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Untamed Eating: 8 places to enjoy wild game in Utah

Published April 30, 2014 7:55 am

Dining • Restaurants reveal a wild side — serving alligator, rattlesnake, yak and more.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Are you game for going wild at dinner?

Does battered and deep-fried alligator sound interesting? What about Himalayan yak tartare?

No need to get the shotgun and a hunting license — several Utah restaurants already have these untamed eating options on the menu.

Wild game such as elk, boar and even rattlesnake is becoming more popular on restaurant menus as Americans expand their culinary tastes.

"I like the richness of game and its bolder flavors," said Zane Holmquist, the chef at Stein Eriksen Lodge in Park City. "And most game meats are much leaner than beef or pork."

Of course, "wild game" is a bit of a misnomer, as most game served in restaurants is farmed by producers throughout the U.S. With more control over the process, the meat is typically more tender and it doesn't have the strong swamp and sagebrush flavors most of us associate with wild food.

So there are plenty of reasons to give one of these options a try. Don't see your favorite wild game entree on our list? Email food@sltrib.com and let us know what we missed.

Alligator at Boudreaux Bistro, Payson • When Chris Sorensen opened this Cajun restaurant in 2012, he put battered and deep-fried alligator fillets on the menu to stand out from the competition. "I thought it would be a novelty, but now I can't keep it on hand," said the New Orleans native. Customers like the texture and taste of the "gator bites," a cross between "cod and chicken," he said. A large shipment from Louisiana usually arrives on Friday, but it doesn't last through the week. Price depends on the market.

The bistro also serves pasta with alligator sausage ($13.99) and alligator sausage in a poor boy sandwich ($9.95).

Himalayan yak at Hearth on 25th, Ogden • Owner Shana Hubbard put yak on the menu of her Ogden restaurant nine years ago (back when the place was called Jasoh!) after learning about the animal's lean, high-protein meat.

The restaurant buys farm-raised yak from Southwest Colorado that is "grass-fed and clean tasting," she said. But the restaurant has been working with a new producer that has started raising a yak herd in nearby Huntsville.

The yak options change seasonally at Hearth on 25th. The spring menu includes a yak tartare appetizer made with white anchovies, caper berries, red onions and watercress ($32) as well as seared yak tenderloin served Szechwan style with vegetables, garlic pepper sauce and steamed brown rice.($44). Rabbit, farmed in central Utah and fricasseed with bacon, onions, green tomatoes and serrano fig jam, also is available. ($30)

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Rattlesnake at Café Diablo, Torrey • A "desert version of a crab cake" is the signature dish at this southern Utah restaurant, said executive chef Kate Chappell. The whole rattlesnake arrives skinned and cleaned from Abilene, Texas. "It's still coiled up when we get it," she said.

After it has been poached in stock and the tiny bones removed, the meat is mixed with spices and roasted pepper and shaped into patties for pan-frying. It is served with a cilantro pesto and a chile and rosemary aioli and, just for effect, garnished with "snake eyes" (large tapioca pearls). A two-patty appetizer is $12.

Rattlesnake meat "is light like a fish, but won't flake," Chappell said. "It comes apart more like chicken."

Wild boar at Buffalo Bistro, Glendale • The specialty at this restaurant near the entrance to Zion National Park is pasta with barbecued wild boar ribs. "Italy meets the Wild West," joked owner Ron Terry, who doesn't follow the herd when it comes to operating his 16-year-old restaurant. Buffalo Bistro is only open Thursday-Sunday from 4:30 p.m. until "whenever."

"I can only cook so much food," said Terry. So when he runs out, which is often, he closes. One of the reasons is the wild boar ribs, which have a similar texture to pork, but "sweeter and leaner," he said. The dish is $15 if you're paying cash, $16 with a credit card.

Wild game at Cabela's, Lehi • Inside this massive outdoor gear emporium, customers can admire the life-size taxidermied deer, moose, wolves and bighorn sheep and then when they get hungry, head to the cafeteria-style restaurant for an elk or bison burger or wild boar deli sandwich. Occasionally there might even be an ostrich special on the menu, said employee Butch Greenfield. The elk burger and bison are similar in taste to beef, said Greenfield. And the boar will appeal to those who like ham, but with a more intense flavor. The burgers and sandwich are $6.99 or $7.99 to $8.99 with sides and a drink.

Elk at Beer Bar, Salt Lake City • This new bar, a sister to Salt Lake City's Bar X, has 13 gourmet sausages on the menu, including an elk bratwurst made using traditional German spices. Salt Lake City chef and butcher Frody Volgger has created other unique options, too: a locally sourced bison bratwirst infused with smoked chile peppers and a lamb and herb bratwurst. They cost $8.50 each and are served on buns made by Salt Lake City's Eva's Bakery and topped with house-made mustards.

Beefalo at BombDiggitys, Riverton • Ease into the wild game arena with a hamburger or hot dog made from beefalo, the offspring of traditional cattle and American bison. BombDiggitys owner Doug Reid raises the herd that supplies the restaurant on ranches in Duchesne and Salina. "Beefalo has half the fat and twice the protein," said general manager Kamrun Hermansen. The restaurant also has its own meat case where customers can buy beefalo steaks, roasts and ground beefalo.

Wild Game at Stein Eriksen Lodge, Park City • One of the first recipes that Chef Zane Holmquist added to the Stein Eriksen menu some 13 years ago was the wild game chili. This bean-free chili is made with a trio of meats — bison, boar and elk — as well as coffee and beer. Together it creates a "unique flavor and texture," said Holmquist, who usually has several other wild game items on the menu. Recently there have been duck and waffles, elk tenderloin and bison carppaccio.

kathys@sltrib.com

Go wild

These Utah restaurants feature wild game on the menu. If you have another suggestion, email it to food@sltrib.com.

Beer Bar • 161 E. 200 South, Salt Lake City; 801-355-2287

BombDiggitys • 1481 W. 12600 South, Riverton; 801-446-2554

Boudreaux's Bistro • 51 S. Main St., Payson; 801–465-1222

Buffalo Bistro • 305 N. Main St., Glendale; 435-648-2778

Cabela's • 2502 Cabela's Blvd., Lehi; 801-766-2500

Café Diablo • 599 Main St., Torrey; 435-425-3070

Hearth on 25th • 195 25th St., Suite 6, Ogden; 801-399-0088

Stein Eriksen Lodge • 7700 Stein Way, Park City; 435-649-3700