The city of Roy (north of Layton and south of Ogden) is not where you might expect to find much fine dining and cuisine. And yet, on the unprepossessing main drag—replete with franchise restaurants, gas stations, auto shops and such—in a block-long stretch of 1900 West, lies a trio of eateries that might surprise you.
For example, where do you go to eat shark? I'd never have guessed that the answer would be Burger Bar in Roy—shark was the "exotic meat of the month" for August at the Burger Bar. In July, the rabbit burger was featured. I'm not kidding. Buffalo (bison, actually) and elk burgers are also menu staples.
Most people, I suspect, opt out of the exotic and instead order Burger Bar classics such as the Big Ben ($5.49-$8.49). Hey, they've been selling the things since Ben Fowler and his wife, Rita, opened the Burger Bar in 1956. Back then, burgers sold for a quarter apiece. Today, Burger Bar goes through 2,500 pounds of potatoes per week for its fresh-made french fries.
The burger buns are baked locally at Topper Bakery and the folks at Burger Bar buy local, fresh beef and grind it daily. The basic Ben is a thin, large-in-diameter beef patty on an equally large bun—smaller than a dinner plate or Frisbee, but larger than any I've bitten into before. There are eight different permutations of the Big Ben: with or without cheese, and as a single, double, triple or quad. The cheese is nothing fancy—American, I think—as it should be for a classic burger like this.
Don't let the crowds dissuade you. This is a walk-up-to-the-window-and-order affair, and at lunchtime, there are usually 20 to 30 folks out front awaiting their orders. But the service is quick and friendly. And when you bite into a Big Ben burger and take your first slurp of Burger Bar's oversize shakes and malts (made with real fruit), you'll have discovered a culinary secret that the folks in Roy have known for nearly 60 years.
It's maddening to me that Cajun-Creole cooking is so damned hard to come by in this state. I'm thankful, then, for Southern Comfort, a Roy restaurant featuring Memphis-style barbecue and Louisiana fare. The décor is sparse; there are a few Mardi Gras masks and paintings of musicians and New Orleans on the walls. Next to the stage (where musicians play on Fridays and Saturdays), there's a wooden outhouse. You won't come for the ambience, but the service is super-friendly, and most of the food is very good—and cheap.
The étouffée ($13.99) offers a choice of crawfish, shrimp or andouille sausage as its central ingredient, or you can have all three for $15.99. It's an étouffée that begins with a caramel-colored roux before onions, celery and red pepper are added. It's served over white rice, topped with collard greens, and there's sweet housemade cornbread alongside. Any of the étouffée choices are very good, but I like the crawfish version best.
The jumbo crab cakes (2 for $9.99) with rémoulade point up a problem at Southern Comfort: food temperatures. The crab cakes were delicious, but lukewarm. Ditto a side order of dirty rice. Double-ditto a heaping order of pulled pork. The pork was delicious, but the temperature of the meat was cool. Isn't there a microwave in the kitchen for reheating pre-cooked foods?
On the other hand, fresh-cooked items like the Southern fried catfish dinner ($9.99) come to the table piping hot. The cornmeal-crusted catfish was so hot, in fact, that I nearly scorched the top of my mouth. For $10, you get 6-8 strips of deep-fried catfish, cornbread and two side dishes. I highly recommend the awesome hushpuppies, and I do like the dirty rice, although I'd prefer it hotter. Skip the red beans and rice, which for reasons I can't explain, had chunks of tomato in it. No booze on the menu, but large sodas are refilled free and often.
If Cajun-Creole flavors don't float your boat, the barbecue at Southern Comfort is very good. Come in on Saturdays for brisket burnt ends ($9.99) or rib racks anytime. You'll definitely want to give the fried-chicken dinner ($12.99) a try. It comes with garlic mashed potatoes, chicken gravy and housemade slaw.
Just down the road a stretch from Burger Bar is Warrens drive-in. It was founded in 1950 by Roy Sherriff Doug Warren. Today, Kirk Dean is the owner, but the "from scratch" policy that has kept customers coming back for 65 years is still in effect.
The burgers ($3.79-$5.49) are terrific, and are made from all-natural, fresh-ground (never frozen), local beef and come on potato buns from Stone Ground Bakery. There are a dozen different burgers, ranging from the classic double to the pastrami burger, turkey BLT burger and bleu-bacon burger. To be honest, I like the sandwiches at Warrens even better than the burgers. It's hard to beat the Rocky Mountain Reuben ($5.75), made with seasoned brisket pastrami, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing on toasted marble-rye bread. It's perfect with Warrens' tempura-style onion rings on the side.
Half the fun of visiting Warrens is looking forward to dessert. The funnel-cake fries with powdered sugar are irresistible, as are the homemade scones with honey butter. The tasty shakes are a no-brainer too, but my favorite ending to a meal at Warrens is the classic banana split ($3.79).
Roy might not be a diamond-studded dining destination, but it sure has its gems.