heber ctity, Utah
November 2, 2005
We still are puzzled by the line at the top of the menu: “Come In and Enjoy Our Western Decor.” There were two dining rooms, and a front room of mostly booths looked like something from the 1950s. The larger dining room off to one side had four very differently decorated walls. One was white plaster, one was log cabin logs. One was a parquet floor turned on edge, and the last was covered with foot square boards bearing “The Most Popular Cattle Brands Used by the Ranchers of Wayne Co.”
Chicken fingers were nicely crisp on the outside and dried out on the inside, but no restaurant in Utah that we know can cook chicken properly. Overcooked, dried-out chicken is the norm. She asked for extra-crisp fries. They weren’t, but you had better order them that way too, because if that was extra crisp, the regulars are going to be soggy. The salad had nicely fresh Romaine lettuce. I ordered chicken cordon bleu. She asked, “Why?” After eating café cuisine for a while, when you see something so out of place, like chicken cordon bleu, on a menu, you are compelled to try it, even though you strongly except the worst. The waitress returned to inform us that they were out. I choose the café classic chicken fried steak, a fried and breaded hamburger or cube steak smothered in gravy. It was tough meat and bland but pleasant gravy accompanied by succotash and mashed potatoes. The less said of succotash, the better. In the civilized world, succotash vanished from restaurant menus in the 1960s.
My starter course, vegetable hamburger soup, was excellent. Cafes usually make their own homemade soups, and they are most often fine, except for too much salt. The Aquarius Café's was superb and not excessively salted. The wait for our meals was rather long, and the succotash and mashed potatoes were unevenly heated. At breakfast the next morning (we were going to try the town’s other café for breakfast, but it was closed), good French toast was on our table as fast as fast food. My side dish of ham was quite tasty. Coffee was decent and cheap at $0.75. There was no beer. The former is unusual for Utah, the latter common because Mormons don’t believe in ingesting stimulating beverages, although you’d never know it from the piles of six-packs in the grocery stores.
From journal Fall Foliage in Southern Utah