Here we are in Torrey, Utah (population of 171, elevation of 6830), and a town so small that our friend Tom remarked to Chuck that he – Chuck – is the only person to have heard of it.
Torrey is the western gateway to Capital Reef National Park, and like Springdale was to Zion, Torrey exists mainly to serve the park’s visitors. Again, we have arrived before the official tourist season. The good news is that we beat the crowds, and the daytime temperatures are moderate. The bad news is that many of the restaurants and stores won’t be open until May.
All this was leading up to my saying that dining options are few – very few. Most restaurants are attached to motels, and I try to avoid these if possible. But I had read about Slacker’s Burger Joint, and this small eatery had received uniformly good on-line reviews--in some instances, raves. So we pulled into our campground, unhitched the truck, hooked up the water and electricity, turned on the refrigerator, and set off for what some claim to be the best burger in Southern Utah.
Slacker’s offers both inside and outside dining. Since the day was somewhat windy, we ate in the dining room, which offers about ten booths and three tables. We marched to the order window, scanned the menu on the wall, and gave our order to the very friendly woman working the window.
For Chuck: the double cheeseburger with raw onions only and an order of fries; for me: the jalapeño swiss burger with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and mayo and an order of “English Chips.” Both hamburgers came on a toasted sesame bun.
Slacker’s burgers are made from Angus Beef and each patty weighs four ounces. I have discovered that restaurants in Utah cook hamburgers medium well – even when you ask for medium, so a hamburger has to be cooked perfectly to retain any juice. Very good beef cooked perfectly equaled very good hamburgers.
A piece of corregated metal provided one wall, and among the many metal "decorations" covering two of the other walls, was a sign next to our table that read “Each Slacker’s Burgers Joint’s franchises are (sic) individually owned and operated” – or something like that, as I try to recall it as I write. At first we took this to mean that Slacker’s was part of a chain. Then I tasted one of Chuck’s fries. From all appearances, these were hand cut, and I have never known of a burger chain that serves hand cut fries. So I asked the woman at the counter if they cut the fries in the kitchen, and she replied in the affirmative. Then I asked if Slacker’s was a chain or whether the sign was an inside joke. It was a joke.
These were the king of fries. A bit thicker than McDonald’s, but hot and crisp (yes, someone actually cooked crisp hand-cut fries) with good meaty potato inside. These may have been the perfect French fries and an addition to my “who’da thunk it” list.
My “English Chips” were little pillows of mashed or finely grated potato that seemed to be seasoned with a little grated onion. These little balls of potato were deep fried and the result was a crisp exterior with a steaming hot interior. So good and so unhealthy. And served with the English Chips was a small container of Utah Fry Sauce, a mixture of one part ketchup and two parts mayo. Sounds awful but tastes great with both the fries and the English Chips.
So the next day, following a strenuous morning of walking in the park and needing food fast, we headed back to Slacker’s. This time, from a long list of chicken sandwiches, I ordered the Slacker Special. This was a mesquite chicken breast with chipotle BBQ sauce, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and banana peppers on a sesame roll and a side of the fries. Chuck went with the fish and chips and added an order of onion rings.
Again, the fries were perfection. And the onion rings were coated with panko crumbs which gave the crisp batter even more crunch. And like our fries and English Chips from the day before, these came to the table grease-free. That is an art.
My sandwich was good with a somewhat sweet, somewhat spicy sauce that was augmented by the peppers. And Chuck’s fish and chips came with two medium pieces of cod with a thin crisp coating covering the flaky sweet fish. Not bad for Southern Utah.
Slacker’s is also known for their ice cream-based desserts. The list of malts and shakes runs to over a dozen flavors, and there are a banana split, a hot fudge sundae, a root beer float, and cones, also. But the special that day was the “Very Berry Sundae,” vanilla ice cream topped with a mix of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries and smothered with whipped cream. The berries were lightly sweetened and were a good contrast to the ice cream.
As much as we both enjoyed our lunch that day, we left wishing that we’d had another hamburger. The bacon bleu burger calls to me. Well, there is still time.
Slacker’s has earned 4.0 Addies – 4.5 for the burgers, 5.0 for the fries, and 3.5 for the chicken and fish.