A January 2005 trip
to Park City by SFPhotocraft
Quote: Our son has the travel gene, and on his January birthday, he prefers a ski trip over a birthday party. This year, his pick was Park City, Utah, so off we went to hit the slopes!
Downtown Park City use to have an old mining-town flavor. It felt like small-town America and had a funky and fun edge to it. Since the Winter Olympics and the growth of the Sundance Film Festival, it has grown up. The area around Park City looks more like suburbia rather than an old mining town. Huge homes and condos are springing up everywhere. The first thing you now notice when you turn off the freeway is a Wal-Mart and dozens of fast-food establishments.
The town is now filled with fashionable boutiques, bistros, and shops. It's got a cool edge to it and seems a bit like Aspen's little brother.
The prices also reflected this growth, everything from food to lift tickets have shot up in price since the Olympics came to town. Park City use to be considered a deal but not anymore.
Not all the changes are bad. The Olympics left Park City with an outstanding transportation center. You can get anywhere in town or to any nearby ski resort for free on ultra-clean and well-run buses.
It has also brought five-star dining to the area, and today Park City can compare with any other ski town for fine dining.
It's still beautiful here and you have great skiing at any one of the three area resorts: Deer Valley, Park City Mountain, or The Canyons.
When you come here, you have a lot of options to choose from. However, say good-bye to funky and hello to chic as Park City has come of age.
I was in the travel business and did product development on tour packages for a large airline; you would have thought I would have known better. But I was in the middle of a move and didn't have a lot of time, so I took the lazy way out and booked a ski package with Southwest Vacations. I found a package for per person with air, car, and a studio. It seemed like a fair price and I booked it.
After it was paid for, I found some extra time on my hands and I played with the pricing. I took the same flights, the same car, and the same room and priced them out on the Internet. I came up with a price of .00 per person - .00 per person cheaper then the package! We would have saved a total of .00 by booking each part of this trip directly.
Packages can be good deals. But there is no promise that because you book a package, you are saving money. Be smart and compare!
You will not need a car in Park City if you want to stay in the area and ski any of the three area resorts. The bus is FREE! It runs to all the areas and it runs often with new, clean buses.
The bus also runs all over Park City, and you can get anywhere in town. This great bus service was leftover from the Olympics, and I have to say that I have never been to a ski town with better transportation.
Hotel | "The Lodge at Mountain Village"
So we knew we could have stayed farther away at a much nicer place for less money, but for us, The Lodge was exactly the kind of place we were looking for. It is located in the center of Mountain Village (as the name suggests), and the back units sit right at the foot of one of the major ski runs. It was perfect: it was just a few steps away the lifts; surrounded by an ice rink, shops, restaurants; and even had a Jan Ski Rental outlet in the lobby.
There is nothing fancy or elegant about The Lodge. It has a small lobby with a fireplace and a few chairs. It has a small health club with a medium-size indoor and outdoor pool and Jacuzzi. It does not have a restaurant but is surrounded by many at the base. The Lodge offers valet parking for $7 a day.
We had a studio unit. It was long, narrow, and very basic. It had a fireplace, a small galley kitchen (well-stocked), a small bathroom, and a small dining area. It had a fold-out couch and a Murphy bed. I have to admit neither the Murphy bed nor the couch was very comfortable for sleeping. It was all very basic, and the decor was very 1970s: a lot of brown and beige and even a large macramé hanging from a wall. The unit did show some wear and tear, with torn carpets and tiles that needed grouting in the bathroom, but there was nothing severely damaged.
We did have a parking lot view. Many of the back units have great views of the mountain and the bottom of one of the runs. When we checked in, we called the front desk and asked if they had a room with a better view. We were told those rooms were not given to guests who purchased through airline packages (we had booked ours through Southwest Vacations). It was a little disappointing, but the real annoyance came during the night when the parking lot was being cleared of snow and the plow gave a beep, beep, beep sound every time it backed up. Just try sleeping through that right outside your window!
Overall, we were happy with The Lodge. The unit was small, but it was fine for four people. The staff was friendly. We made use of the pool and Jacuzzi. However, the location made up for anything else we may have missed at a more deluxe property. The location was for sure five stars!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 31, 2005
Lodge At The Mountain Village
1415 LOWELL AVENUE
Park City, Utah 84060
Now from an adult's standpoint, I can tell you that 8 times out of 10, we are in for a not-so-great meal. The kids have a very different criterion for picking than we adults. They look for glitz and gimmick. So when we took a walk down Main Street, I knew in heartbeat we would be spending one night at the Hungry Moose. It had all the hooks that needed to draw in kids. It had a silly mascot and a name like Hungry Moose, and it was bright and had TVs going. Who cares about the food when you have a cartoon mascot looking over the place!
Sure enough, this was their pick. We headed downtown. The Moose has a great location, front and center on Main Street. When you walk in, it's very brightly lit and the entire atmosphere is anything moose related. None of it matters as long as it's moosey. There are TVs hanging down, all on but with no sound. They all were turned to a news channel. So unless you read lips, I can't imagine the purpose.
Our waiter came and was a winter ski bum from Peru. He was great, had a big warm smile, and was very helpful and even a bit chatty. The service may have been the only high point of the meal.
I had the open-faced turkey sandwich and a bowl of chili, and the kids had a pizza and chicken fingers. The chili came and it was good, not great but decent. However, when the entrées came, they were awful. My turkey was processed and the mash potatoes were instant. The pizza looked like it was right out of the microwave, as did the chicken fingers. It was just like mom used to make, if mom cooked from her microwave and only used frozen foods. Even the kids recognized that this pick was not their best effort.
The prices were fairly typical ski-town prices. My processed turkey dinner with a few fixings was $12, my chili, $5. These were not outrageous prices but certainly not bargains.
I noticed the entire restaurant was full of families and kids. Very few tables were just adults. The moose mascot is a draw for the more naive diner.
When we left the front part the Hungry Moose was full of families waiting for tables. Maybe other families must have the same custom we do, allowing the kids to pick the dinner spot, because I sure wouldn't understand an adult picking this place when there were dozens of more interesting places just a few feet away.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on January 24, 2005
Hungry Moose Pub and Grill
438 Main Street
Park City, Utah
Blind Dog Grill is located in Prospector Square, a few blocks away from Main Street Park City. The grill is named Blind Dog in honor of the owner's black lab, who was hit by a car and survived but was left blind. The blind-dog theme runs throughout the restaurant. I love the white plates with the blind-dog logo across them. We did note that it is curiously similar to the black-dog theme in Martha's Vineyard. BDG has even opened a small gift corner with logo wear.
The restaurant is elegant, but in a casual, less fussy way. The staff is young, and you can tell they all share a love of working here. They light up when they talk about the menu and that night's specials. Our waitress from lunch remembered us and came over to our table to welcome us back. The feel is friendly and inviting.
This is one menu we all had a very hard time ordering from--not that it was difficult, just that it had so many great things that it was really hard to narrow our picks down. Finally, we all had ordered and realized none of us had ordered the crab cake, which got rave reviews from another guide at IgoUgo. So we ordered a separate crab cake for our table to share.
As at lunch, not one bite disappointed. I started with the lobster bisque. Who knew you could find the perfect lobster bisque in the middle of Utah in the winter? Patrick had the fresh mussels over French onion soup, and I tried it and loved it. Patrick refused to share more than one spoonful, no matter how hard we begged. We all dug in to our crab cake, and you would have to go to Maryland to find a better crab cake.
We all got steaks, except for Chris, who got Penny's signature "Dreamloaf". The Dreamloaf is a famous dish here at Blind Dog, and with the first bite, we understood why. This was the perfect meatloaf and raised the mom's meatloaf recipe to a gourmet pedestal. We all took large forkfuls and all wished we had ordered the same. (If you can't make it to Utah, look on the web page--The Blind Dog is actually generous enough to share this recipe!) The steaks were outstanding, but the meatloaf won.
Blind Dog is one of those nights that I will take away in memory from Park City. It was a night of perfect dining. We shared great food and good conversation, had fantastic service, and I love the look and feel of the space. Please, take my advice when you plan your trip to Park City, and make sure you spend one night at Blind Dog.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 25, 2005
Blind Dog Grill
1781 Sidewinder Drive
Park City, Utah 84060
Restaurant | "Blind Dog Sushi"
When we asked for directions at the front desk, the clerk's eyes lit up and she could only say, "YUM". We knew we were in for a treat.
We found Blind Dog and headed up to the door only to find it locked. You should have seen the disappointment on our faces. Then we noticed the sign on the door, "Serving Lunch and Dinner, Monday to Saturday from 11:00am until closing". Okay, it was Thursday at 12:30pm, why was the door locked? Why was the parking lot full of cars? Then we noticed Blind Dog Sushi next door. We did not want sushi, but at least we could ask. That door was open. We told the hostess we did not want sushi, but isn't Blind Dog open for lunch? It was - lunch is served from the sushi restaurant. Okay, a bit confusing and not very well explained. But you can get lunch and many of the wonderful Blind Dog dishes here at Blind Dog Sushi, or you can get sushi. Okay - understood - we were in the loop!
Our waitress was a doll: helpful, friendly, fun, and you could tell loved her job and loved everything about Blind Dog. She turned me onto a Purple Haze, hot sake and Chambord. Okay, it was a little sweet, but I enjoyed it. Who knew I would discover a new cocktail in Utah!
The sushi area is less formal but still has the Blind Dog feel and atmosphere to it. The lunch menu is pared down a bit from dinner but offers all the favorites, like Penny's Dreamloaf, The Kobe Beef Burger, The Fondue, and The Crab Cakes.
We were so overwhelmed, we had to order a few items and share. We had the cheese fondue and it was delicious. The Kobe Beef Burger for $18 was worth every penny. I have never tasted a better burger. The chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese was also a table favorite. We even got a few pieces of sushi, which was fresh and wonderful.
We all were full and happy. We were so thrilled with our lunch, we made dinner reservations here for Patrick's birthday (see separate review for the main dining room).
The sushi area is open for lunch and at dinner. You can always get sushi in this room in addition to the menu, but you cannot order sushi in the main dining room from this area. It may be a bit confusing, but once you get the rules down, you are in foodie nirvana.
Blind Dog is a must-do for Park City. I can honestly tell you that it's one of my picks for the top-ten American restaurants.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 26, 2005
We found the Taste of Saigon on the second floor of the Galleria Mall on Main Street in downtown Park City. We walked into an empty restaurant. We almost made a HUGE mistake by turning around and leaving when we walked in and found we were the only ones here! I figured an empty restaurant was NOT a good sign. However, good karma was with us, as we sat down anyway.
The owner welcomed us. She was an elegant Vietnamese woman who had a presence about her. She had a sincere smile and a warm welcome. The room was warm and had some great lanterns hanging from wall. It was simple but tasteful.
We had Vietnamese beers to start our lunch. The owner brought us a bowl of tasty, crisp fish chips that were gone in a minute. We had our beers with the Saigon Egg Rolls. I love Vietnamese egg rolls, as they are served with fresh, crisp lettuce leaves and herbs to wrap the egg rolls in. The rolls came with a delicious fish sauce.
We ordered the Spicy Lemon Grass Beef and Pho Tai Nam (rice noodle soup). Each bite was delicious. The soup was a perfect dish to order on a cold and snowy day. It warmed me up like a big bowl of homemade soup does. It was a perfect ski resort lunch.
I shouldn't have been worried about the place being so empty. First off, most folks don't come to town for lunch. They are on the hills skiing. Main Street is more active once the sun goes down. However, we did notice Taste of Saigon does a brisk takeout business with local merchants. It seems it's very popular with Main Street shopkeepers for takeout lunches. Taste of Saigon seems to have a very loyal customer base who are local, which tells a lot about a resort eatery.
Also, we had been having sticker shock in Park City. Since the Olympics, the prices have soared through the roof. Our lunch with appetizers and beers was less than $30. Most entrees are around the $10 mark. This may seem about average in most cities, but for Park City, this was a bargain!
I am a fan of Vietnamese cooking and Taste of Saigon is about as good as it gets. If you tire of the burgers and pizza in town, I can highly recommend Taste of Saigon as an exotic alternative.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 26, 2005
Taste of Saigon
580 Main Street
Park City, Utah 84060
Restaurant | "The Cafeteria at Legacy Lodge"
The cafeteria has high ceilings, cozy fireplaces, and a wide choice of food stations. The walls are all glass and have unobstructed views of the mountain and the runs. This is for sure an upscale cafeteria. There are also TV sets hung from the ceiling all over the dining room. We noticed a peculiar custom in Park City of having TVs in eating establishments, turning them on to a news channels, and then turning off the sound. What is so interesting about seeing a news anchor behind a desk with no sound? We found a lot of places here did it.
However, our enthusiasm soon faded as we had a couple of dining experiences and quickly learned that you can't judge a book by its cover. The cafeteria was all glitz and no substance. First off, we were shocked by the prices. I am used to paying extra for the convenience of eating at the base of a mountain and even expect it. However, these prices were beyond that. Things like a simple baked potato were $7.95, a slice of pizza ran $7, and the ultimate insult was when my son wanted to get a small cup of fruit from the salad bar. He had less than a cup of melon and grapes and was charged $10 for it.
Some of the food was pretty good. However, it was hit-or-miss. I will admit that we enjoyed the pizza; it was top-quality and very good. The salad bar had a lot of choices and looked fairly fresh. However, I had a cup of minestrone soup one day, and the soup was 90% broth with a few macaroni noodles thrown in.
Our worst meal was our one breakfast here. By 7:30am, they had already run out of oatmeal, so I ordered scrambled eggs. The eggs were cooked on the hamburger grill and came out looking more like an overdone omelet than scrambled eggs. They were dry, overcooked, and very brown. I had two slices of dry toast that tasted like two pieces of cardboard. It was very disappointing, and I only took a few bites--$12 down the drain!
We didn't find the staff at the cafeteria very friendly. I got the impression they were all working there to support their ski habits and were resentful they were working behind a cash register and not out on the slopes.
This is by far the most convenient food outlet at the base, and we ended up here more times than we care to admit. It's too bad they put so much effort in the bones of the place and so little into the soul.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on January 27, 2005
Legacy Lodge At Park City Mountain Resort
Park City, Utah 84060
The Express isn't much to look at. It's a pretty basic corner establishment with no glitz, nor glamor. However, it does have one of the best and most central locations on the plaza--front and center. It's located just in front of PayDay Lift. The little outlet is surrounded by shops and ski rental stores.
We had our first breakfast on the mountain at the dazzling Legacy Lodge (see seperate review), and were not only very disappointed by the quality of the food but by the outrageous prices. The next morning we gave EEE a shot. We actually weren't expecting much, since this outlet was hardly noticeable. Boy, did this teach us a lesson that looks don't mean much when it comes to good food!
Eating Establishment Express has an extensive breakfast menu. You stand in line and order off the big board, similar to a McDonalds or Burger King, and pay up front. You are given a table number and your server will find you and deliver your meal. You then have the hard task of finding an open table to sit down and await your freshly cooked meal. Tables are scarce, and a lot of folks choose to eat outdoors.
Things move quickly here, and in no time, your food arrives. Don't expect deluxe service here. However, the service is friendly, and they make sure you have what you need and want. The meals are served on paper plates, although I got my oatmeal on a tin plate. I would much rather have great food on paper plates than bad food on fancy china.
The kids fell in love with the pancakes here. It was obvious that they were homemade, as they were served hot, were fluffy and moist. I tried my hardest to steal a few bites. I had the oatmeal, served hot and delicious. Oatmeal to me just cries skier's breakfast. We all agreed that this was the best hot chocolate on the mountain. This place is only a few steps away from Legacy Lodge, but the food here is much better and half the price.
We soon learned not to experiment with our breakfasts and ate here every morning when skiing. We found a place that served great food, had good prices, and was right in front of our favorite chairlift. What more could we ask for?
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 28, 2005
Eating Establishment Express
Park City Ski Plaza
Park City, Utah 84060
Restaurant | "Snowed Inn"
Reservations are accepted three times nightly for a limited amount of guests to come on up for dinner. The cost for dinner with your round-trip sleigh ride is $59 for adults and $34 for children.
We were told to dress warm and stand at the bottom of Pay Day Lift. We waited with anticipation, and shortly there it was... a horse-drawn sleigh coming down the ski slope. It stopped at the lift and the cowboy driving it had our names on his list. We climbed in and covered ourselves with the warm blankets provided. We had long johns, sweaters, ski jackets, hats, and gloves and were still freezing. I felt sorry for the couple from Phoenix who had cotton coats, no hats, and no gloves on. My advice is to DRESS WARMLY. Soon our 20-minute ride ended, when the sleigh turned the corner and a delightful mid-mountain, snow-covered chalet glowed in front of us.
We were invited in by the waiting cowboys. The place glowed with warmth with blazing fires. There was a cowboy on stage playing his guitar and signing. Our hosts invited us to step up and warm ourselves with hot apple cider. We found our table and sat down to savor or cider and listen to the singer. You can also order beer or wine for an extra charge.
Soon it was time for dinner. We could have chicken, prime rib, or local Utah trout. The meal started out with a choice of spicy chili or hot chicken noodle soup. I had the chili and it was spicy! Maybe too spicy for a Midwestern Swede like myself, but perfect for a Texan! I had the trout served with mashed potatoes. It was fresh and just lightly breaded. The kids had prime rib, which was thick and juicy. We ended our meal with homemade apple cobbler. The meal warmed and soothed and was true comfort food.
After dinner some folks got up and danced. However, one of the cowboys summoned the kids out back, where he gave them each a fresh tin plate and challenged them to ride it down the slippery and steep hill. The kids did and they flew down the hill on those tin plates. I can't describe the laughs and screams that came off that hill. They had a ball! We laughed; most of these kids got expensive video games for Christmas, yet a simple tin plate was the most fun they could have. If you ask our kids about their favorite memory of this trip, it would be the flying down the ski hill on top of a tin plate!
All too soon it was time to climb back into our sleighs and head down the mountain. It was a night that I will fondly remember.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 30, 2005
Snowed Inn Sleigh Company
3770 North Highway 224
Park City, Utah 84060
Attraction | "Kid's Mountain School (ski lessons)"
I found Kid's Mountain School to be a little laid-back. When I called to reserve, I was told they do not take any reservations for older kids. I was promised there was never a problem getting kids signed up on the day of the lessons. We didn't have any problems, but I did note that some other families were bumped, as lessons, especially afternoon half-days, were indeed sold-out.
The cost is $122, which includes lesson, lunch, and lift ticket. The classes run from 9:30am until 3:30pm.
The school does not have a main indoor gathering spot. You gather outside under a sign. It's hard to find the first time out. Park City does not do equipment rentals at the school; you are required to bring your own skis or rent before coming to class. I prefer the one-stop method. Helmets are not required; we tried to rent helmets and were told they don't rent them, due to insurance reasons. In California, we sing the helmet mantra, so it felt odd to allow the kids on the hill without helmets. About half the class was without. The older kids also don't wear class vests for the instructor to identify them.
The instructors were good, and they gave the kids a bit of a geography lesson; we had instructors from Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Canada. The philosophy here is to get the kids to the next level on their own, so there is not a lot of babying here. The kids are expected to get up, carry their own skis, and keep up with the group. I personally liked the no-babying attitude, as it taught the kids to be independent.
The teachers really tried to keep the parents away. I appreciated this, as I often see parents who stick with the class and really disrupt and pull attention away from the teacher. So once the child is dropped off, it's "bye-bye daddy". The time I did not like it was during lunch. We have a habit of checking in at lunch and making sure everyone is okay. The instructors seemed really put out that we were checking and would not allow us to come into the lunch room. They got the kids and allowed them to come out in the hall. Lunch is pretty basic here: hot dogs, mac-and-cheese, juice.
The feedback from the teachers was great, and both our kids moved up to the next level. I was happy with the level of instruction here, and it takes a pretty serious approach to skiing. But if your child needs a lot of attention, you may want to look at Deer Valley, where the school does a lot more pampering.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 28, 2005
Park City Mountain Resort
1310 Lowell Ave
Park City, Utah 84060
I have friends who won't even consider skiing Utah, as they think it's a dry state and they won't be able to find a beer or a glass of wine at lunch. I feel sorry for these guys, as they are dead wrong and are missing some of the best skiing in the country.
So, okay, the two big lobbies in Utah are the Mormon church and the tourism industry (skiing). Sometimes these two groups are on the same side and sometimes they butt heads. They seem to have worked out some interesting compromises when it comes to Utah's liquor laws.
The laws may be enforced differntly in places like Provo vs a ski town like Park City. In places like Park City the servers come from all over the word and just grin and bear some of the quirkier laws. You will get a wink and nod here regarding some of the laws.
I admit that when I first started coming to Utah, the drinking laws were a bit tighter. Most restaurants did not serve any liquor, and you had to run over to a state-run liquor store, buy an airline mini (one at a time), and then bring it back to the restaurant and buy a set-up. It was indeed a bit of a hassle!
During the build-up before the Olympics, Utah realized they would have guests from all over the globe and that they had to clean up their liquor laws. The French like their wine and the Germans, their beer!
First off, the drinking age in Utah is like most states--21 years old. Here are a few of the liquor laws that are a bit unique:
You will see the words "private club" thrown around a lot. These are just bars. In order to drink at a place that does not serve food, you must buy a membership and "join" the club. This all sounds a lot more complicated than it is. I think of it as a bar cover charge and it's a lot less mysterious. Membership ranges from $13 to $30 per year, or a temporary membership costs around $4 for three weeks. You buy them at the door, and it only takes a minute. You will get a cute little paper membership card stating you are a member of the private club in good standing. There are a few exceptions. For instance, the lounges at Salt Lake City Airport don't require memberships, and you can walk in and order a cocktail like most other places in the world.
Most resturants have a liquor license and serve cocktails. However, by law, you MUST order food with your drinks here. It is against the law to come in and order a cocktail and leave or just order a basket of chips and salsa. The server can demand that you order a meal, and if you refuse, you can actually be arrested. I doubt that many arrests are made with this law, but it is on the books.
Also, you are never allowed to have more than one drink in front of you at a time. Utah does not have two-for-one happy hours. You are required by law to just order one drink at a time, then drink it, and then order the next one. Also, no sending drinks to a person who already has one! However, it's not against the law to order a pitcher of sangria or margaritas at the table--go figure.
Also, a server may not suggest a cocktail to you. You must ask for it. A server can say, "Can I start you out with anything?" but never, "Would you care for a cocktail?" I have seen this law broken many times at ski resorts. Again, you probably won't hear any lawbreakers pushing drinks in Provo, but you probably will be "illegally" offered a drink by a server in Park City! Also, thankfully, smoking is illegal in all Utah restaurants.
Private liquor stores are illegal in Utah. All liquor stores are owned and operated by the state. You will find a few in each town. Park City has two. These stores are plain, brightly lit, do not have promotions, and look pretty sterile. There are seldom deals at these stores, but you can find most liquor.
I have to give Utah credit. The liquor stores must be a great source of revenue for the state. They can charge pretty much what they want with no competition, and they always have a willing audience. I have seldom been to one of these stores where there has not been a line at the register.
I have a friend who is married to a girl from Utah. They are not heavy drinkers, but when they go home, he always brings a bottle of his favorite scotch with him. He states that he does not like to pay the Utah prices, and when and if it's sold out, you have no other options. I know several folks who ski Utah and always bring their favorite liquor with them.
Beer Pubs and Beer Bars
These are 3.2 bars and can be found all over ski resorts. You don't need a membership, and you can find a beer almost anywhere at any ski resort in Utah. Even the cafeteria at Park City sells 3.2 beer. It's never a problem.
Another unique liquor law: you cannot bring a beer-filled cooler to a public place, like a golf course or a public park.
Just a word of warning. Park City is over 5,000 feet above sea level, and you feel a cocktail a lot quicker up here. Also, Utah does not kid around with DUI laws. You can expect automatic confiscation of your drivers license, your car impounded, and criminal charges lodged against you. They also take underaged drinking seriously here. Anyone under 21 who is caught drinking will have their driver's license revoked until their 21st birthday.
So you can find a cocktail or beer easily in Utah. You just have buy a membership, order a meal, or buy your bottle of gin from the state. It's all pretty simple, and a lot of the mystery is gone.