What To Eat in Utah
Utah’s signature dish is the scone, which is less like the English-ancestored quick bread and more like a quickly fried Southwestern sopaipilla. Scones are eaten with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, always served warm with honey. Similar breads are used as the foundation for Navajo tacos. And don’t forget fry sauce – a Utah original that is a mix of ketchup and mayonnaise with a jot of garlicky spice – made for dipping French fries but basically good on everything.
Exactly why Utah's scone is called a scone is a mystery, since it is nothing like the dense Scottish quickbread that is a favorite coffee companion. It is a puffy, deep-fried pillow of sweet yeast dough that develops a slightly crisp skin around airy insides and is served hot from the kettle accompanied by a pitcher or squeeze bottle of honey.
A Utah drive-in chain, Arctic Circle, claims to have created fry sauce in 1948 from "a tasty, tangy mixture of tomato concentrate, lemon juice, eggs, and a whole bunch of other ingredients." Throughout the Plains all the way to the West Coast, drive-ins and burger joints as well as loosemeats shops in Siouxland offer now offer it to accompany French fries and/or onion rings. It ranges from ranch-dressing-white to salmon pink, and the fundamental duet of mayonnaise and ketchup is usually doctored up with the likes of sweet pickles, onions, and spice.
For many years while traveling the Southwest, we assumed that fry bread was some sort of Fred Harveyish knock-off of fried dough or perhaps an outsized sopaipilla or simply something made by contemporary Navajo cooks to appeal to Americans' taste for just about anything fried in plenty of fat. We were wrong. It is no exaggeration to say that fry bread is to Navajos what matzoh is to Jews – a simple dish with profound meaning that arises from the harsh tribulations of ancestors. When the U.S. Army rounded up Navajos after they surrendered to Kit Carson in 1864, the captives were marched 300 miles through winter snows to Bosque Redondo, near Fort Sumner along the Pecos River in New Mexico. Many starved on what is now known as The Long Walk, and many more died due to harsh conditions on the reservation. The meager supplies issued by their captors included lard, flour, baking powder and powdered milk; and from these they learned to make fry bread – broad discs of dough that puff up in hot oil and are delicious plain or as a partner for a bowl of chili or sugared for dessert. Fry bread serves as the foundation layer of what is known as a Navajo taco, heaped with all the ingredients that normally would be stuffed into a corn or wheat tortilla.
The vegetarian-friendly, priced-right Capitol Reef Inn and Café is an oasis of good food and elevated cultural consciousness in the wilds of south-central Utah.
Sweet Lake Biscuits and Limeade has a menu full of different ways to enjoy biscuits -- best of all, part of an overstuffed breakfast sandwich.
Idle Isle is a vintage Brigham City, Utah, Main Street cafe serving fine, from-scratch square meals and memorable multi-berry pie.
Good eats at Sill's in Layton include Utah scones, jumbo cinnamon rolls, and hot beef sandwiches. A wonderful small-town cafe north of Salt Lake City.
Navajo tacos: a melting-pot, mix-n-match dish that is American cuisine at its most exuberant: Mexican, New Mexican, and Utahan with a measure of fast-food brio.
The Junction Drive-In is a good Kanab, Utah destination for short-order burgers (turkey as well as beef), waffle-cut French fries and smoothies.
A Salt Lake City tradition, Hires is a classic drive-in with menu to match: burgers of all kind, plus root beer in sizes that range from Baby to Large.
Three meals a day are served at Mom's restaurant, but breakfast is best because that is when the Utah scones are fry-kettle hot, served with honey.