty and reasonably priced, which is more than can be said for Bryce’s other eating establishments. The homemade pies at The Pines don’t hold a candle to the ones at Burr Trail, but they are still quite good, and the portions are big enough for two.

Kanab – Kanab has a decent food scene. The Rocking V is the restaurant that stands out in this “Little Hollywood” town. Owned by a talkative New Yorker who personally greets all clients and chats them up during dinner, The Rocking V has a ton of character in addition to its creative menu. We did not try the bison steak, but D was definitely tempted.

Salt Lake City – We would be remiss if we did not mention the Copper Onion, where our friends took us in SLC. Located right next door to an excellent independent movie theater, the Copper Onion had both a delicious food menu and a varied drinks list that featured several local breweries. Excellent choice for a dinner and movie night.

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