Friday, April 17, 2009

An Off-season Oasis

We staggered (metaphorically) back into Escalante, Utah (population 818, as of the 2000 census) frazzled and hungry and eager to get out of the truck (after prying Chuck’s death grip from the steering wheel) and draw a deep breath (see yesterday’s blog).

The first two restaurants we passed weren’t open (remember this is still off-season), and we weren’t excited by the prospect of eating at Subway. Then appeared before us a neon sign reading “Open” on the window of the Golden Loop Café. While not knowing anything about this small café, we decided to live dangerously and give it a try.

Walking through the doors we noticed that the place was empty except for young woman who immediately greeted us and showed us to a table. We later learned that this woman is the daughter-in-law of the café’s new owner. The restaurant was decorated in Western Cowboy – in fact, I have seen more Wild West décor in Utah than I saw in Texas.

The lunch/dinner menu contained a fairly long list of sandwiches along with a smaller list of dinner entrees. Chuck decided to play it safe with the double cheeseburger with fries and added an order of onion rings. I was intrigued by something called the Pepper Steak Sandwich, which I learned was thin sliced roast beef topped with sautéed onions, green peppers, mushrooms, and cheese served on what the waitress called a “hoagie” roll. This sounded good, so it became my choice with a side of fries.

We were the only customers in the café, and soon we noticed the waitress put on her coat and walk out the front door. What was this? Soon a youngish man came in and took a seat at the counter and the cook came out of the kitchen to wait on him. A few minutes later the waitress returned with a small bag of groceries from the store across the street. I could see a green and red pepper and a package of rolls through the thin plastic bag. Talk about fresh food!

Sometimes living dangerously has its rewards. Chuck’s burger was two one-third pound patties on a toasted bun. After one bite he exclaims “This is a good burger!” After two bites he exclaims “This is a really good burger!!” We learned that their grill/flattop has been in the kitchen for about forty years and retains the memories of burgers past. When taking our orders, the waitress said that the fries were cut in the kitchen, and we both received a massive portion of crisp and meaty fries – so many fries (yes, even for Mr. Potato) that about a third of the total came home with us to be reheated that evening.

Now to my sandwich. This roll would never be mistaken for a hoagie roll. Oh, for a crusty roll! But it was stuffed with thin-sliced, tender, moist, and delicious beef. And the crisp sautéed peppers (I am assuming from the waitress’ recent shopping trip), onions, and mushrooms overflowed the roll. And the cheese was not a processed American; rather it was mild and stringy cheddar. If this sandwich had been served on a hoagie roll from Sarcone’s Bakery in Philadelphia it would have given a Philly Cheesesteak a challenge. And kudos to the restaurant for not trying to claim that this was a Philly Cheesesteak.

The onion rings were good but a bit thicker than we both prefer. But the coating was crisp and oil free and that offset the thickness of the rings.

All of this, plus two glasses of iced tea, cost just shy of $18.00. Given what we have paid the past two weeks for meals far less satisfying, this was a bargain, and The Golden Loop Café earned a 4.0 Addie score.

We were not able to get an answer to our question about where the name of the restaurant came from, but we noticed the window decoration as we left.

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