Park City » I often get requests from soon to-be-visitors to Zion on where to eat. Sometimes, the requests are really detailed -- the best sushi, for instance. But during this point of the year, the bulk of the questions have more to do with geography than any sort of cuisine.
And the bit of geography most people seem to be interested in is Park City.
The diners that flock there find themselves with a plethora of restaurants. You can find just about anything there -- sushi, Asian fusion, French with a bit of Alpine, Southwestern/Mexican; any hyphenated cuisine you wish.
But my Main Street go-to is a bit more straightforward. Wasatch Brew Pub and Brewery is relatively less expensive, reliable and suits anyone, particularly if you're in a group of varying tastes and preferences. And of course, there are good local microbrews there, too.
"Pub" isn't a locale many associate with good dining. It's probably because the word "grub" usually comes right after it. The point being you recreate, you stuff yourself and restore glucose stores and also quench your thirst while you're at it. But as the country's breweries gain confidence and creativity, so do their brewpubs' menus. And Utah is no exception.
Keep in mind, this isn't what seasoned diners would call "gastropub" fare -- where haute cuisine meets microbrews. But foie gras foam on a chicken lollipop isn't what I want to sip with a Polygamy Porter ($4.50): nachos grande ($7.50) are more like it. In food, there are ethereal pairings -- Epoisse cheese and Pinot Noir, oysters and Chablis, and especially for me, nachos and a good beer. Wasatch's version is basic and familiar, but abundant with real grated jack and cheddar cheese, jalapeños and black olives. The tumble of tri-color chips is served piping hot and could serve as a meal.
It does the trick.
There are pizzas ($8.75) and chicken wings ($7.50) or behemoth chimichangas ($10.95) and show-stopping fajitas ($10.95) that sizzle and steam at the table. The dinner menu expands the offerings a bit with higher-brow, protein-rich entrees like tender baby back ribs ($19.95) basted with Wasatch barbecue sauce. The Utah trout ($17.50) is a good reminder that fish worth eating doesn't always come from the sea.
Sometimes it's right in our own backyard.
The Brew Pub Specialties section of the menu is reliably good. Half-pound burgers ($9.25) or leaner buffalo burgers ($10.50) satisfy even the most finicky of burger aficionados. A Milwaukee brat ($9.50) with a tangy sauerkraut pairs well with a cold pint of First Amendment Lager ($4.50). English fish and chips ($11.75) are the local take on a pub classic. An uninterrupted piece of Pacific cod is batter-dipped (a recipe with Wasatch Beer, of course) and deep-fried. As if that wasn't enough deep-fried comfort, the companion fries come in a generous mound ready to be dipped into ketchup or doused with a dash of malt vinegar. It might kill the crunch, but the acerbic tang balances out the fattiness of such a dish.
One misconception a few folks may have about brew pubs is that they are akin to Old Western saloons with a similar cast of characters. Truth is, they're quite family-friendly. Take into consideration the price point, the laid back and casual atmosphere and the house-made root beer ("Brigham's Brew" $2.95) and brew pubs like Wasatch take on another personality entirely.
And thus, the allure of Wasatch Brew Pub -- it doesn't strike a pose with trends and doesn't promise a revelatory dining experience. When traveling, sometime all people want is a bit of casual comfort; to share ski anecdotes with one of the servers-ski bums. It doesn't hurt that Wasatch has a sense of humor. From its brewery motto "We drink our share and sell the rest" to the mocking names of some its brews, there are no pretenses. It's why I often recommend it to visitors and now to you, the locals.
In a nutshell » The top of Main Street is where you'll find straightforward food such as buffalo burgers and Utah trout and the thirst-quenching properties of award-winning microbrews.
Location » 250 S. Main St., Park City; 435-649-0900
Hours » Open daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Private club: Monday to Friday, 4 p.m. to midnight; Saturday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to midnight
Children's menu » Yes
Prices » $$
Liquor » Full bar
Corkage » $5
Reservations » No
Takeout » Yes
Wheelchair access » Yes
Outdoor dining » Yes
On-site parking » No
Credit cards » All major