Off the Eaten Path: Hell's Backbone Grill 

Peaceful ambience and zesty dishes are worth the trip to Boulder

click to enlarge Chile-migas
  • Chile-migas

Located about a four-hour drive south of Salt Lake City and enveloped by the grounds of the rustic Boulder Mountain Lodge, Hell's Backbone Grill is a magical place. It's Utah's Chez Panisse, a restaurant where the vast majority of the food comes from Hell's Backbone's "no-harm" organic farm, which produces some 12,000 pounds of produce annually, not to mention breakfast eggs from 130 heritage-breed hens, fruit from 75 heirloom trees, grass-fed local beef, lamb, and more. The organic farm is worked with sustainability in mind, and with what owners Blake Spalding and Jennifer Castle call "Buddhist values of right livelihood."

Even weeding is done by hand and by two rescue goats. As you stroll up the stone steps to the restaurant, you'll notice Tibetan prayer flags encircling the exterior of the restaurant.

Dinner begins with gratis warm "blue ribbon" buttermilk biscuits, a great way to start a meal. And, so is an order of Zuni sweet-potato skillet cakes—so simple, and yet so satisfying. Hearty potato-cheese soup with bacon and chives, or the fried-green farm tomatoes with Castle's red-chile ranch sauce, are also sensational starters.

The posole at Hell's Backbone is something I could eat daily. Sometimes they make it with traditional pork, sometimes with lamb, and there's even a version with black beans and butternut squash. If you've never tried posole, you're in for a treat. Castle's "Christmas" posole (a traditional New Mexico holiday supper) is a "stew" made with hominy, tender pork shoulder, onions, celery, garlic, herbs, spices and, most importantly, a rich, zesty red-chile sauce.

For lunch or breakfast, try the chile-migas: a plate piled high with scrambled fresh farm eggs tossed with blue corn tortilla chips, jack cheese and Castle's hot-as-hell red chile sauce. It comes with a side of yummy pinto beans and freshly made flour tortillas.

Excellent service, ambiance, and a very well-constructed wine list make Hell's Backbone Grill worth a trip to Boulder.

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