Excellent | Worth a Detour
Review by: Michael Stern
At the crossroads in the old cowboy town of Salina (where Butch Cassidy was born), Mom’s Café isn’t really all that motherly, but it’s been a great Roadfood stop since long before we hit the road many years ago. In fact, this square brick edifice has been a gathering place for travelers and ranchers since 1929, and it bears the well-weathered look and seeming permanence of the rock mesas that surround the town.
The menu is classic-cafe, including excellent liver and onions at supper, but we like breakfast best. That is when the scones are fresh and hot. The scone is a Utah specialty, and always on the menu in this true Utah café. It is similar to New Mexican sopaipillas and to the Indian fry breads served at roadside stands throughout the southwest.
As the sun rises, Mom’s fills up with breakfasters for whom the close quarters are an invitation to socialize with one another. Our dining companions the morning we first stopped in included ranch hands with rodeo-trophy belt buckles, Piute Indians wearing spectacular porcupine-quill hatbands, and a pair of German-speaking tourists with backpacks on their way to hike around Bryce Canyon. The waitress used hand gestures to explain to the foreigners the difference between “over easy” and “sunnyside-up”; the cowboys showed the newcomers how do dip their biscuits in the thick, white gravy; and a Native-American coffee-hound demonstrated that a squeeze bottle of honey-butter on the table was put there so they could frost their scone.
The German couple took all the good advice looking a little confused. But finally they beamed with joy when their chicken-fried steak arrived. This was food they recognized! – the ranch kitchen cook’s version of a wiener schnitzel – made perfectly at Mom’s, the pounded-tender slab of meat encased in a luscious meltaway crust. At eight in the morning, the two well-fed travelers finally topped things off with wide slices of blueberry sour cream pie, then headed out the door for a day of hiking.
Directions & Hours
|Meals Served||Breakfast, Lunch|
|Credit Cards Accepted||No|
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What do you think of Mom’s?
2 Responses to “Mom’s”
May 25th, 2009
I don’t recall who owned the place or even what it was called before “Mom” got it, but I’ve eaten at Mom’s pretty often over the past 20-30 years. That makes me feel old! But anyway… Dad grew up in Salina, and Grandma still lived there until she was talked into selling the house and moving to a retirement facility, so we kids probably ate there at least once a year for quite a while.
The thing about Mom’s, for me, is that it’s amusing. Maybe that’s the wrong thing to say about a restaurant, but there it is. Haven’t been there in a few years now, but I’ll be going down in August and I’ll see if it’s changed much since the owner retired last summer. Salads and the salad bar are disappointing; I agree with whoever said that. They probably buy their salad in giant bags rather than making their own. I was a vegetarian for a while and Mom’s is definitely not the place to go if you need a good salad. But the other food is great! I usually have a fried egg sandwich. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Strange, and tasty.
They say if you’re on a road trip, or stranded in a strange town, you should eat where the truckers eat, or eat where the locals eat. This is both, as far as I know. Skip the Subway and whatever else has sprung up around the hotels there at the junction of I-70 and US-89, and go into town and eat at Mom’s.
January 14th, 2008
Mom’s is famous, but I wonder if it was better when Mom was still running it (maybe she is, who knows). Having recently tried it again, it’s hard not to be disappointed. How can a place (any place) ever, EVER serve wilted lettuce? That is utterly inexcusable. Lettuce is cheap, salads are easy to make. The lettuce has brown edges, and it isn’t inedible, just mediocre. But they must serve 200 salads a day, so what’s the excuse, I ask?
Fish and chips could have one little touch of something interesting, like a little malt vinegar or something. Pie is poor, with gummy crust and canned filling. The fries, at least, are excellent, nice and white yet lightly fried to crispy perfection. So there is all the potential, just lacking in any extra effort. I thought an exchange was telling: one waitress, to the manager, “What should we charge for the customers asking for extra garlic bread with the spaghetti?” Manager (pause): “…Mildred, it’s never going to happen…” Mildred: “It happens all the time…” Manager: “…err, hmmm.” (Pause, waitress leaves to attend a table.)
Too bad about the general mediocrity and lack of hominess that the place is known for. It needs a new infusion of “momness.”