It was Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s final passion project: a restaurant near Zion National Park that features Southwestern cuisine.
Allen — who also owned the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers — figured the location, just outside one of America’s most popular national parks, would be the perfect place to bring together his excitement for good food and his business instincts. After all, the Southern Utah park gets more than 4 million visitors a year.
Allen died in October from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, so he didn’t get to see the opening of Rosita’s Santa Fe Kitchen. But his personal chefs, who are also in charge of the menu, made sure to honor their boss.
“We want to see his dream realized,” general manager Natalie Tanner said. “That’s always been our goal.”
The restaurant’s name comes from Allen’s beloved dachshund, Rosie. A picture of the two hangs in the dining room.
The restaurant’s Southwest cuisine is a nod to the time Allen lived in Albuquerque, N.M., and fell in love with the food. The cheese enchilada topped with green chile sauce — which is prominent on the menu — was his favorite.
While living in New Mexico, Allen — along with his friend Bill Gates — launched Microsoft, a personal computer software company that would come to dominate the industry.
Inside Rosita’s kitchen, the chefs use a combination of locally grown produce and New Mexican ingredients. Growing their own chiles — mainly the Hatch variety — and fruits is easy, given that the restaurant is off Highway 9, along the East Fork of the Virgin River, in what used to be the Springdale Fruit Market.
Customers order at a counter and then go to the dining room to wait for their food. The restaurant features two big-screen televisions, which will undoubtedly be tuned to the Trail Blazers or Seahawks if they are playing.
“It’s a homey feel,” Tanner said. “And it’s been great getting to know the locals.”
Tacos, burritos and tamale entrées range from $9 to $14, but there are a few higher-priced signature items, including the red-chile-rubbed rib-eye ($36); and the Christmas chicken, topped with red and green chile sauce ($28).
During the winter months, the restaurant is open Wednesday through Sunday. In January, customers can expect live music and an ambience Allen would have loved.
Rosita’s Santa Fe Kitchen • 2501 Zion Park Blvd., Springdale, 435-773-3222 or https://rositaszion.com/. Open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.