Restaurants around and in the Utah National Parks
We started our two week tour of the National Parks of Utah in Durango, Colorado by way of the Denver Airport. This itinerary with my reviews and recommendations is long. You can read the full itinerary of our two week route of visiting seven parks. I have also broken down the sections here by a detailed list of where we ate, stayed and what activities we did along with my notes on what worked well and what didn’t with details on things that worked best with our boys.
Here is a summary of the restaurants we tried in and around the parks, starting with the Denver airport and Durango, Colorado.
DEN Wolfgang Puck – We ate at the Wolfgang Puck at the Denver airport and were pleasantly surprised. This place is in the central dining area by Concourse B. I got a humus platter and a salad. My boys got the usual chicken tenders and fries, but they were well made and my sons liked their meals. The healthy options were fresh and good. There was “something for everyone” and it felt like we could find fresh and reasonably healthy options even though we were at an airport.
DEN Haagen Dazs – There is a Haagen Dazs hiding near the B gates at the DEN airport between the main central food court and the B50 – B80 gates. The signs say frozen yogurt, but if you look closely, there is a Haagen Daaz sign and set of ice creams on the very left-hand side. Why get frozen yogurt when you can have really good ice cream?! So, after our dinners at the food court, we stopped by for cups of Haagen Daaz ice cream to eat at our B gate while waiting to board. It was a good choice. There was even a sorbet option.
Strater Restaurant for Breakfast – We loved eating at the Strater Hotel for Breakfast in Durango. The restaurant is right off the lobby of the hotel. The options for breakfast include many egg options as well as a pecan cinnamon French toast and a chocolate pancake options, which our boys loved. I got one of the egg scrambles each time. They have an option for using local farm eggs , which I chose. They also have gluten free bread for toast. The toast comes with a fresh fruit compote for jam which is incredible. The first morning it was berry and the second it was apricot. I wanted to lick the bowl clean each time it was so good. They provide a $3 off per person for breakfast if you are staying at the hotel.
The Ore House for Dinner – When we knew we were coming to Durango, we made a dinner reservation at Ore House, the historic steak restaurant in town. When prospectors found gold or silver, they would bring their ore into town, get money for it and celebrate with a steak dinner at Ore House. We wanted to get more of a historic sense for the town and so we ate here. Even though we had a reservation, we had to wait about 15 minutes for a table to clear. We tried a variety of seafood and steak options. Our service was excellent but our food was mixed. I loved my ceviche appetizer. My husband and son loved their steaks. I got a wild boar with a quinoa base special and it was disappointing. It was expensive at $40. The boar ribs were interesting, but the quinoa was mushy and uninteresting, with a strange overpowering sweet berry sauce; I left it. For such an expensive meal, it would have been better with just great potatoes or grains and really fresh grilled asparagus or veggies. We also tried their legendary lobster bisque and were disappointed. I love a smooth, dense bisque and theirs is chunky and not as flavorful as I like. The best options on the menu based on our experience were the steaks. So, this is a place for a special night out and steak!
To kick off our road trip, we drove to Monticello from Durango and had lunch at Peace Tree Café.
Peace Tree Café – It was so nice to find a healthy food stop in what felt like the middle of nowhere (Monticello, Utah) on our drive from Durango to Canyonlands National Park. We stopped for gas and found Peace Tree. Later in our travels we found there was a larger Peace Tree Café in Moab, but this was our first visit. You order at a counter and there is table seating or you can take it to go. We each ordered smoothies with healthy fruit, veggies and mix-ins. We ordered Mexican lunch options, such as burritos and warps with great meat, veggie and sauce options. There were also healthy salads. We got our food to go and were able to hit the road again. The parking for Peace Tree is on the side street next to the entry or in a parking lot across the street from the entry. They also sell some Native and local artifacts, jewelry and gifts in a small shop in front of the restaurant which are fun to look at as you wait for your food.
Love Muffin – We tried to get muffins here for breakfast in Moab and at 10 am they were out. Huh? This seemed odd for a muffin shop. We got coffee and left. It was disappointing.
Red Rock Café – We stopped by here (after a disappointing first stop) for muffins and breakfast items in Moab and were not disappointed. At 10 am, they were restocking their options. We found coffee and tea as well as a variety of scones, muffins and other gooey desserts. Our only complaint was that what looked like lemon bars in fact had no lemon flavor. Otherwise, everything was great.
Zax in Moab for dinner – We had an early dinner at Zax in Moab. We parked easily on the street after driving in from Canyonlands. After being in the hot sun and hiking in the afternoon, it was nice to walk up to the spray mist around the outside of Zax. I don’t know how much or often they have the spray going, but they had it going all day during the week of early June we were in Moab. It was nice to walk by and feel it. We were seated outside and sat alongside the mist and that also felt nice when a breeze lifted it our way. Zax is known for its pizza. Their most popular option is the pizza, salad and soup bar. My husband ordered that. I ordered a custom pizza. We found that my pizza was the best, being the most fresh. If you want variety and quantity, the pizza bar is best with at least six to ten pizzas out at a time, but it you want fresh pizza and one kind will do, ordering one is best. Our kids loved their entrees, the kid’s salmon for one and pasta for the other. Our service was fine. It wasn’t high-end food, but it hit the spot after all day in the park. The drinks were huge which also helped us rehydrate.
Moab Roaster – Gelato – For dessert, we each got a small gelato, each of which was huge. My boys got two flavors and they could not finish theirs. Two flavors were labeled sorbet, but only one was a true sorbet without dairy. If you cannot have dairy, that is something to look for. They had interesting flavors, such as coffee chip and some good fruit options. It was a good gelato stop. My husband also bought some ground coffee for the rest of our trip.
Broken Oar – I wish I could give this restaurant a good review. We also took a river rafting tour with Adrift Adventures and I understand that these two groups are linked in Moab. Unfortunately, Broken Oar is currently broken. Our waitress was new and the kitchen is painfully slow. We were seated for our 7:30 pm reservation and we waited for 20 minutes for anyone to bring us water or talk to us. No one came. I talked to the hostess station and one of them came over with water and eventually took our order a half hour after we had been seated! The new waitress came with her. Our salads came in reasonable time, but then we waited for our entrees. And we waited… An hour after we were seated our food started coming. Many things were sweet that didn’t seem like they should have been. I ordered Insalata Caprese. The balsamic and oil on it were sweet. We got sweet potato fries since they are a specialty and they had a sweet sauce. I ordered surf and turf with steak and shrimp and that combo was good. It ended well, but when we left two hours after we arrived, we were all tired and ready for bed.
Peace Tree Café – Moab – We had a great breakfast experience at Peace Tree in Moab. They also have mist spray all around the outside of the restaurant in the summer. It is so nice to walk by or be seated by the outside wall and have the occasional mist. In early June, we had full fun and daily temperatures in the 90s and the mist was refreshing. We each tried a different smoothie at breakfast. I liked my carrot citrus. We all ordered egg, French toast and pancake options and everything came quickly. I liked everything mine came with except the potatoes. The fried potatoes are the cut up and fried variety rather than hash browns. The potato squares are powdered with a red spice mix which didn’t have a good flavor to me. Perhaps they would have been better at another meal or to another customer, but they didn’t appeal to me at breakfast. Otherwise, we had a great meal with friendly, attentive service.
Moab Brewery – We had a nice dinner at Moab Brewery. There is parking out front, but it was filling up when we got there. There is also street parking around the sides. We appreciated being seated without a reservation. My boys each got corn dogs and I tried a chile verde burrito, which was great. They have lots of steak and burger options and my husband liked his. This is a no-frills place where our service was fast and attentive and the food was all fine. It wasn’t too expensive and it was good enough for all of us. Sometimes unpretentious is the right thing. Afterwards, we stopped at the front door for gelato. If you have eaten there, you get a discount! We tried the different flavors and enjoyed them. I liked my mango sorbet. The double in the waffle cone was too much for my younger boys. All good, especially with kids. We would return.
Tamarisk Café in Green River – On the way out of Arches to Capital Reef National Park, we stopped half way for brunch in Green River. We were pleasantly surprised by this nicely decorated, healthy, local food option right off the highway. There is tons of parking right in front. The booths look right out to the river. The food options are diner style, but have a healthy twist. There is a big “Rural and Proud” in lights on the wall and it rings true. There were mostly regulars and locals in when we were there for an 11am breakfast. We tried the special cinnamon rolls, which are great but with tons of icing (too much for me, but my boys liked them). The special strawberry French toast was a favorite for one of my sons. They had nice healthy egg options. The only healthy option they didn’t have was soy milk, but that was asking for a lot. All in all, we had a great brunch when we were least expecting it, which was a treat.
Escalante Outfitters for dinner – We ate at EO for dinner late on our arrival night. We arrived at 8:30 pm and it was very full. Everything seems to close at 9 pm in Escalante, however, so it started clearing out quickly. It is known for its pizza. We ate pizza and calzone which all came with starter salads. There is plenty of inside seating, but it was nice to sit in the covered outside porch for dinner. There is one German waitress and many of the guests were German and able to speak with her. It was a nice benefit if you are a German speaking tourist. She has been there three years and lives locally all year round. We liked the pizza and calzone, each was shareable between two people.
Circle D Eatery for Dinner – We stopped here in Escalante for dinner on our way back from Bryce National Park and after a day of hiking. This had a good atmosphere on the patio, but was insanely slow. I got the ribs and the BBQ flavor was strangely sweet/tangy. I was not a fan. Our boys got hamburgers and pasta. My husband got a burger. The food was ok once it arrived, but it took an hour for our food to come. I had to request chips and dip to keep us sane.
Bryce Lodge Restaurant – We had a lunch and a dinner at the Bryce Lodge Restaurant. When I called ahead to try to make reservations, they said the restaurant was large and it was first come, first served. I was concerned about this, but once we got there, their approach seemed to work. The times we came for a meal, we were seated right away. At our late lunch, I had the buffet. The food was not great but it was quick. I had the chicken. Because it seemed most fresh on the buffet, I got a lot of it and it was not bad. The other food that had been sitting there for a long time was not edible, such as the salmon. But they replaced it with fried fish which was better. If you are trying the buffet, my recommendation is to try small amounts first, find what you like and then get a full plate of that option. The salad and fruit bar was good and the dessert pudding was sweet. Dinner at Bryce was much better. We shared an enormous hummus plate. Our entrees were all fine. We all shared three desserts, our most on our trip.
Backerei Forscher on the way from Bryce to Zion – When we saw the sign for Backerei Forscher on the way from Bryce to Zion, we were excited. We pulled right in at lunchtime. The bakerei specializes in German style baked goods and had a butter crumb cake, a cinnamon wrapped croissant type roll as well as a moist apple cake slice. These were all good. We thought they would benefit from also having lunch sandwiches, cool drinks, as well as many coffee options and by advertising better outside.
Red Rock Grill – The Zion Lodge serves all three meals. There is a convenient café with vending machines, coffee and quick food downstairs, but there is also a nicer restaurant upstairs from the Lodge check-in called the Red Rock Grill. We had dinner as well as a breakfast here. It is not overly busy and there is indoor and outdoor seating. For Dinner at Zion Lodge, I got the hummus plate as well as salmon entrée. The salad bar came with everyone else’s meals and they got very filled up. The service was good and the food came in large servings. For Breakfast, we were running very late and found the Breakfast Buffet very convenient. There are tons of options set out and ready to go. You can have pancakes, eggs, oatmeal or cereal. There are many fruit options. Everything you could want for a brunch or breakfast is there. It was super-fast. We all had so much to eat that we didn’t need lunch.
Big John’s Texas BBQ with music – We ate BBQ and listened to western rock and roll for dinner while in Page, AZ. This was a treat. We sat outside on picnic tables; we had one end. Each of us had ribs, brisket or pulled pork sandwiches. There was a variety of sauces and the meats were good. There are salads for sides or various fries and large drink options. The night we were there, there was a live band on stage in front of us and they played two sets during our dinner. It was a mix of well-known old rock favorites and some country I didn’t know. The band called kids up to help them play percussion which was a nice extra. It made for a fun atmosphere and noisy place to pick up a big, sloppy meal.
The View (Please note: The View will only serve their own guests after 7 pm!)– We wanted to eat at the View and look out at their fabulous view of Monument Valley, but when we arrived after 7 pm for dinner we were informed that they only serve guests who are staying at their lodge after 7 pm??! We were staying at Gouldings, the other lodge in town and so we returned and ate there. What a strange limitation. Be warned!
Gouldings Restaurant for dinner and breakfast at Monument Valley – We ate one dinner and one breakfast while we were guests at a cabin at Gouldings. We really appreciated the service we had while dining here. We tried some of the Navajo specialties of the restaurant and our Navajo server talked to us about what she ate and liked. We liked the Fry Bread options. At breakfast, there are many good and filling options for kids and adults. The booths have a nice view of the old Trading Post and parts of Monument Valley.
At Mesa Verde National Park, we stayed at the Far View Lodge, which is the lodge in the park. There are three restaurants at Mesa Verde. Meals at Metate – Good food, very slow service. The food at Metate was the best of the three restaurants at Mesa Verde, but the service is very slow. They serve some of the same food at the grill in the lodge at Far View, but the service is also incredibly slow there, as well.
Terrace for Breakfast – Great breakfast buffet. We ate at this breakfast buffet each morning and enjoyed the options there. The kids had eggs and cereals and I liked having oatmeal options. We found that it closed earlier than we would have wanted (9 or 10 am, I believe) and we were always getting there as they were taking some of the food away from the buffet. The third place is a cafe/grill for lunch in the park, near the hikes and ranger lead hikes. We had one lunch there during the day with sandwiches and burgers. Since it is the only option, it was fine!
Ouray Brewery for lunch – We liked the order process in which you order at the roof top bar. There are a number of overly friendly people talking to you about the options and specials and you feel like family. They have many drink and beer options. After ordering, we enjoyed hanging out in their rooftop garden seating as they or we brought our lunch stuff to our table. We had nice views of the mountains and town. Good, easy-going, but on the healthy side, food. I liked my falafel sandwich and everyone else liked their sandwiches.
Mouse for ice cream – After lunch at the Ouray Brewery, we went across the street for ice cream and handmade chocolates. We each got a double at Mouse. They had interesting handmade flavors and it was more than our kids could eat.