Kanab • It's no coincidence that Peekaboo Canyon Wood Fired Kitchen is just a few miles from the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
Francis and Silva Battista, the owners of the vegetarian/vegan restaurant, also are the co-founders of the largest no-kill animal sanctuary in the country.
Besides serving great food — without animal proteins like beef, chicken and pork — the restaurant has a bigger message.
"Vegetarian and vegan food doesn't need to be sequestered into a corner," said Francis Battista. "People like it. And if you don't sort of brand it in your head as something unusual or odd, anybody can enjoy it."
Customers don't have to be vegetarian or vegan to like the food. The menu includes appetizers like quinoa stuffed avocados, vegetable-filled potstickers and beet chips. There are salads, sandwiches, vegetable burgers and wood-fired pizzas, like a classic Margherita, barbecue "chik'n" or the Peekaboo pear with sage, mozzarella, arugula and gorgonzola. Desserts include carrot cake and cheesecake. The restaurant also serves beer, wine and spirits, and features specialty cocktails.
It is open daily for lunch and dinner as well as for weekend brunch. (See box for details.)
The restaurant is named for Peek-a-boo Canyon — the name locals use when talking about nearby Red Canyon — and it is among a few vegetarian/vegan restaurants between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. The Battistas wouldn't mind some competition.
They've seen how tough it can be to eat a plant-based diet in a meat-loving country.
The Battistas recalled accompanying Mary Tyler Moore to an animal cruelty prevention fundraiser at New York's Plaza Hotel, when it belonged to Donald Trump. Moore had paid several thousand dollars for the table, and everyone seated at it was a vegetarian.
And they were served chicken.
Moore sent the servers back for vegetarian meals, "and everyone got a triangular slice of three-color cheese and some vegetables," Silva Battista said. "She was so offended."
Not because of the money, but because it was "just such an offense to vegetarianism. She was really mad," she said. "And I'll tell you — when Mary Tyler Moore gets mad, she gets mad."
The goals at Peekaboo Canyon Wood Fired Kitchen are to create a place where vegetarians and vegans don't have to settle for cheese and some vegetables and to show that one can feel satisfied with a meat-free meal.
The restaurant is at the Flagstone Boutique Inn & Suites in Kanab — an alternative to the chain hotels in town.
"Kanab, like a lot of small towns, is looking for a second act," Francis Battista said. "They started out with farming and ranching, and then it was mining and timber. That goes the way of all things, eventually. And now the community is looking for — well, what are we?
"We want Kanab to be something in its own right rather than just a place that you stop on the way to the parks.
"We want people to stop here and enjoy this beautiful countryside and explore this beautiful countryside. Spend some time," he said. "There's an amazing variety of things to see."
Julie Castle, Best Friends marketing and communications officer, says Kanab is "at a crossroad. It's either going to turn into a place that you drive through, or it's going to be something with some character.
"And we want people to feel welcome," she said. "We want people to come to Kanab and stay here."