The eastern side of the Wasatch range is full of flavor
What’s the geography of your dining-out routine? If you mapped your breakfast, lunch and dinner destinations, would they cluster in a three-block radius of Sugar House or the Avenues? Would your furthest reaches extend to Park City’s Main Street or the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon?
This summer, consider redrawing your culinary boundaries by surveying the gems of the Wasatch Back. Serendipitously, this eccentric collection of restaurants coincides with beauty—gorgeous views, scenic drives and winding trails to explore by foot, bike or horse.
Here’s the catch: We’re excluding restaurants in Park City and Snyderville Basin, which we often praise in the pages of Devour. In the spirit of exploration, we’re highlighting lesser-known spots in the region. Follow the itinerary this summer as you expand your dining map.
A Slice of the Big Apple in Midway
One of the themes of Wasatch Back restaurants is relocation. Where you’d least expect it: a diner that once operated on the East Coast, a smokehouse that served as a Park City miners’ canteen, and a New Yorker slinging pizza pies in Midway. The latter describes Café Galleria, a must-visit for lovers of Italian cuisine, legit bagels and wood-fired pizza.
Like most true masterpieces, Café Galleria is a passion project. Cecil Duvall moved from upstate New York to Utah to be closer to family. In May 2008, after a few years calling the Wasatch Back home, he opened his restaurant inside a 110-year-old restored building on Midway’s Main Street. Inside, you’ll find a warm mood set by brightly colored walls and intimate dining nooks. On the walls hang photographs of Italy snapped by Duvall’s son, Lance, as well as prints from the annual cowboy poetry gatherings in nearby Heber. Come summer, you’ll probably dine alfresco on the patio to live music.
Café Galleria hums around the brick wood-burning oven with a decorative tile exterior that evokes a Roman mosaic. Kids and adults alike can watch the pizzaiolo—the Italian word for a pizza maker—tend to pies while inhaling the scent of dough crisping and cheese brûléeing. San Marzano tomatoes and 00 flour sourced from Italy are a couple of the secrets to thin-crust perfection here. These key ingredients—along with hand-stretched dough and an ultra-hot oven—are what make the pizza among the most authentic in the Wasatch Back.
Topping a pizza can be a contentious topic among dining companions, but with individually sized pies, sacrifices needn’t be made. Sausage lovers will gravitate toward the Siciliana, while vegetarians can bask in the blue-cheese glory of the roasted mushroom with Gorgonzola, caramelized onions and pine nuts. Once you’ve tried all the pies, move on to the housemade fettucine and lasagna. No matter what time of day you visit, be sure to pick up a dozen bagels. These chewy discs, baked in the wood-burning oven, will fulfill a New Yorker’s deepest cravings.
101 W. Main, Midway
Eggs with a Side of Calm
What happens when you mash up Tex-Mex with Hawaiian cuisine? You have no worries because you know your breakfast is going to taste bueno and be served with aloha. It’s hard to explain, but setting foot inside No Worries Café and Grill really does induce a feeling of calm. Maybe it’s the vibe this family-owned restaurant emits. After all, it easily weathered the storm of relocating from its perch in Summit Park to Jeremy Ranch earlier this year. The serene vibes might also stem from the glut of natural light streaming into the dining room, or the bright turquoise and orange walls contrasted with rustic wood paneling.
Is it cosmic kismet that the chef here is named Dante Eggan? Indeed, Chef Eggan does have a way with eggs, whisking them into fluffy customizable omelets and poaching them to perfection for your Benedict. He also has a way with locally sourced Wasatch Meats. The Hawaiian vein that runs through the menu is Kalua pig tucked in banana leaves and slow-roasted overnight. And the spicy signature chipotle bacon is a must-try—savor it in a breakfast sandwich on-the-go if you’re itching to get to a nearby trailhead.
If you want to sample Eggan’s way with spice, get down with Dante’s Inferno: sirloin tips, hot Italian sausage, tomatoes, spinach, and cheese in a green pepper sauce, served frittata style, topped with savory hollandaise and Cajun dust. If you’re on the Benedict bandwagon, you have an impressive nine options to choose from, including variations featuring Maryland crab cakes and smoked salmon, all stacked upon English muffins from Salt Lake City’s Stone Ground Bakery. To breakfast as you might in Kauai, go for the No Worries Hawaiian Luau, featuring the signature Kalua pork seasoned with island spices and served with eggs, toast, hash browns and seasonal fruit.
No Worries Café and Grill
8178 Gorgoza Pines Road, Ste. A, Park City
BBQ with Uinta Views and Live Tunes
If you’ve never heard of it, the 1,100-acre High Star Ranch will catch you by surprise. What’s a Western-chic event center, high-profile concert venue and relatively ritzy restaurant doing on the edges of small town Kamas? Don’t ask questions—just be glad it’s there.
Opened in January 2016, State Road Restaurant & Tavern lives by the name of its game: smoke. From brisket destined for an unforgettable grilled cheese to pork shoulder for ramen, Executive Chef Justin Rogers always has something cooking in his custom-built smoker. His other priorities? Supporting local farmers and serving an eclectic take on comfort cuisine. This translates to riffing on down-home classics like Buffalo wings with a stint in the smoker and a showering of shaved vegetables.
Downstairs, the family-friendly State Road Restaurant is a scenic place to dine, while a flight up, the adult crowd can enjoy dinner—often to live music—in the tavern. Barbecue buffs should skip right to the “smoked” section of the menu for meats smacking of cherrywood and oak. Savor a half rack of baby back ribs with a slab of cornbread sweetened with local Slide Ridge honey. To add a zesty, fresh foil to the rich ribs, order a side of poppy seed coleslaw. Then, end on a sweet note with the peach cobbler, wherein peaches mesh with crust into an almost pudding-like texture. A scoop of housemade vanilla ice cream cuts into the warm notes of stone fruit and butter—it’s almost as good a nightcap as the apple-laced bourbon old fashioned.
The rest of State Road’s menu is as eclectic as the acts the adjacent venue Dejoria Center draws. From a caramel pork belly banh mi and shrimp tacos to shoyu-style ramen, Chef Rogers is clearly a kitchen globetrotter. The menu here changes seasonally and one of the newer warm-weather items is the peekytoe crab, corn and pepper fritters—mop up every trace of the Meyer lemon-blood orange marmalade served on the side.
You can also make a State Road stop during a Saturday adventure at High Star Ranch. The Dejoria Center guides horseback riding, mountain biking and snowshoeing trips among others, but you’ll of course need to fuel up first. Depending on your morning appetite, you might tackle an open faced Reuben or flatiron steak and egg sandwich with a side of Blood & Smoke—a smoky bloody mary made with Johnny Walker.
There’s always something going on at State Road come dinnertime, whether it’s a live First Friday show, a game of shuffleboard on the terrace, a roaring fire in the stone hearth, or a herd of elk grazing just beyond the deck. When big-name acts come to the Dejoria Center, you might even be lucky enough to spot a celebrity. “We had LeAnn Rimes here in December for her Christmas tour,” Manager Gabriela Caro recalls. Her order? The vegetable panini with portobello, sprouts, avocado, goat cheese and olive tapenade on ciabatta.
State Road Restaurant & Tavern
970 UT-32, Kamas
The Traveling Roadside Diner
When you set foot inside the Road Island Diner, it only takes a second for a powerful wave of nostalgia to hit. Even if you weren’t alive in the ’50s, most Americans can relate to the yesteryear vibe of diners captured in movies and romanticized by artists like Edward Hopper. And the Road Island Diner serves up a particularly hefty slice of history. This Oakley restaurant is housed in a now rare No. 1107 model diner, which the Jerry O’Mahony Co. manufactured during the 1920s-1940s in New Jersey. Today, only a few No. 1107s remain in the U.S.
The diner at the juncture of State Road 32 and Weber Canyon Road first started slinging shakes and burgers in Massachusetts in 1939. After 14 years, the original owner sold it to Tommy Borodemus, a Greek immigrant. He dubbed it Tommy’s Deluxe Diner and relocated the building to Rhode Island, where his family operated it for four generations. In 2007, the No. 1107 took a long road trip to Utah, where it was restored to look just like it did back in 1939.
Since February 2013, Ginny and Steve Butler have presided over the Road Island Diner, named as a nod to its history. Like the diner, the new owners are transplants, too. Ginny hails from Maryland, which explains the silver dollar crab cakes that grace the menu; her husband, Steve, arrived from Minnesota via Maine.
Stepping inside the Road Island Diner is sort of like entering a Tiffany lamp—you’ll find forest-green Italian marble counters, green-and-red leather booths, and bright green Tiffany glass clerestory windows. Buttressed by a row of green leather stools, the bar hosts a display of cakes reminiscent of a Wayne Thiebaud composition. A former pastry chef at the Alta Peruvian Lodge, Steve generates a daily changing menu of treats like cinnamon buns, Boston cream pie and gluten-free carrot cake that you’d be remiss not to sample—unless, of course, you can’t go to a diner without foregoing a classic vanilla milkshake.
The menu here is as enticing as the ambience. Steve and Ginny make everything from scratch, from the local lamb slow-roasted for the Lamb-a-Dama Ding-Dong sandwich to the bread soaking up your housemade soup, the Road Island kitchen does it all. Control freaks will also love the build-your-own section of the menu, which allows guests to custom construct burgers, macaroni and cheese, and omelets in the morning. Fried chicken fiends should ask Steve’s nephew, Alex, about getting on his call list. When the diner decides to do a fried chicken special, he phones about 30 eager souls and sells out faster than you can say, “crispy.”
Road Island Diner
981 Weber Canyon Road, Oakley
Smoke Signals in the Uintas
If the Uinta National Forest had an official caterer, it would be the Samak Smokehouse, which sits just a couple miles up Mirror Lake Highway from Kamas. This restaurant/convenient store is a mandatory stop on the way to or from outings in the Uintas. Open daily, year-round, the Smokehouse outfits adventures of any kind, from cups of chili for cross-country skiers to boxed lunches of sandwiches starring meats and cheeses smoked on site with local cherrywood.
Samak Smokehouse is a great place to stock up on smoked and preservative-free, award-winning top-sirloin beef jerky, salmon or cheddar for future picnics or as gifts. This roadside cabin also functions as a sort of general store, with local maps, postcards and souvenirs. Part of the rustic building originally served as a kitchen for a mining camp located in what is now Deer Valley. Eventually, it was relocated to Kamas, and then down the road to Samak, where meats have been smoking for 40 years.
During summer weekends Memorial Day through Labor Day, the Smokehouse hosts barbecues outside at its picnic area. On the menu? Half-pound hamburgers with smoked cheddar and organic fries on the side. You can bring your own beer or purchase it à la carte inside the store.
1937 UT-150, Kamas
A Deer Valley Chef in Kamas
Keeping with the Wasatch Back theme of relocation is the Gateway Grille, which headlines a chef who got his Utah start in the kitchen at Deer Valley Resort. After 14 years at the infamous Seafood Buffet, Chef Sean Wharton moved shop to Kamas and opened this family-owned, family-friendly restaurant with his wife, Rebecca. For two decades, the Whartons have delighted Kamas locals and visitors to the region—including celebrities—with a wide variety of dishes. Gateway Grille’s interior departs from the typical Kamas country ambience with a Tuscan vibe set by faux stucco walls, earth-tone tiled tables and string lighting.
The lunch and dinner menus offer typical Western fare like smoked wings, chicken fried steak and a buffalo burger, but it also runs the gamut from shrimp scampi to Uinta cheesesteak, shepherd’s pie and high-end steaks. The menu aims at vegetarians with a housemade veggie burger and the fire-roasted veggie panini, loaded with charred zucchini, portobello and red pepper with mozzarella and a balsamic reduction served on a Stone Ground Bakery roll.
Breakfast in Kamas also doesn’t get much better than the Gateway Grille. For those who endlessly waffle between a sweet-and-savory start to the day, the pancake sandwich obviates the difficult choice: Two pieces of bacon and two eggs slipped between two buttermilk pancakes will do the trick.
So, join the ranks of Stephen Spielberg, John Travolta and Bill Clinton, and let Chef Wharton cook for you and yours next time you come to Kamas.
215 S. Main, Kamas
More to Love in the Wasatch Back
What’s that you say? You’re a Southerner and you haven’t found biscuits baked right in Utah yet? Catch Woodland Biscuit Co. first thing in the morning and your buttery laments will dissipate. Warm, large and in charge, these biscuits impress as solo acts or as sandwiches like the Cubano with grilled ham, melted Swiss, house pickles, mayonnaise and mustard.
Woodland Biscuit Co.
2734 E. State Highway 35, Kamas
Mark the second Friday of the month on your calendar—that’s when cheese tastings take place at Heber Valley Artisan Cheese. Sample the signature Wasatch Back Jack, then dive into the locally renowned curds in flavors like jalapeño, smoky Cajun and ranch. Save room for the ice cream made with Heber Valley dairy.
Heber Valley Artisan Cheese
920 River Road, Midway