During a recent getaway to Heber Valley, I discovered a number of really outstanding restaurants in Midway and Heber City. Two Heber eateries—Spin Cafe and Bear Dance Cafe—made an especially big imprint on my palate. I don’t wish to shortchange either of these delightful establishments, but don’t have the space here to do justice to both. So, I’ll write about Bear Dance Cafe in an upcoming column (meanwhile, you should check it out yourself), and focus just on Spin Cafe in this one.
Frankly, my expectations weren’t high for Spin Cafe the first time we visited. We’d unknowingly picked a Saturday evening when the place was jammed to the rafters with a large group of sales types who worked for some New Age company. They were a loud (not very “New-Agey”) and fairly obnoxious bunch, and the place was so crowded I assumed the kitchen would be “in the weeds,” as they say. But to my surprise, we wound up having one of the better restaurant meals we’ve enjoyed in the past year, along with stellar service, despite the noisy throngs surrounding us.
Spin Cafe’s owners hail originally from the East Coast and, more recently, operated Campagna restaurant in Telluride, Colo., before opening Spin Cafe in 2006. Joline Esposito works the front of the house while her husband, Vincent, holds down the fort in the kitchen. Together, they’ve created one of the more enticing places to dine in all of Utah.
It’s hard to know what to expect if you’re judging by the exterior of the restaurant. It looks like an updated version of the old Wagon Wheel, which Spin replaced. Step inside, though, and you know this isn’t the Wagon Wheel anymore. The decor is very contemporary, with mustard-colored walls, sleek metal-and-wood tables and chairs, modern art and sculptures everywhere, and effective, fashionable lighting. The restaurant looks as much like an art gallery as it does an eating establishment. By the way, the original Wagon Wheel sign is still on display in one of the restaurant’s dining rooms.
But, even as much as I like Spin’s décor and design, the real knockout punch comes on the plate. The menu is nothing if not eclectic. Tuscan baked pasta ($10.95) resides comfortably next to Carolina pulled pork ($9.95), and the seaside panini with grilled shrimp, Fontina and zucchini with Romesco sauce ($10.95) mingles with a Jamaican chicken wrap ($10.75). At some restaurants, I’d call this menu mélange confused, or lacking focus. But at Spin Cafe, it just works, because Vincent and his staff really know what they’re doing in the kitchen.
So, it’s not unusual to begin a meal with Asian lettuce wraps before moving on to barbecued brisket, which I did during a recent visit. The wraps are a DIY affair: a large helping of chopped, smoked pork with Asian spices, served with crisp Boston lettuce leaves for wrapping, along with chopped peanuts, diced red peppers, minced scallions and a sweet, tart dipping sauce ($12.95). Those wraps are so tasty you’ll be tempted to make a meal out of them alone. But don’t, because then you’ll miss out on other enticing Spin Cafe items—such as the spectacular cedar-plank salmon ($18.95). OMG, is this ever delicious! Truthfully, salmon bores me much of the time, but Spin Cafe’s is truly a memorable, albeit fairly simple, affair. It’s fresh (never frozen), hand-cut salmon, grilled (in our case) to medium-rare on a cedar plank and bathed in a glistening, delectable housemade maple-herb butter. Entrees come with a choice of two side dishes—select from Spinny fries, rosemary-garlic potatoes, the daily veggie, apple slaw or barbecue pit beans. You can’t go wrong with any of them, but I especially like the crispy, spiral-cut Spinny fries, which sort of look like a spud Slinky. And the pit beans are, quite simply, the best baked beans I’ve ever tasted. I was gaga over them.
I don’t recall the old Wagon Wheel having a wine, beer or spirits list. But Spin Cafe sure does. I was pleasantly surprised at the range of options, particularly with regard to the wines. The list offers a nice selection of very good wines, mostly in the under-$30-per-bottle range, including Argentine Torrontes, Australian Viognier, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma Chardonnay, Italian Chianti, Spanish Garnacha and Napa Cabs. Along with classic cocktails, they also offer Spin Cafe specialties: drinks like Jamaican Iced Tea with Myer’s dark rum; Brazil Red, made with Brazilian cachaša and cranberry juice; and the Ski Jump Julep (fresh mint and ginger with High West Rendezvous Rye Whiskey).
Back to the grub. A specialty at Spin Cafe is barbecue, and the brisket ($18.95), especially, is marvelous. It’s thick, Texas-style slices of hickory-smoked beef brisket that’s been smoked for 12 hours. You get a choice of lean or marbled brisket (definitely opt for the fattier and tastier marbled), and the brisket slices are oh-so-tender, with a beautiful near-black bark. As a certified judge of the Kansas City Barbecue Society, I can attest that this is award-winning brisket. Other barbecue options include spice-rubbed, house-smoked St. Louis-cut pork spare ribs and an excellent Carolina-style pulled-pork sandwich, topped with housemade mustard slaw.
I tend to skip dessert most of the time, but couldn’t resist Spin’s housemade gelato. There’s even a dedicated gelato counter where folks line up solely for gelato to go. And this gelato is really good, with bold, intense flavors (like hazelnut) and a velvety texture. There are also gelato floats, peach-blackberry cobbler, the triple spin brownie sundae, mango creamsicle and “adult” desserts such as the Dudley Do-Right: Ghiradelli hot chocolate with Canadian Club, Kahlua and Bailey’s, topped with whipped cream.
Wait, is this Heber—or heaven?
220 N. Main, Heber City