Little America’s new chef shares the Coffee Shop’s classic bread pudding recipe

Santiago Ramos aims to add new tastes, but will keep such favorites as beef liver and turkey dinner on the menu.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Executive Chef Santiago Ramos at The Coffee Shop at Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 31, 2023.

For generations, the Little America Coffee Shop has been a must-visit spot for anyone looking for a taste of old-school charm and delicious, classic American diner fare in Salt Lake City.

“People come to Salt Lake to visit Temple Square and Little America, so to be a part of that and know that I’m impacting so many generations is exciting,” said Santiago Ramos, Little America’s new executive chef.

After the retirement of Executive Chef Bernhard Götz last fall, Ramos took over the helm of Little America’s 80-person kitchen staff and the food and beverage programs — including Lucky H, banquets, room service and The Little America Coffee Shop.

Having spent the past 19 years as a chef at both Little America and Grand America properties in Salt Lake and Cheyenne, Ramos said he is keenly aware of the balance that such an iconic place as The Coffee Shop must maintain for locals and returning guests and those visiting the diner for the first time.

To start, there are some things that will never change — such as the chicken-fried steak and dinner rolls.

The roll recipe will not be adapted, Ramos said, and even the equipment used to make them will stay the same. Little America has bought new mixers to make the dinner rolls over the years, Ramos said, but they just weren’t the same. So the years-old mixer is still in use, maintained and regularly repaired, so it can churn out an average of 1,400 dinner rolls every day — and nearly 11,000 every Thanksgiving.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Raspberry pie at The Coffee Shop at Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 31, 2023.

Ramos said he was on hand when beef liver was removed from the dinner menu for a year — and he heard the backlash from loyal customers. He said he aims not to repeat that move.

When they brought beef liver back, they also updated the preparation and presentation — adding grilled apple and sauteed onions with bacon, a compromise that suited everyone with a more modern take on the classic dish.

In his new role as executive chef, Ramos aims to approach the job with thoughtfulness and care for the diners who have made The Coffee Shop a staple of Utah dining.

Over Memorial Day weekend, Ramos and The Coffee Shop debuted a new “Summer Specials” section on the lunch and dinner menus, featuring refreshed options meant to entice guests to try new flavors and tastes.

“Sometimes introducing it that way isn’t as threatening to people,” he said. “Based on some of those items that are a little bit more fresh and innovative, we’re going to see what works.”

A pear-and-cheese salad features shaved Manchego cheese and a fig balsamic vinaigrette with chicken and pears, while the grilled coho salmon is served with quinoa and a pesto and lemon mosto oil.

Another tradition Ramos feels strongly about: Making nearly everything — around 85% to 95% — in-house, while also supporting Utah businesses, including Beehive Cheese and Nicholas & Company, as much as possible.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Coffee Shop at Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 31, 2023.

Pleasing generations

Built in 1952, Little America and The Coffee Shop have served dignitaries of all types — from governors of Utah to officials of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — and it’s not uncommon to see them lunching in the high-backed booths Monday through Friday.

The Coffee Shop was renovated in 2013, but it still retains its retro charm — including the warm color scheme, leather booths and classic Art Deco light fixtures. Black-and-white historical photos of the original Coffee Shop line the walls, while the iconic lunch counter in the center of the diner plays an important role in the memories of generations.

“I get stopped all the time and people say, ‘I came here with my dad and grandparents and now I’m bringing my kids,’” Ramos said.

Local business hasn’t returned to its pre-pandemic levels, yet plenty of familiar faces return regularly to enjoy their All-American sandwich or the turkey dinner meal.

“Where else can you go to get a fresh-cooked turkey dinner at any time of the year?” Ramos said.

The roast turkey is accompanied by gravy that starts with a stock made from the roasted bones of the birds, a scratch-made sage dressing and cranberry sauce. Ramos said it’s the most popular item on the menu by far.

“We cook about 200-to-250 pounds of turkey a day,” he said, noting that on a night where around 500 guests are served, he’ll serve between 200 and 225 turkey dinners.

“There was a time I was eating the turkey dinner every day for nine months,” Ramos said. “I wanted to make sure it was just right all the time, so I’d eat it different ways — turkey dinner, hot turkey sandwich.”

And while he never tired of the slow-cooked turkey, Ramos said his current favorite menu item is the Deluxe Burger, now found on the summer special menu.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Deluxe Burger at The Coffee Shop at Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 31, 2023.

“We cook pork belly, make housemade barbecue sauce, and then we shave some onions and bread them and do a tumbleweed fried onion,” Ramos said. “And that’s why I put it on the menu, so I can have it every day.”

Like the wildly popular seasonal raspberry pie, which diners call about months before it returns to the menu, the sense of coming home to family is ever-present in The Coffee Shop. Some servers have worked there for 45 years, and the average tenure there is around 20 years.

Ramos admitted that “it’s kind of frustrating that we can’t change and innovate.” But being a part of American culture, Utah’s history and the Salt Lake community is something to be proud of.

Much like The Coffee Shop, some things, like the classic bread pudding and rum sauce, are perfect just as they are.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Bread pudding at The Coffee Shop at Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 31, 2023.

Recipe: Little America Classic Bread Pudding

Makes 12 servings.


  • 2 lbs., 2 oz. leftover morning pastries (croissants, Danish, etc.)

  • 6 cups custard

  • ½ cup raisins

  • ½ cup pecans

  • ½ cup white chocolate chips

  • Butter

  • Granulated sugar

Custard recipe

  • 1 ½ cups whipping cream

  • 1 ½ cups milk

  • 1 ½ cups pasteurized whole eggs

  • 4 oz. egg yolks

  • 10 oz. sugar (can add more if desired)

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean extract

  • Pinch of salt

Rum sauce recipe

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 2/3 cup brown sugar

  • 2/3 cup apple juice

  • ¾ cup heavy cream

  • 1 ½ tablespoon Meyer’s Rum

  • 1 cup unsalted butter


Cut or tear the pastries into cubes and arrange in a large, oven-safe casserole dish or pan. Mix raisins, pecans and chocolate chips with pastry cubes.

Whisk custard ingredients together. Pour mixture over cubed pastries and let sit for 5 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cover pan with foil and place in shallow 1-inch water bath. Bake for 1 hour or until knife comes out clean. Uncover and brush with melted butter and sprinkle granulated sugar on the top. Bake for 10 minutes more.

Prepare the rum sauce by placing sugar, brown sugar, apple juice, heavy cream and rum in a sauce pan and stirring to combine. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. With an immersion blender, blend in the butter. Continue blending for 4-5 minutes. Cool the sauce in an ice bath until it reaches room temperature. Keep in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to serve.

Reheating instructions

To reheat the rum sauce, warm on low on the stove until reaching the desired temperature.

To reheat the bread pudding, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cover dish with foil and bake for 15 minutes.

Source: Little America