For the second year in a row, a restaurant in a remote area of Utah has has been named one of the top eateries in the nation.
Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm in tiny Boulder, Garfield County, is the only Utah restaurant ever selected as a national semifinalist for the prestigious James Beard Awards — the dining industry’s top honor — in the category of Outstanding Restaurant.
One Salt Lake City establishment is a national semifinalist as in the Outstanding Hospitality category; another is a national semifinalist as Outstanding Bakery. One is a national semifinalist as Outstanding Bar. And seven Utah chefs at five establishments are semifinalists in the five-state Mountain region.
Hell’s Backbone is a nationally renowned farm-to-table restaurant located in tiny Boulder — population of about 250, about 200 miles southeast of Salt Lake City and 130 miles northeast of St. George in rural Garfield County. Co-owners and co-chefs Jen Castle and Blake Spalding were semifinalists in the Best Chef category in the Southwest region in 2017, 2018 and 2019, and nominees for Best Chef in the Mountain region in 2020.
Since Hell’s Backbone was named one of 20 national Outstanding Restaurant semifinalists in 2022, Castle and Spalding have had to turn to crowd-funding to keep their restaurant open. As of Wednesday, the restaurant’s GoFundMe page has raised more than $405,000 — well beyond the original goal of $324,000. Castle and Spalding wrote that they were “absolutely undone” by the support.
“Through hundreds of handwritten letters, calls, emails, texts, posts, and comments — and thousands of donations — you’ve granted us something invaluable: The courage, confidence, inspiration, peace of mind, determination and resources to carry on with the work we deeply love,” they wrote on the page. “Your belief in us has not only helped us believe in ourselves again, it’s renewed our faith in humanity.”
Three Salt Lake City establishments were named semifinalists in other James Beard categories:
• Manoli’s, which “reinterprets Greek cuisine by using fresh, local and seasonal products,” is one of 20 national semifinalists in the Outstanding Hospitality category. The small restaurant at 402 E. Harvey Milk Blvd. (900 South) remains closed after suffering water damage in early January; it is expected to reopen sometime in February.
• Normal Ice Cream, which touts its “unconventional flavor combos ... locally sourced milk from happy cows” and its “knack for snagging the very best ingredients,” is one of 20 national semifinalists as Outstanding Bakery. It’s located at 169 E. Harvey Milk Blvd. (900 South).
• And Post Office Place, which was “born out of a love for travel and food” and “has been an outlet for an abundance of ideas and a passion for providing place,” is a national semifinalist as Outstanding Bar. It’s located at 16 W. Market Street.
Seven Utahns at five restaurants were among the 20 eateries named Best Chef semifinalists in the Mountain region, comprised of Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming:
• Paul Chamberlain and Logen Crew, SLC Eatery, 1017 S. Main, Salt Lake City.
• Andrew Fuller, Oquirrh, 368 E. 100 South, Salt Lake City.
• Briar Handly, Handle, 136 Heber Ave., Park City.
• Young-Ho Kang and Peter Kim, The Angry Korean, 11587 S. District Main Dr., South Jordan. (The Angry Korean has a second location, at 6945 S. 1300 East in Cottonwood Heights.)
• Ali Sabbah, Mazza, 1515 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City.
Finalists will be named in March. Winners will be announced in June.