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Mantua • On the drive between Brigham City to Logan, you pass the tiny town of Mantua and its most visible feature, a blue-green reservoir nestled between the mountains and rows of farms and historic houses.
Most people rarely stop in this northern Utah community — unless they plan to fish, water ski or paddle board. At least that was the case before word got out about Sydney’s.
Now, in addition to fishermen, boaters — and some 1,100 residents and counting — adventurous eaters from Box Elder County and beyond have made Mantua’s only restaurant a dining destination.
There’s something else noteworthy about this Main Street gem: Sydney’s is part of Mantua’s only commercial business, Little Valley Store and Campground.
An antique paradise in an RV campground
Owners Steve Flint and his sister Denise Hardy purchased the campground about seven years ago and since then have methodically been upgrading it with themed cabins, improved RV hookups, new showers and bathrooms and a shady deck for outdoor gatherings and events.
They installed gas pumps for the boats and RVs and built a convenience store with a small grill that initially served just hamburgers and sandwiches.
It didn’t take long, though, before the grill got busy and the owners decided to remove the groceries and turn the entire building into a full-service restaurant named after their mother.
Sydney Flint died of cancer years ago, but she remains visible beyond just having her name above the front door. A sepia-toned photo — of Sydney and her husband Boyce — hangs in the foyer. Her carrot cake is the restaurant’s most popular dessert and bottles of her chile sauce (the original recipe, slightly tweaked) can be purchased as a souvenir of your visit.
Sydney and Boyce operated a dairy farm outside of Fillmore for many years, so they weren’t fancy folks. And their children honor that in the restaurant, serving classic comfort food with eclectic Western and farm decor.
Hardy, who admits to an antique addiction, purchased most of the items on display from yard sales and second-hand shops. “Can you tell I have issues,” she joked recently.
Colored glass bottles, metal signs, cowboy hats and wood barrels dot the walls and shelves of the eatery. A floor to ceiling fireplace is flanked by elk and buffalo heads and the ceiling’s wood beams were pulled from an century-old barn in Idaho.
Local residents also dusted off items stored in their barns and attics and loaned them to the restaurant for display, Hardy said. Just above the cash register hangs a gifted bear skin rug; and the intricate loops of barbed wire — more than 100 in all — are believed to be the largest collection of the historic metal fencing in the country.
Saturday at Sydney’s includes breakfast and smoked meats
The antiques provide entertainment until the food prepared by head chef, Ted Mathesius, arrives.
His name may be familiar to Utah eaters, as Mathesius was the head chef at Hamilton’s and Cafe Sabor in Logan, for a time. Later he worked in food-service at Microsoft in Seattle then Adobe in Lehi and Vivint in Provo.
He was hired to be the head chef at Sydney’s in June of 2020. Since taking control of the kitchen, he has implemented a made-from-scratch menu — and brought back the crispy potato spring roll from his days at Hamilton’s.
Members of the Logan Foodies Group on Facebook — which has nearly 5,000 members — have raved about various items at Sydney’s. The restaurant’s street tacos, artisan pizzas and sandwiches (particularly the Philly cheesesteak and Reuben), which come with the not-to-miss crispy fries or hand-breaded onion rings, all receive consistent praise.
The Mantua Monster is one of the restaurant’s signature items but — with two (1/3-pound) patties, bacon, pastrami, cheese and fixings — even the hungriest of eaters may have a hard time finishing this giant $15 hamburger.
The dinner menu includes steaks, chops, pulled pork (smoked on site) and fish and chips for $12-$25.
Sydney’s ramps up its business hours and food offerings on Saturday — when the campground is usually booked and visitors hit the lake. Saturdays are the one day each week the restaurant opens early for breakfast — and offers a weekly $24.99 smoked prime rib special for dinner.
Guests usually can’t leave without something from the glass dessert case, all made in-house by pastry chef Gabby Milligan. The options change regularly but the circus animal cheesecake — designed to look like the colorful treat from your childhood — is light, airy and worth a try.
‘Who knew there was a restaurant in Mantua?’
Hardy said the restaurant fills a niche on many fronts. It serves as the only restaurant in the a fast-growing community, which has doubled its population over the last decade. Acccording the latest U.S. Census figures, in jumped from 687 residents in 2010 to 1,133 in 2020,
During the pandemic, she added, people were looking to travel closer to home — so outdoor activities and day trips to unique destinations like the Mantua reservoir and Sydney’s became something popular to do.
Social media has also helped fuel the fandom.
“Word is getting out,” Hardy said, “we have people from Ogden and Salt Lake City drive up for the day and we’ve caught the attention of a few foodie groups.”
Sydney’s also has been a bright spot for the town which had a tumultuous year — beyond the usual pandemic woes. In 2020, the police chief was fired, five officers quit and then the mayor resigned.
Betty Cowley, of North Ogden, and her sister LaVon Rose of Brigham City are regular lunchtime visitors at Sydney’s. They usually take the corner booth with a view of the kitchen — but in the winter they’ll sit by the fireplace.
“We love it here. It’s quaint and fun and the food is really good,” Cowley said. “And who knew there was a restaurant in Mantua?”
Sydney’s • 130 N. Main, Mantua; (435) 723-1292 or sydneys-restaurant.business.site/ Open Tuesday-Thursday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Saturday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Sunday and Monday. Entrees from $12-$26; lunch, $10-$15.