Wendover • At first glance, the Salt Flats Cafe does not look promising.
Located adjacent to a gas station at Exit 4 off Interstate 80 east of Wendover and its glistening casinos, this little hole-in-the-wall cafe at the edge of nowhere is even a bit difficult to find.
Yet, for those who stop for gasoline or attend Speed Week on the nearby Bonneville Salt Flats and accidentally find this colorful little place with the incredibly inexpensive food, it is an oasis in the desert.
Marcelo Escobedo opened this mostly Mexican restaurant in 2000. He can often be seen sitting next to a stack of great-tasting, non-standard chips ready to serve with spicy salsa on a counter stool as a soft Spanish song plays in the background.
The food here is good, standard Mexican fare. It might not win any gourmet awards, but it is always fresh, piping hot and extremely filling. Though there are some excellent restaurants and buffets at the nearby Wendover casinos, including a good new Mexican-themed steakhouse at the Peppermill, the Salt Flats Cafe is an out-of-the-way lunch counter drive with a great vibe.
Plus, it's cheap and a bit on the quirky side.
The most expensive items on the menu, the fajitas and a Carne Asada steak, are $7.95.
The Pancho Special, at $6.95, features a chile verde burrito, steak tostada, steak enchilada, rice and beans. It is served piping hot, often by Escobedo's son who seldom writes anything down but never seems to get an order wrong. It is filling, and has just the right kick that might be helped with the somewhat runny salsa that is served with the chips.
Menudo is served Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Posole is in the menu on Wednesdays. There are also breakfast items as well as a standard children's menu.
Escobedo does not take credit cards, but he will take a check. If you forget cash, the gas station offers an ATM machine.
What gives the place its charm and makes it a classic Blue Highways restaurant is both the lunch counter and the dÃ©cor.
As befits its theme as the restaurant closest to the famous Bonneville Salt Flats, a number of signed photos and posters of some of the streamliners and fast cars that have raced nearby decorate the walls. A personal favorite is a poster of Burt Munro, the New Zealand motorcycle speedster played by Anthony Hopkins in the Salt Flats racing movie "The World's Fastest Indian." Having seen the movie, it's fun to view an actual photo of the real Munro and his motorcycle.
But there are other collections as well.
Currencies from all over the world are pinned to one wall. There is a Major League Baseball clock, some plaques featuring baseball players and even a plaque of the 1992-93 Utah Jazz with player cards that include new University of Utah basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak who played on that team.
The bottom line is the little restaurant has its own special charm, a courteous staff, and offers hot, basic Mexican food at a more than fair price. It's worth checking out the next time you head West for a Wendover weekend.