As you drive past Mt. Caramel Junction at the East Entrance to Zion National Park, you’ll see a few rock and gem shops and a couple of motels. That’s pretty much to whole town. The most famous place to stop is the Thunderbird Restaurant. It’s been in this spot since 1931. Its sign always has advertised “Ho-Made Pies,” the unconventional hyphen originally used to save space on a small sign. In the decades since, the spelling has become a point of road trip conversation for food hunters and snickering teenagers alike.
The roadside restaurant has expanded over the years, and it now includes a gift shop and an attached Best Western motel. The dining room is decorated with model car and boat collections and lots of license plates.
Diner fare is done fairly well, such as a juicy French dip sandwich and crispy fries. Corn nuggets seasoned with pepper-jack cheese and bacon are both smoky and spicy, molten when first served, remaining soft and creamy as they cool. Fettuccini alfredo comes with oven-dried tomatoes, which provide much needed acidity to balance the buttery pasta: a filling plate of food, perfect for recharging after a morning spent hiking in Zion.
One specifically Utahan specialty is the scone. This is not an English tea biscuit; rather, as made here, it is hearty fried bread, like a denser version of a sopaipilla or beginet. A sprinkle of powdered sugar adds a touch of sweetness, as does honey butter provided alongside. Thunderbird’s scone is equally good with chili or ice cream.
What about the famous “ho-made” pie? We order a slice of “thunderberry,” a blend of strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry. It is a neatly-filled triangle with a soft crust: like the restaurant itself, an American diner classic.